A conversation with Francesco Lotoro

“Concentrationary music” is not an existent kind of music, even the adjective is not an official word, but it is used to promote an important concept: memory. Thanks to the experience and passion of Mr. Francesco Lotoro, GG students have had the possibility to listen to some musical traces and decontextualize them in the historical period, the Second World War.

Francesco_Lotoro_He founded the Orchestra Musica Judaica and he conceived the project of collecting and recording piano music produced during World War II. He created the CD encyclopedia KZ Musik containing songs from concentration camps during the war in Europe, North Africa and Asia. He is also a composer and he has written the opera “Misha e I lupi” and “Golà”.He is completing the “Dizionario della Letteratura Musicale Concentrazionaria”. “Concentrationary music” is not an existent kind of music, even the adjective is not an official word, but it is used to promote an important concept: memory. The first use of the word “concentration” was used after the Dresda’s Circus bombing in 1945; the firestorm destroyed 1,600 acres of the city centre and 25,000 people were killed.

We are talking about a “reconstructed music” because of the need of the actual researchers to take the ancient melody and restored an audible symphony.

There are also lots of cases in which other authors lost their papers during the evacuation of camps or inside the dorms; the time range of this “created music” is between the 1933 and 1953. There were twenty years full of sadness, passion and innovation that characterized also jazz, blues and black gospel.

In the first camp, Dachau, music was allowed and it started with simple instruments, everybody could play music. The choral music was the easiest one to play, voices were the most important instruments and prisoners’ souls were so ready to sing and share the “vibrations” of their  inernal abyss.

Popular music was played by singers like Johnny and Jones, two Jewish boys from Amsterdam. They were popular during that period and they were a part of the “Gruppe Musik Lager Westerbork”. However where the camp commandant Gemmeker did not like their repertoire so they could not perform in the “Bunter Abend”. On the other hand, they were allowed to sing their songs in “das Lagerkaffee” (camp coffee shop). One of the most appreciated Johnny and Jones’s song was The Westerbork Serenade.

“Ik zing mijn Westerbork serenade,

Langs‘t sporebaantje schijnt‘t zilvermaantje

Op de heide. 

Ik sing mijn Westerbork serenade,

Mit einer shone dame wandelend tezamen

Zij aan zijde.”


“I sing my Westerbork serenade,

Along the little rail-way the tiny silver moon shines

On the heath.

I sing my Westerbork serenade

With a pretty lady walking there together, Cheek to cheek.”




The recent researches have enlisted more than seven thousand composers and a huge number of small pieces of paper where artist like Rudolf Karel or Heckmann Wilhelm made some staff and wrote fantastic songs.

Behind those musical notes there is a world full of life stories, a crowded universe with faces, sounds and instruments that can take you back to past times with a pinch of melancholy. After the end of the conversation a GG student shared his thoughts about the importance of Francesco Lotoro and how lucky the was the university to have him there.

 “The fact that a mortal machine, as a concentration camp is, can brought to the creation of a particular kind of art; Oppression, sadness can find the right place among the lines of the staff. Music always has been a way out through different perspectives, the concentrationary music is not an exception.  I feel more fiduciosoknowing that the darkest historic period that humanity has ever seen could have left  a small space to people to express something, to shout and re-born thanks to the power of music. We can make the difference in this world even if we put a shred of courage in our actions like those prisoners who wrote their feelings on a sheet of paper.”


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