''Music was a constant and crucial component of the everyday life in the Nazi-run camps,'' said Guido Fackler, a professor of museology at the University of Wurzburg, Germany, and an expert on concentration camp music.

''The music played first and foremost, as directed by the SS, often while inmates marched to and from forced labor,'' Mr. Fackler said. ''It was an element of the SS strategy of physical and psychological destruction.''

This music, which Mr. Fickler calls command music, often left a bitter taste with the musicians who played it.

''However,'' he said, ''when prisoners played music on their own initiative, unlike the command music, the music generally gave them consolation, support and confidence. It reminded them of their earlier lives.

FOR months, Francesco Lotoro was forced to stay in his home, quarantined by a virus that ravaged his country, Italy, and slowed a project he has been working on since 2014.

His dream is to build a study center to house an archive of concentration camp music from World War II, a trove he has been collecting for 30 years.

Now he is back at work, raising money and reviewing plans for what he calls a citadel, one to be built in Barietta, a city in southern Italy by the Adriatic Sea where he lives and was born 55 years ago.

''The main hurdles are raising the money and developing an international campaign to get it,'' he said in a telephone interview.

Mr. Lotoro, a composer and pianist, and his wife, Grazia, have collected and cataloged symphonies, operas, scores and songs that were composed and performed under conditions so horrible, one imagines that music would have lost its ability to encourage and soothe.

But to review Mr. Loto's archive - 8,000 items collected in trips around the world - is to understand how wrong it is to underestimate the power of song.

Survivors saved the music, which in small ways saved them, and they or their families eventually found Mr. Lotoro in their homes, peering at a score, humming along.

It was on such a visit in Prague in 1990 that Mr. Lotoro discovered a five-act, bury tale opera, ''Three Hairs of the Wise Old Man,'' by Czech composer Rudolf Karel during a visit with the composer's son.

Mr. Karel had died at Terezin, a camp 40 miles north of Prague that was disguised as a model Jewish community but actually was a place where the Nazis held prisoners before sending them off to death camps.

''He wrote with a pencil and medicinal charcoal on sheets of toilet paper, which were smuggled out of the camp,'' Mr. Lotoro said.

The passion to research and preserve the musical history of the Holocaust has only grown in recent years.

Music was a buoy for those who played to it in the grim confines of places like Auschwitz, where the prisoner band - often nine violins, two clarinets, two saxophones, a cello, trombone, tuba and string bass - performed on Sunday concerts for the SS officers and visiting dignitaries.

It seems that Music from death camps may find life in new home.

The World Students Society thanks author Milton Esterow.


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