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Brazilian concert features music written by prisoners at Nazi camps

Italian conductor Francesco Lotoro spent 30 years gathering and reconstructing works by musicians who used any means at hand, including ‘toilet paper,’ to write down compositions

Reconstructed sheet music written on toilet paper and charcoal bags recovered from Nazi concentration camps during World War II. (Courtesy of Francesco Lotoro)
Reconstructed sheet music written on toilet paper and charcoal bags recovered from Nazi concentration camps during World War II. (Courtesy of Francesco Lotoro)

SAO PAULO — A Brazilian concert featured reconstructed sheet music written on toilet paper and charcoal bags recovered from Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

The performance last Thursday in Sao Paulo was led by Italian conductor Francesco Lotoro, who spent 30 years gathering the music. The concert opened the city’s 60,000-strong Jewish community’s commemorations for the 75th anniversary of the liberation of concentration camps.

“Music can become the last will of some people. I took on the mission of bringing these works back to life and being taught, played, sung, and whistled by all in order to perpetuate life where there was death,” said Lotoro, who cataloged about 1,600 composers and transcribed over 8,000 musical works.

“As a Jew, I feel that this is a mitzvah,” Lotoro said.

“But I think that, if I had not become Jewish, I would anyway have done this,” added Lotoro, who was raised as Catholic and converted to Judaism at the age of 39.

Reconstructed sheet music written on toilet paper and charcoal bags recovered from Nazi concentration camps during World War II. (Courtesy of Francesco Lotoro)

A photo exhibit of Holocaust survivors who attended the concert was opened at the venue.

“This project shows the greatest symbol of Jewish resistance to the Holocaust. It’s a legacy for humanity,” said Eduardo El Kobbi, president of the Jewish National Fund in Brazil, the organization that sponsored the event.

Francesco Lotoro, the Italian conductor and pianist, who has spent 30 years researching music composed in the concentration camps (Jessica Steinberg/Times of Israel)

“The concert is a tribute to the memory of the whole Jewish community, as so many of its members suffered the atrocities and sufferings of a guiltless punishment,” said keynote speaker Celso Lafer, a Jewish activist who was twice Brazil’s foreign minister.

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