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Kurt Maier: Out of the Wilderness

On April 6, 1947, the United Service for New Americans sponsored a special Passover celebration to be aired on the radio. The broadcast, Out of the Wilderness, featured five Jewish survivors of the Holocaust who gave musical performances on air. One of the featured musicians was Kurt Maier, a Czech Jew and survivor of Auschwitz, Sachsenhausen, Ohrdruf and Buchenwald. To introduce each song, Maier spoke in clear, but accented English. While Out of the Wilderness featured survivors and allowed them to speak for themselves, there is little about what they lived through. Instead, the broadcasts focuses on the "free, clean music" possible in the United States.

David Timmons, the announcer of the production, introduced Maier, saying, "You’ve surely heard of our next guest. His story has been published far and wide in the United States … his name is Kurt Maier. Once his art was acclaimed, not only in his native land of Czechoslovakia, but throughout the world. Then, the Nazis changed that world: the concert hall became the concentration camp and the Nazis called upon Kurt Maier to play when they shipped him to that terrible place called Auschwitz."

"My Yiddishe Mama"
Maier played the Yiddish folksong "My Yiddishe Mama" for all those who "just as I, lost their mothers to the Nazi persecution."

"Ich hab kein Heimatland"
Maier then played "Ich hab kein Heimatland," written by Friedrich Schwarz in Paris, as he was trying to escape the Nazis. Maier introduced the song by explaining that Schwarz committed suicide when he knew there was nowhere else to run, but the song was sang "during the darkest hours, in various concentration camps." He also noted that the song is "so appropriate for all of us, who went through the Nazi terror." In this way, Maier articulated how his voice (and his music) became representative for all survivors - many of whom could not speak English and would not have been featured on American radio. In this way, Maier was non-representative of most survivors, but his ability to voice sadness and resilience spoke for many Holocaust survivors in the period.

Listen to other version of "Ich hab kein Heimatland" and "My Yiddishe Mama": including a tango version of "Ich hab kein Heimatland" and a version of "My Yiddishe Mama" from Algeria, performed by Salim Halali > 

Listen to Out of the Wilderness in full and hear the musical performances of Eva Yelena, the Arshanskaya sisters, and Leo Merkovitch at the YIVO Max and Frieda Weinstein Archives of Recorded Sound at the Center for Jewish History >
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