More than 150 singers from the UK and mainland Europe have united online to mark the anniversary of a wartime Belgian resistance operation to free hundreds of Auschwitz-bound Jews aboard a Nazi train.
The community opera comprising male, female and child soloists belted out the finale of ‘Ma Vie n’est que Miracles’ from their living rooms during the coronavirus lockdown before specialists put the recording together.
The “giant virtual choir” from either side of the Channel marks the 77th anniversary of the Belgian Resistance raid on the 20th Nazi train leaving from Dossin Barracks, a deportation camp in Belgium, travelling directly to Auschwitz.
The train convoy compromised 30 cattle wagons and held more than 1,600 Jews. At 10.30pm on 19 April 1943 the train was stopped by resistance fighters using a hurricane lamp covered in red paper to mimic an emergency stop light.
When the driver stopped, three Belgian Resistance members broke open carriage doors using wire cutters and helped the Jewish deportees jump and escape the train. The train restarted but others got out through the small ventilation shaft before it entered Germany.
Many of those who escaped ran all night through forests in the light of a full April moon before seeking sanctuary in small Flemish villages in the morning.
The story is the basis for the opera ‘Push’ by Sussex-based composer Howard Moody, who first heard of the operation from survivor Simon Gronowski, who was 11 years of age when his mother pushed him from a wagon.
Moody said: “Simon’s story brings us all together: his instinctive bravery as a child, the courage of his mother and his personal journey that now enables him to express optimism, despite the tragedy that his own family and the millions of Jewish people suffered who didn’t escape the train.
“The generosity of the three members of the resistance who stopped the train is mirrored today in the struggles of so many health workers who risk their own lives to save the lives of others.”