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Text only poster for a performance by St. Ottilien DP orchestra

Object | Accession Number: 2008.385.1

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    Text only poster for a performance by St. Ottilien DP orchestra

    Overview

    Brief Narrative
    Broadside preserved by Fania Durmashkin advertising a performance by the Venus (Wenery) Durmaszkin (Henny) and a student ballet and folk dance ensemble in the American zone of occupation in postwar Germany. It was to be held on June 16, 1949, at 7:30 pm in the Mining House. Members of the St. Ottilien displaced persons orchestra, also known as the ex-concentration camp orchestra, or orchestra of survivors, were also on the program. From 1945-1948, this group performed Yiddish and Hebrew music and classical works in wartorn cities in the US and British zones. Henia, a folk and opera singer, and her sister Fania, a pianist, were the only survivors of a well known musical family from Vilna, Poland (Vilnius, Lithuania). The city, occupied by Germany in summer 1941, was destroyed in late summer 1943. The sisters were sent to labor camps, first to Kaiserwald, then to Dinawerke, Stutthof, Dachau, and Landsberg. As Allied forces closed in, the inmates were sent on a death march. One day, the guards ran away and the prisoners were liberated on May 1, 1945, by US troops. Fania and Henia were relocated to a hospital in the St. Ottilien displaced persons camp. In 1948, Fania married a fellow musician and survivor, Max Beker, and, with Henia, they emigrated to the United States.
    Artwork Title
    BALET WENERY DURMASZKIN
    Date
    issue:  1949 June 16
    Geography
    issue: Germany
    Credit Line
    United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection, Gift of Sonia Beker
    Markings
    front, center, black ink : BALET / WEN ERY / DURMASZKIN
    front, lower left center, black ink : [ 16 June 1949 / 7:30 pm / Mining House]
    front, bottom left corner, red ink : ,,Ksoazka a Wieska" Walozyeh. Z. 487 F 46016
    Contributor
    Subject: Fania Beker
    Subject: Henny Gurko
    Biography
    Fania Durmashkin (Durmaszkin) was born on October 13, 1921, in Vilna, Poland (Vilnius, Lithuania) to Akiva, born in Kiev, Russia, in 1887, and Sheine, born in 1890. Akiva had been director of the Odessa Orchestra and was a cantor and composer; his brother Leo was painter. Fania had two siblings, Wolf, born in 1914, and Fania, born in 1924. The family was active in the synagogue and the children received both Jewish and musical educations and were fluent in several languages. Fania studied piano and Henia studied voice at the Vilna conservatory. Wolf was a child prodigy on the piano. He studied at the Vilna and Warsaw Conservatories, and while a young man, became the conductor of the Vilna Symphony Orchestra.
    In September 1939, western Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. Eastern Poland, where Vilna was located, was occupied by the Soviet Union. In October, control of the city was given to Lithuania. Rioting Poles and Lithuanians looted Jewish businesses. In June, the Soviet reclaimed the city. In 1940, Henia was the only Jew accepted into the Vilna City Choir. Then in June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and occupied Vilna. Shortly before and after the invasion, Lithuanians carried out violent riots against the Jews. Then came detachments of German Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), which with Lithuanian auxiliaries, murdered thousands of Jews.
    By the end of the summer, all the Jews were forced to move to a ghetto. The Germans allowed Wolf to leave the ghetto to continue as conductor of the Vilna Orchestra. Wolf also started a symphony orchestra and a Hebrew choir in the ghetto; both sisters were members. The first concert was March 1, 1942; the last on August 29, 1943. Life in the ghetto was torturous. Since the summer of 1942, the Germans had been taking groups out to the Ponary forest and shooting them, beginning with children and the elderly. A girl who escaped one round-up returned and told the residents what was done there. In summer 1943, the Germans began the final destruction of the ghetto. Her father was taken first. Wolf made up their mother’s face to make her look younger, but the Gestapo pulled her out of his arms and told him to keep moving to the right. They were taken t the Ponary forest and killed. Henia and Fania were sent to Kaiserwald labor camp on the outskirts of Riga, Latvia, where they worked building cement canals. Wolf was sent to Klooga labor camp.
    After many months, Fania and Henia were sent to Dinawerke, then to Stutthof labor camp for a year. Then they were sent to Dachau concentration camp. They were there to work but were given a tour of the camp where Fania saw huge piles of body parts and the crematoriums. Soon, they were sent to Landsberg where Fania worked in the house of a doctor who often gave her extra food to eat, which she shared with her sister. But it was always cold and damp and there was never enough food. Henia worked carrying stones up a mountain of rocks. She was ordered to sing at concerts and marched around to perform from camp to camp. One night, the prisoners were sent on a death march; anyone who strayed off the road or fell down was shot. Henia was so exhausted that she almost walked off the road, but someone grabbed her and pulled her back. At some point, the guards ran away. The prisoners heard tanks and were freed in spring 1945 by American troops.
    When the war ended in May, Fania and Henia were relocated to a hospital at the St. Ottilien displaced persons camp near Schwabenhausen, Germany. At the camp they met Abraska Stupel, whom they had known previously in a labor camp. He invited them to join a group of musicians who called themselves the St. Ottilien Orchestra, and were also known as the Shearith HaPleitah Orchestra, the survivor’s orchestra or the ex-concentration camp orchestra. From 1945-1948, the orchestra performed throughout the US and British zones of occupation, hosted by UNRRA (United Nations Refugee Relief Org.) and others. In 1946, the orchestra relocated to Fuerstenfeldbruck. It was during this time that the sister learned that Wolf had been shot and killed at Klooga labor camp in Estonia, shortly before the camp was liberated on September 15, 1944.
    Fania met Max Beker, a violinist, and a survivor of several concentration and labor camps whose entire family was murdered at Ponary. Max had heard rumors that a group of Jewish musicians, primarily from Lithuania, had established an orchestra in the St. Ottilien monastery. The building had been used as a hospital by the Germans and was now a convalescence home for some 420 Jewish refugees, including Fania and Henia. Max joined the camp orchestra as a violinist and assistant manager. After a year, the orchestra moved to Fuerstenfeldbruck, and, in 1948, they performed in Nuremberg while the war Crimes Trials were in session, and also in honor of the new state of Israel, under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.
    Bernstein, an American conductor, also gave a series of concerts with the Munich Symphony Orchestra where he played piano while Henia performed two Hebrew songs. That year, Fania and Henia made plans to emigrate to Israel, but Max persuaded them to join him in America. Max and Fania married. During the voyage, Henia met Simon Gurko whom she married in 1949. Once in the US, Max was unable to find work as a violinist and went to work in the garment industry. He and Fania had one daughter. Henia and Simon had three children. She had a successful singing career and often performed with her sister and brother-in-law. Fanny died, age 77, on January 21, 1998. Henny died, age 78, in August 2002. Max died in 2005, age 89 years.
    Henia Durmashkin (Durmaszkin) was born in 1924 in Vilna, Poland (Vilnius, Lithuania) to Akiva, born in Kiev, Russia, in 1887, and Sheine, born in 1890. Akiva had been director of the Odessa Orchestra and was a cantor and composer; his brother Leo was painter. Fania had two siblings, Wolf, born in 1914, and Fania, born October 13, 1921. The family was active in the synagogue and the children received both Jewish and musical educations and were fluent in several languages. Fania studied piano and Henia studied voice at the Vilna conservatory. She was fluent in eight languages. Wolf was a child prodigy on the piano. He studied at the Vilna and Warsaw Conservatories, and while a young man, became the conductor of the Vilna Symphony Orchestra.

    In September 1939, western Poland was occupied by Nazi Germany. Eastern Poland, where Vilna was located, was occupied by the Soviet Union. In October, control of the city was given to Lithuania. Rioting Poles and Lithuanians looted Jewish businesses. In June, the Soviet reclaimed the city. In 1940, Henia was the only Jew accepted into the Vilna City Choir. Then in June 1941, Germany attacked the Soviet Union and occupied Vilna. Shortly before and after the invasion, Lithuanians carried out violent riots against the Jews. Then came detachments of German Einsatzgruppen (mobile killing units), which with Lithuanian auxiliaries, murdered thousands of Jews.

    By the end of the summer, all the Jews were forced to move to a ghetto. The Germans allowed Wolf to leave the ghetto to continue as conductor of the Vilna Orchestra. Wolf also started a symphony orchestra and a Hebrew choir in the ghetto; both sisters were members. The first concert was March 1, 1942; the last on August 29, 1943. Life in the ghetto was torturous. Since the summer of 1942, the Germans had been taking groups out to the Ponary forest and shooting them, beginning with children and the elderly. A girl who escaped one round-up returned and told the residents what was done there. In summer 1943, the Germans began the final destruction of the ghetto. Her father was taken first. Wolf made up their mother’s face to make her look younger, but the Gestapo pulled her out of his arms and told him to keep moving to the right. Henia and Fania were sent to Kaiserwald labor camp on the outskirts of Riga, Latvia, where they worked building cement canals. Wolf was sent to Klooga labor camp.

    After many months, Fania and Henia were sent to Dinawerke, then to Stutthof labor camp for a year. Then they were sent to Dachau concentration camp. They were there to work but were given a tour of the camp where Fania saw huge piles of body parts and the crematoriums. Soon, they were sent to Landsberg where Fania worked in the house of a doctor who often gave her extra food to eat, which she shared with her sister. But it was always cold and damp and there was never enough food. Henia worked carrying stones up a mountain of rocks. She was ordered to sing at concerts and marched around to perform from camp to camp. One night, the prisoners were sent on a death march; anyone who strayed off the road or fell down was shot. Henia was so exhausted that she almost walked off the road, but someone grabbed her and pulled her back. At some point, the guards ran away. The prisoners heard tanks and were freed in spring 1945 by American troops.
    When the war ended in May, Fania and Henia were relocated to a hospital at the St. Ottilien displaced persons camp near Schwabenhausen, Germany. At the camp they met Abraska Stupel, whom they had known previously in a labor camp. He invited them to join a group of musicians who called themselves the St. Ottilien Orchestra, and were also known as the Shearith HaPleitah Orchestra, the survivor’s orchestra or the ex-concentration camp orchestra. From 1945-1948, the orchestra performed throughout the US and British zones of occupation, hosted by UNRRA (United Nations Refugee Relief Org.) and others. In 1946, the orchestra relocated to Fuerstenfeldbruck. It was during this time that the sister learned that Wolf had been shot and killed at Klooga labor camp in Estonia, shortly before the camp was liberated on September 15, 1944.

    Fania met Max Beker, a violinist, and a survivor of several concentration and labor camps whose entire family was murdered at Ponary. Max had heard rumors that a group of Jewish musicians, primarily from Lithuania, had established an orchestra in the St. Ottilien monastery. The building had been used as a hospital by the Germans and was now a convalescence home for some 420 Jewish refugees, including Fania and Henia. Max joined the camp orchestra as a violinist and assistant manager. After a year, the orchestra moved to Fuerstenfeldbruck, and, in 1948, they performed in Nuremberg while the war Crimes Trials were in session, and also in honor of the new state of Israel, under the baton of Leonard Bernstein.

    Bernstein, an American conductor, also gave a series of concerts with the Munich Symphony Orchestra where he played piano while Henia performed two Hebrew songs. That year, Fania and Henia made plans to emigrate to Israel, but Max persuaded them to join him in America. Max and Fania married. During the voyage, Henia met Simon Gurko whom she married in 1949. Once in the US, Max was unable to find work as a violinist and went to work in the garment industry. He and Fanny had one daughter. Henny and Simon had three children. She obtained degrees from Columbia University and the Jewish Theological Seminary. She eventually worked as a Hebrew school teacher. Henny continued her singing career and often performed with her sister and brother-in-law. Fanny died, age 77, on January 21, 1998. Henny died, age 78, in August 2002. Max died in 2005, age 89 years.

    Physical Details

    Language
    Polish
    Classification
    Posters
    Object Type
    Concert posters (tgm)
    Physical Description
    Rectangular text only poster on light brown paper with black and red ink and Polish text announcing a dance and music performance.
    Dimensions
    overall: Height: 24.500 inches (62.23 cm) | Width: 30.375 inches (77.153 cm)
    Materials
    overall : paper, pressure-sensitive tape, ink

    Rights & Restrictions

    Conditions on Access
    No restrictions on access
    Conditions on Use
    No restrictions on use

    Keywords & Subjects

    Administrative Notes

    Provenance
    The poster was donated to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in 2008 by Sonia Beker, the daughter of Fania Durmashkin Beker.
    Record last modified:
    2022-07-28 21:51:05
    This page:
    https:​/​/collections.ushmm.org​/search​/catalog​/irn44135

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