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The Buchenwald Song

Lawrence Bush
June 23, 2017

Lyricist and librettist Fritz Löhner-Beda (Bedřich Löwy), who was one of Vienna’s most sought-after songmakers in the pre-Nazi period, was born in Bohemia on this date in 1883. Löhner-Beda was a lawyer, a satirist, and an anti-militarist who was arrested and taken to Dachau almost immediately after the Nazi takeover of Austria in April 1938. By September he was transferred to Buchenwald, where he wrote “The Buchenwald Song” with fellow inmate Hermann Leopoldi. “O Buchenwald, I cannot forget you,” this anthem declared, because you are my fate./ Only he who leaves you can appreciate/ how wonderful freedom is!/ O Buchenwald, we don’t cry and complain;/ and whatever our destiny may be,/ we nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life:/ for once the day comes, we shall be free!” In October 1942, Löhner-Beda was transferred to the Monowitz concentration camp, a satellite camp of Auschwitz, where he was beaten to death within three months.

“Unlike many of his fellow Jewish entertainers in Vienna, Löhner-Beda was proud of his Jewish heritage and critical of the trend of conversion among middle-class Jews. But from the time of his adolescence, his greatest love was reserved for writing and the world of entertainment. . . . A successful poet and essayist, he published in magazines, newspapers and collections of poetry. He also composed many successful song lyrics and collaborated with operetta composers.” --Music and the Holocaust website

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.