Dachau Song

Dachau Song

Dachau Song

Dachau Song


The odyssey of Herbert Zipper covers most of the 20th century. Born in Vienna in 1904, his life has spanned three centuries: from the 19th century world of the Habsburg Empire, through the 20th century horrors of Dachau, Buchenwald, and the Manila of World War II, to the emerging 21st century in China. Throughout his remarkable journey Zipper, a composer, conductor, concentration camp survivor, and educator, has maintained a spirit of achievement and optimism that contradicts his experiences. This is a story of the triumph of human will and the human spirit and, as such, is both fascinating and instructive.


Believe me, who for thousands of years
has chewed this toughest of food, Know
That from the cradle to the bier
No man can digest the ancient bitter dough.
Trust one of my kind, this show
Is made only for a God's delight
He dwells in an ageless aureole,
Us he has thrust in darkness out of sight
And you are fit for only day and night.

--Mephistopheles from Goethe Faust-Part One

A 1938 article in the Parisian newspaper, Le Soir (The Evening), written by the French correspondent in Vienna, M. Pertinax, was headlined: "J'ai Vu Mourir L'Autriche" (I saw Austria die). He was not the first. Over the centuries from the plains to the east along the Danube the invaders have marched, Huns, Avars, Magyars, Turks. And on March 12, 1938 once again the Barbarians, this time from the north, invaded yet were welcomed into the ancient city of Vienna. This invasion would trample under foot the final flowers of Viennese culture and grace. The Hapsburg Empire had crumbled in 1918, and the post World War period, culminating in the Great Depression of 1929, had brought ruin to many more lives. Yet somehow the arts, literature, science, philosophy all remained vital. When the Nazi gangsters of Adolph Hitler marched into Vienna, overnight this center of European culture dwindled into a provincial German burg.

Herbert Zipper and his family were a well-to-do middle class Jewish family living in the first years of this century in a large home within sight of St. Stephen's Cathedral in the first district of town. They were, however, not a religious family and paid little attention to Jewish ritual or custom. Like many Viennese Jews they considered themselves primarily Viennese and, until March 12, 1938, were proud of this allegiance. On this day their blindness to the essential and deep-rooted anti-semitic . . .

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