Aleksander Kulisiewicz sound recordings - Audycje Polskiego Radia [APR]

Language of Description
Alt. Identifiers
  • 1992.A.0034.2
  • RG-91.0201
Level of Description
EHRI Partner


Biographical History

Aleksander (Alexander) Kulisiewicz (1918-1982) was born in Kraków, Poland in 1918. He was a law student in German-occupied Poland when, in October 1939, he was denounced for antifascist writings, arrested by the Gestapo, and sent to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp, near Berlin. An amateur singer and songwriter, Kulisiewicz composed 54 songs during more than five years of imprisonment at Sachsenhausen. After Russian troops liberated the camp on May 2, 1945, he remembered his songs, as well as those learned from fellow prisoners, dictating hundreds of pages of text to his attending nurse at a Polish infirmary. The majority of Kulisiewicz’s songs are darkly humorous ballads concerning the sadistic treatment of prisoners. Performed at secret gatherings, imbued with biting wit and subversive attitude, these songs helped inmates cope with their hunger and despair, raised morale, and offered hope of survival. Beyond this spiritual and psychological purport, Kulisiewicz also considered the camp song to be a form of documentation. “In the camp,” he wrote, “I tried under all circumstances to create verses that would serve as direct poetical reportage. I used my memory as a living archive. Friends came to me and dictated their songs.” In the 1950s, Kulisiewicz began amassing a private collection of music, poetry, and artwork created by camp prisoners, gathering this material through correspondence and hundreds of hours of recorded interviews. In the 1960s, he inaugurated a series of public recitals of his repertoire of camp songs, and issued several recordings. Kulisiewicz’s major project, a monumental study of the cultural life of the camps and the vital role music played as a means of survival for many prisoners, remained unpublished at the time of his death. He toured both Europe and the United States performing concerts of his works and the works of other Holocaust survivors until about 1980. He died in Kraków, Poland, on March 12, 1982. His archive is the largest extant collection of music composed in the camps.

Scope and Content

18 sound reels including Polish radio broadcasts of Kulisiewicz and his performances. Reel 1 - APR 1 Polish radio broadcast, "Choral ze piekla dna" [Songs from the depths of hell]. Side A includes various camp songs and fragments of camp songs sung by Aleksander Kulisiewicz (A.K.) such as "Elzunia," "Agonia Staszka," "Kostus moja," "Kolysanka dla synka." An a cappella choir sings "Marsz Pasiakow'' and "List." A.K. and Burski recount experiences surrounding musical activity at the camps. Side B includes a recording of a concert at Auschwitz from 1967. A.K. sings "Birkenau," with accordian accompaniment, and "Kolysanka dla synka" and “Hekatomba" with guitar accompaniment. Side B also includes a camp song sung by a woman from Ravensbruck(?). Reel 2 - APR 2 Side A: Working recording of the Polish radio broadcast from Radio Katowice titled, "Choral ze piekla dna" [Songs from the depths of hell]. Includes a prologue by Lessaer and a talk given by A.K. and Boleslaw Burski concerning the significance of songs in the camps. Side B is a recording from 1964 which includes A.K. singing "Choral ze piekla dna," "Pod Beverlinem? plynie woda," and "Umerem, umerem." Reel 3 - APR 3 Sides A & B: Working recording of the Polish radio broadcast, "Choral ze piekla dna" II [Songs from the depths of hell]. Discussion of songs and their importance in the camps by Wojtowicz, Burski, and Kulisiewicz. A.K. sings songs and song fragments a cappella including, "Krzycza serca," "Choral ze piekla dna," "Kolysanka dal synka," "Ukrzyzowany 1944," "Musalman," "Pozegnanie Adolfa," "Germania," "Marsz Pasiakow," "Maminsynek, " "Oj , Mania, Mania." Reel 4 - APR 4 Side A: Continuation of the working recording of Katowice, Poland radio broadcast "Choral ze piekla dna" [Songs from the depths of hell], recorded in 1966 or 1967. Includes Matusiak's discussion of music in Gusen/Mauthausen (beginning of his account is found on APR 5), followed by Wojtowicz' s discussion of music at Buchenwald. Side B is a continuation of the concert at Auschwitz recorded 1974 (part III). In this recording various former prisoners, including A.K., perform and discuss music of their camps. Reel 5 - APR 5 Side A: Continuation of the 1967 working recording from the Katowice, Poland radio broadcast, "Choral ze piekla dna" [Songs from the depths of hell]. Side A is the beginning of Wladislaw Matusiak's account concerning music of Gusen - Mauthausen which is continued on APR 4. Side B is a 1975 recording of A.K. reciting camp verses which made up the "Repertoire from the Sunday Concerts at Majdanek." This recording is continued on subsequent tapes. Reel 6 - APR 6 Side A: Continuation of the working recording of the Katowice radio broadcast, "Choral ze piekla dna." A.K. discusses the history surrounding certain songs from Sachsenhausen ("Umre, Umre" and "A kiej bydzie"). Following, Wojtowicz discusses various stories concerning his musical experiences at Auschwitz I and Buchenwald ("Rezignacja"). A.K. discusses "Hej, pod Berlinem" at the end of the tape. Side B is the 1974 recording of the concert at Auschwitz (part II). Various camps songs and music are performed by former prisoners and sometimes a brief discussion of the piece precedes the performance. Songs and song fragments include, "Idziemy noca," "Janeczka," "Dziwna rzecz," "Wielka jest, ladna jest," "W Auschwitzlager" and other unidentified songs sung by A.K. and other people. Reel 7 - APR 7 Side A: Broadcast "Dokument czy bron?" [Document or Weapon?], Part I. A.K. discusses and sings camp songs including "Kolysanka dla synka," "Hekatomba 1941," "Choral ze piekla dna," and "Ukrzyzowany 1944," and "Sonia." In addition he talks about his postwar concerts. Side B is part II of a recording of prisoners' verses and writings housed at the Auschwitz Museum and dictated by A.K. in 1969. Reel 8 - APR 8 Side A: Repetition of the broadcast "Dokument czy bron?" [Document or weapon?] recorded on APR 7 from "Kolysanka" to "Sofia." Side B is a discussion which begins in progress between Guzinski and A.K. concerning Guzinski's song "Ply." Reel 9 - APR 9 Side A: Polonia Recording, 1965. Commentator discusses Sachsenhausen and introduces A.K. who sings "Choral ze piekla dna" with guitar accompaniment. Side B: Includes part II of a 1975 recording of various prisoners' verses and writings found at the Majdanek Museum as dictated by A.K. Reel 10 - APR 10 Side A: 1969 recording of the ""Popoludnie z mlodoscia"" [Afternoon with youths] program on Radio Warsaw. Includes some biographical info on A.K. and a discussion of various camp songs with A.K. singing some fragments with guitar accompaniment. A.K. also talks about the history of his guitar, his collection of camp songs, and his postwar concerts. Songs discussed include, "Spalona Matka," "Ukrzyzowany 1944," and "Marsz Pasiakow." Side B is a continuation of prisoners' verses and writings concerning music from the Auschwitz Museum dictated by A.K." Reel 11 - APR 11 Side A: 1967 recording of the program "Panorama" on Radio Krakow. A.K. discusses the German Burg Waldeck Festival where he performed and the reaction of German youth to his concert. Also talks briefly about "Juddischer Todessang" and performs it with guitar accompaniment. Side B is a recording in progress of a contemporary singer named Santor followed by gypsy? music both of which seem unrelated to the Holocaust. Reel 12 - APR 12 Side A: 1968 working recording of the program "IEST-68" for Radio Krakow. A.K. discusses his performance at the "Underground Festival" in Essen, West Germany and his to-be-published anthology of Polish camp songs. This is followed by a 1968 recording of the program "Panorama" on Radio Krakow which is a repetition of the talk immediately preceding this on APR 12 but which adds A.K. singing "Stoi nocka" with guitar accompaniment. Side B is a dictation by A.K. in progress of writings by about Alma? followed by a letter to A.K. from Siberia written by someone who was moved by the Soviet documentary film about A.K. called "Choral z piekla dna." Reel 13 - APR 13 Side A: 1971 recording of the broadcast "Panorama" on Radio Krakow. Contents difficult to describe as the recording is barely audible. Refer to hard copy index for A.K.'s description. Following is a recording of Krzysztof Kulisiewicz at a young age singing popular children's songs and an interview concerning his three years at Zajaczek conducted by A.K. Side B is a 1970 recording of Burdowna singing various camp songs. Reel 14 - APR 14 Side A: Recording of a 9 Jan 1974 broadcast on Radio Rzeszow. A.K. discusses camp songs and his postwar work during his interview on this Polish radio broadcast. Among other songs whose titles are unidentifiable, A.K. sings the following songs either with guitar or accordion accomp: "Ukrzyzowany," "Birkenau," "Nie mam ja nikogo," "Wojenko." Side B includes an account by Wojczechowska nee Grzeszewska, former prisoner of Auschwitz II. During her account, Wojczechowska mentions the names of several fellow female inmates and their musical contributions/involvement and sings two songs, "Zegnaj strasny Oswiencimju" and "Niewolnicze tango." Side B ends with the beginning of an account by Jablodski. Reel 15 - APR 15 Side A: Recording of 1976 Radio Rzeszow broadcast. Begins as a brief war documentary and segues into A.K.'s songs, life and work. A.K. performs either with guitar or accordion accompaniment the following songs and at times provides a brief discussion: "Ukrzyzowany," "Spalona matka," "Muselman," "Moje rece," "Juddischer Todessang." Side B is blank. Reel 16 - APR 16 Sides A & B: Working recording of a Radio Warsaw broadcast. This recording includes an interview with A.K. where he discusses his childhood and his experiences in the camps, both musical and not music related. A.K. talks about the origins of his guitar, various tortures he as well as other prisoners experienced and sings fragments of the following songs: "Gdy wrocisz," "Germania," "Pozegnanie," "Hekatomba," "Juddischer Todessang," "Kolysanka dla synka," "Ukrzyzowany," "Hymn," "Birkenau," "Dicke Luft," and "Tancz." Reel 17 - APR 17 Side A: 1979 recording of Radio Warsaw broadcast, "A.K.'s Archive," broadcast on 1 Nov 1979 and 2 Dec 1979. Provides a very good record of A.K.'s postwar work albeit that the presentation is, at times, technically distracting. Mentions various poets, composers, writers and journalists, and spends a major portion discussing A.K.'s post war work. A.K. also sings standard song fragments. Side B: A.K. on the "Simply Folk" radio program on Wisconsin Public Radio broadcast, November 1979. This recording is continued on NPR 10A and is duplicated in its entirety on cassette tape (NZ 59) LIX: Public Radio Wisconsin (1979) NZ. It provides an excellent example of A.K.'s spirit, including factual information about his life. It also provides the genesis of certain camp songs and some song translations as well as the songs themselves performed by A.K. Those songs include, "Hymn," "Kolysanka dla synka," "Byla sobie raz Elzunia," "Ich wandre," "Juddischer Todessang," "Byla u mnie moja Polska." This recording also provides information concerning A.K.'s guitar." Reel 18 - APR 18 Side A: 6 Sep 1981 recording of a Polish Radio Krakow broadcast. A.K. in an interview discussing his postwar work and especially his concerts in Germany. He performs "Sen o pokoju," "Kolysanka dla synka," and "Spalona Matka," and discusses the book "Ecce hommo" by Hahira Sakanishi. This is followed by a recording of Zofia Karpinska singing "Stoi nocka" in German. The recording is NR 837 taped on 19 Sept 1981 entirely in German. Side B: blank.



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