Camp Mementos from Krystyna Zywulska: The Making of a Satirist and Songwriter in Auschwitz-Birkenau

Barbara Milewski

Music professor Barbara Milewski examines a selection of extermination camp songs created by Krystyna Zywulska during her imprisonment and the contexts in which they were created. She also considers the stylistic qualities that lent Zywulska's post-war writings, including I Survived Auschwitz, their force and the extent to which they were developed in the works she created in Birkenau.

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Krystyna Zywulska is perhaps best known as the author of Przezylam Oswiecim (I Survived Auschwitz), her candid and moving account of life and death in the extermination camp Birkenau published immediately after the war. Less known, but no less important, are Zywulska's songs and poetry created during her imprisonment. These works not only offer valuable insight into the daily experiences and cultural activities of prisoners in the Nazi camps, but also reveal the unlikely birth of a literary and satirical talent. In both this lecture and article, Assistant Professor of Music Barbara Milewski examines a selection of Zywulska's camp songs and the contexts in which they were created. She also considers the stylistic qualities that lent Zywulska's post-war writings their force and the extent to which they were developed in the works she created in Birkenau. Milewski is at work on a book devoted to exploring amateur, unofficial music-making in the Nazi camps through the lives and compositions of three survivors. She is also the co-producer and translator of the annotated disc Ballads and Broadsides: Songs from Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp 1940-1945.