With Music and Poetry, Herbert Zipper Reached for Humanity in Dachau

Herbert Zipper, a world-renowned conductor, composer and pioneer of the community arts movement in the United States, grew up in a Vienna of extremes: From his birth in 1904 until he fled in 1939, the Austrian capital transformed from the heights of science and culture to the depths of economic depression and the onslaught of violent antisemitism and Nazi rule.

Zipper was working in Dusseldorf as a composer when the Nazis came to power in 1933. This was when his world was turned upside down – “One of the worst sights of my life – the day was May 10 [1933] – was when the book burnings started. That was a terrible experience. And when you see this, then you know this is really the greatest danger that we are facing,” Zipper said.

In 1938, Zipper and his brothers were arrested and sent to Dachau. That summer, on a particularly hot August day, he and his friend Jura Sofyer wrote ‘Dachau Song’, a satirical spin on the work ethic of a slave labor prison.

You can read Herbert Zipper’s full story here.