9/11, 2 pm EST: Remembering Kristallnacht: The Semer Ensemble and the Rescued Treasure of Jewish Musical Life in Nazi Berlin
Dear Friends of the German Embassy Washington,
Berlin during the 1930s presents a scene of creeping persecution and dark foreboding, but also sparkling cultural vitality, particularly within the Jewish community. In this milieu Hirsch Lewin, owner of the Hebräische Buchhandlung (Hebrew Bookstore) in the heart of the Jewish quarter near Alexanderplatz, founds the Semer record label in 1932. Following the Nazi rise to power in 1933, Lewin works feverishly, making thousands of recordings capturing this ‘Golden Age of Jewish music’ until Nov. 9, 1938, when the Nazis destroy the Hebräische Buchhandlung including 4,500 recordings and 250 metal plates.
The Semer label and the vibrant Jewish music of this era would largely be forgotten until the early 1990s, when musicologist Dr. Rainer E. Lotz began a decade-long, globe-spanning quest to track down the Semer recordings. Spectacularly, he succeeds in recovering nearly the entire catalogue, which is then released in a box set of 11 CDs and 1 DVD titled “Vorbei: Beyond Recall” in 2002. A decade later, the Jewish Museum Berlin commissions New Jewish Music revivalist Alan Bern to create new interpretations of the archival recordings. Bern’s world-class Semer Ensemble, including Berlin-based musicians from Germany and North America, has since then “opened a time tunnel” between 1920s-1930s Berlin and today’s New Jewish Music: Berlin cabaret, Russian folk songs, Yiddish theater hits, operatic arias, cantorial music, and more.
In commemoration of Kristallnacht, the “Night of Broken Glass” pogrom of Nov. 9, 1938, the German Embassy Washington in cooperation with the German Missions in Canada and Liberation 75, a Canada-based organization devoted to Holocaust remembrance, present “Beyond All Memories - The Semer Ensemble and the Rescued Treasure of Jewish Musical Life in Nazi Berlin”.
Moderated by award-winning singer-songwriter and CBC Radio host Laila Biali, the virtual event includes introductions by German Ambassador to the U.S. Emily Haber and German Ambassador to Canada Sabine Sparwasser; a short film featuring performances by the Semer Ensemble; and a discussion and Q&A exploring the songs and stories with music historian and discographer Dr. Rainer Lotz, Semer Ensemble Director Dr. Alan Bern, and Semer Ensemble singer Sasha Lurje.
Click on the above link to access the Zoom webinar registration link on the website of Liberation 75. We look forward to an hour of celebrating a beautiful part of Jewish culture, long lost – but found again.