U-M ensemble to perform rare song recovered from Auschwitz this weekend


  • Szymon Kaczmarczyk / Shutterstock

A historically significant Holocaust-era song has been given a new life and will be performed for the first time since WWII this Friday.

After studying music manuscripts for nearly 40 years, University of Michigan music theory professor, Patricia Hall, journeyed to Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland to research their archives last summer.

Among the rare and salvaged pieces of music within their collection, she discovered a shockingly upbeat manuscript for a song entitled "Die Schönste Zeit des Lebens" which translates to "The Most Beautiful Time of Life."

“This recording is highly significant,” Hall told U-M press. “We’re bringing this work to life, hearing it as closely as possible to what it would have sounded like at Auschwitz I in 1943.”

Originally based on a composition by German film composer, Franz Grothe, the unearthed song is described as a light foxtrot, and according to Hall's research, was arranged by three prisoners (two of whom she has been able to identify,) and was performed by 14 members of the Auschwitz I men's orchestra.

Hall turned to graduate student in music theory, Josh Devries, to assist in transcribing the handwritten manuscript so that it could be accurately and easily performed. Hall also enlisted professor and conductor of the U-M Contemporary Directions Ensemble, Oriol Sans, and his respective ensemble to record the song on campus, which they did last month. The Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum will include the recording in their collection.

"The Most Beautiful Time of Life" will be performed by the Contemporary Directions Ensemble at 8 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 30 in Hankinson Hall at the E.V. Moore Building on U-M's North Campus; 1100 Baits Dr., Ann Arbor; events.umich.edu;
Event is free.

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