Arno Nadel: Holocaust-Gedenktag 2020

Updated: Feb 20, 2020

The German version was taken from Wir Waren Nachbarn newsletter (Feb.20)

The Holocaust memorial of Wir waren Nachbarn and the Apostel-Paulus-Kirche-Berlin focused and presented Arno Nadel's life, music and activities in Berlin before the war. The ceremony included notes from the Pastor Martina Steffen-Eliş, the Superintendent Michael Raddatz and Dr. Simone Ladwig-Winters.

Special arrangements for Clarinet and Piano, composed and edited by Arno Nadel was performed and recorded. For this occasion, a new album was created for the exhibition WE WERE NEIGHBORS in Schöneberg Town Hall of Berlin. the album exhibits the life and work of Arno Nadel and will include in the near future the recorded music from the event.

About Arno Nadel:

When Arno Nadel, in his last letter before being deported to the concentration camp, invoked God’s protection over ‘Holy Germany, the wise nation of poets and thinkers,’ he did not and probably could not, foresee his death in Auschwitz in 1943.  Nadel was convinced that after its ‘bloody detours and mistakes’ Germany would eventually find its way back to ‘freedom of the spirit and the noble arts’.  Despite his tragic belief in Germany, Nadel could not escape his fate.  

Nadel’s talents were highly versatile: he was an accomplished arranger, composer, conductor, painter, poet, and playwright.  He also became a collector of Jewish music, and in the 1920s and 1930s compiled an anthology of synagogue and Eastern European Jewish folk music.  Indeed, Nadel was deemed an authority on Jewish music during his lifetime.  The art historian Max Osborn praised Nadel as a ‘gifted human being of blessed creativity’.

Born in Vilna, Russian Lithuania, on 3 October 1878 into a Chassidic family, Nadel began his musical education in Königsberg under the renowned cantor Eduard Birnbaum, and continued under Robert Schwalm.  In 1895 he enrolled in the Jüdische Lehrerbildungsanstalt (Jewish Teacher Training Institute) in Berlin, and upon graduation in 1900 settled there and began further studies in composition with Max Julius Loewengard and Ludwig Mendelsohn.  Among his earliest compositions is the Trauermarsch auf den Tod der Kaiserin Friedrich(Funeral march on the death of Emperor Friedrich, 1901) and Der Parom (The Ferry, 1910).  He also wrote chamber music, including two string quartets, a quintet, a suite for two pianos and lieder.

From 1903 onwards, Nadel was responsible for the music supplement of the Jewish Zionist journal Ost und West, and had the same role from 1916 to 1918 for Martin Buber’s journal Der Jude.   He also worked as a music critic for Vossische Zeitung, Vorwärts, Freiheit and Die Musik, and contributed to other journals and several reference works.  In addition, Nadel gave private lessons in music, art history, and literature.

In 1916 he became the choir director at the Kottbuser Ufer synagogue, an appointment that later also involve, and had the same role from 1916 to 1918 for Martin Buber’s Journal ing this time he increasingly devoted himself to composing and arranging works centered on traditional synagogue songs, biblical cantillation, and Jewish folk music.  Most of these pieces were published (Jüdische Liebeslieder, Berlin: Benjamin Harz, 1923; Jontefflieder, Berlin: Jüdischer Verlag, 1919) or served as musical supplements to his articles in the Gemeindeblatt der Jüdischen Gemeinde zu Berlin.  With the exception of Zemirot shabat: Die häuslichen Sabbatgesänge (Berlin: Schocken Verlag, 1937), many of his great compositions written after 1933 only survive in manuscript.  A typical case is the Orgelvorspiel über hebräische Motive, which premiered in March 1936 at the Friedenstempel in Berlin with Herman Schwarz at the organ, and the 1940 blessing setting Der Herr segne und behüte dich for male chorus and soloists.  The Prelude to the film Hebräische Melodie of 1935 is one of his few works to be recorded.

Nadel’s compositions fulfilled several functions: they were performed during concerts and in synagogue services; in lecture-recitals they also took on an educational dimension, introducing a Jewish audience to different types of music, both on a theoretical and practical level.

In 1923, the Berlin Jewish community commissioned Nadel to compile and arrange new music for their liturgy.  This resulted in a seven-volume manuscript compendium of synagogue music for cantor, choir, and organ, completed on 8 November 1938.  The anthology reflects Nadel’s passion for collecting from the vast repertoire of Jewish music and features Eastern European folk and synagogue song, as well as cantorial music, which he believed should be arranged in an artful manner.  Nadel collected old manuscripts of Jewish liturgical music (for instance, he owned the Hannoversches Kompendium of 1744) and had also saved the repertoire he encountered when studying under Eduard Birnbaum in Königsberg.  Thus, Birnbaum’s handwritten scores and in­scribed manuscripts became part of Nadel’s extensive music library.

Although Nadel was able to obtain an exit visa to England, he was too weak and dispirited to make the journey.  On 12 March 1943, he was deported to Auschwitz concentration camp where he was murdered the same year.

Fotos: Gerhard Haug