Cultural Diplomacy through A Survivor from Warsaw
Herbert Kegel and the Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and Choir also gave the Polish premiere of A Survivor from Warsaw when they performed it at the Warsaw Autumn Festival on September 28, 1958. Thus we have the extraordinary case in which Germans came to Warsaw to perform a work about the German destruction of that city's Jews just fifteen years earlier. This performance is situated within the context of very difficult cultural and political relations between East Germany and Poland, as Poland embraced the Thaw, while East Germany resisted it. While many critics noted the Jewish theme of the work, the ruling political party in each country omitted that detail and described the performance as an act of atonement. This ambiguity allowed the “atonement” to be interpreted as repentance for destroying the Warsaw ghetto in 1943 or for destroying the city of Warsaw in 1944. This chapter recounts the negotiations between the cultural agencies in both countries and studies Polish reviews. They are overwhelmingly positive about A Survivor and equally negative about the other pieces on the program, by East Germans Paul Dessau and Johann Cilenšek.
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