Moving memorial concert held to mark 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht
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Moving memorial concert held to mark 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht

Liberal Jewish Synagogue hosts event featuring acclaimed German musicians and special guest Dame Esther Rantzen

Alex Galbinski is a Jewish News journalist

Cellist Friederike Fechner and pianist Mathias Husmann play
Cellist Friederike Fechner and pianist Mathias Husmann play

A moving memorial concert to commemorate the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht and the Kindertransport was held at the Liberal Jewish Synagogue (LJS) last Thursday night.

Two acclaimed German musicians came over specially for The Wiener Library’s memorial concert: cellist Friederike Fechner, and composer, conductor and pianist Mathias Husmann, both of whom played pro bono.

The performance was particularly poignant as Fechner had recently helped to unite the descendants of the Blach family, originally of Stralsund.

The musician had purchased a property in the town and, upon renovating it, researched its previous owners, discovering that multiple branches of the Blach family were torn apart by Nazi persecution, with many members perishing in the Holocaust.

Cellist Friederike Fechner and pianist Mathias Husmann receive applause

Cornelia and her brother survived by coming to Britain on the Kindertransport, and Cornelia’s two daughters attended the concert. Another descendant, Gaby Glassman, co-organised the evening.

Special guest Dame Esther Rantzen spoke of her connection to The Wiener Library, which collects, preserves and shares evidence of the Holocaust and depends on donations for support. Her aunt, Jane Levy, was the first Jewish relief worker to enter Bergen-Belsen after its liberation, and some of her papers are held at the library.

After Rabbi Alexandra Wright of LJS delivered a memorial prayer, Kinder Ann and Bob Kirk, Prof Leslie Baruch Brent, Vera Schaufeld, Ernest Simon and Eve Willman lit candles. The concert included compositions by Maurice Ravel, Felix Mendelssohn, Max Bruch and Ernest Bloch alongside select readings by double Olivier ‘Best Actor’ award winner Roger Allam and RSC star Mariah Gale.

Dame Esther Rantzen speaks to the audience to introduce the concert

Cecile Stheeman, Mendelssohn’s great-granddaughter, was also in attendance and acknowledged Husmann’s mother, Adelheid Zur, for playing the composer’s music on radio in Nazi Germany despite it being banned.

Ben Barkow, director of the Wiener Library, said: “The world is changing around us – very rapidly and sometimes in frightening ways – and it seems more important than ever before to defend historical truth.”

The Wiener Library’s exhibition, Shattered: Pogrom, November 1938, featuring never before seen documents illustrating German and Austrian Jews’ desperate attempts to flee, in many cases as refugees to Britain, runs until 15 February 2019. Details: www.wienerlibrary.co.uk 

Actor Roger Allam receives a gift from the great-granddaughter of Felix Mendelssohn
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