Inside the Orchestras of Auschwitz

A University of Michigan professor has uncovered sheet music that sheds light on the music performed in concentration camps during the Holocaust.

Christopher Boyes / University of Michigan

Click the audio player to listen. CultureShift airs weekdays at 12 p.m. on WDET 101.9FM Detroit’s public radio.

A University of Michigan music theory professor has discovered a startling piece of music history.

During a research trip at Auschwitz-Birkenau State Museum in Poland, Professor Patricia Hall uncovered sheet music that was performed by prisoner orchestras as the concentration camp during World War II.

She spoke with WDET’s Ryan Patrick Hooper on CultureShift.

As Hall points out, discovering a piece of sheet music is one thing. Bringing it to life with the help of a university orchestra and performing it provides a horrifying soundtrack to the Holocaust.

Click the audio player above to hear the full conversation alongside “The Most Beautiful Time of Life,” the foxtrot originally performed by prisoner musicians at Auschwitz during the Holocaust.

The unearthed composition will be performed for the first time since 1943 tonight at Hankinson Hall at the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor.

The concert is free, open to the public and scheduled to begin at 8 p.m.

You can stream the live performance via the University of Michigan website starting at 8 p.m. as well.


  • Ryan Patrick Hooper is the award-winning host and producer of CultureShift on 101.9 WDET-FM Detroit’s NPR station. As a longtime arts and culture reporter and photographer, Hooper has covered stories for NPR, Detroit Free Press, Hour Detroit, SPIN and Paste magazine.