For me and Alexandros Karozas the „Songs of Humanity“ Tour production from January/February 2020 closes a circle.
We had already recorded the concert on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the liberation of the Mauthausen concentration camp in 1995, exactly 25 years ago, to produce a CD.
Initially we understood this recording as a historical document. But the experience of the liberation celebration in Mauthausen on May 7, 1995 and the impression that this place, the more than 20,000 former prisoners and their families, the speech by Simon Wiesenthal and the music by Mikis Theodorakis made on us, gave us the confidence that this history would continue to occupy us.
We very soon realized that the confrontation with the Holocaust would not let us go. But we didn’t know that neo-fascism would again raise its head in Europe and in Germany so quickly.
We therefore decided to publish a MAUTHAUSEN-TRILOGY first: With the support of Elinoar Moav (Tel Aviv), Julie Dennis (London) and Nadia Weinberg (New York), the Hebrew and English versions of the Mauthausen cantata were created. On this first CD release of 1998, they stand next to the Greek live version of Maria Farantouri, the first interpreter of this work with which she began her great career as a singer 55 years ago. At the same time, we held on to our idea of organizing live concerts of the „Mauthausen Cycle“. We did this in January 2020.
Simon Wiesenthal gave me in 1995 the permission to print his speech and the sketches and collages he had made in Mauthausen concentration camp. In his speech, he uttered sentences that we thought back then, in 1995, were only representing the past. How wrong we were:
„… National Socialism, which wanted to dominate and enslave the world, was de facto a composition of hatred and technology. Hate is something terrible. Hatred preceded the millionfold Nazi crime. We must despise these crimes, not only because they have murdered our families, but because they have crushed human dignity …“
(from: Simon Wiesenthal, Speech in Mauthausen, 1995)
And it came so badly that Mikis Theodorakis, the composer of the four Mauthausen songs, in his response to a Holocaust denier in 2013, almost 20 years later, felt compelled to write:
„… The Holocaust – a millennium nightmare, the worst humanity has ever known, a nightmare that already makes you sick, if you only think about it, while in your imagination these victims – especially the children – to become angels, and in the end you only feel the inevitable urge to kneel before them, to ask their forgiveness forever and to say to them again and again: „I am ashamed to have been born a human.“ In Dachau and Auschwitz not only, the Jews were murdered. Humanity itself was murdered. And since then, we are all in a debt to those who have survived.“
We organized the „Mauthausen – Songs of Humanity“ Tour with Alexandros Karozas last year just before the outbreak of the Corona Pandemic. Maria Farantouri from Greece and Israeli tenor Assaf Kacholi were making their first European tour together. The songs and the lyrics I put together for this program in collaboration with the artists told of love and passion, of melancholy and gaiety, of courage and sorrow, of war, hate and the deepest peace. Songs full of strength and humanity.
Maria Farantouri and Assaf Kacholi also meant to shine a bright light into the hall of sombre memories, with the songs from Mikis Theodorakis‘ „Ballad of Mauthausen“. 75 years after the liberation of the concentration camps Auschwitz, Mauthausen, Buchenwald, Dachau, Bergen-Belsen and many others, we commemorated the suffering, but above all the lust for life and the dreams of the future of millions of people.
MARIA FARANTOURI & ASSAF KACHOLI
Mauthausen and other songs of Humanity
In Memoriam 75 YEARS OF LIBERATION
„On the occasion of the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust“
With Henning Schmiedt (piano, arr.), Volker Schlott (sax., perc.)
and Jens Naumilkat (cello)
Recitations by Sandra von Ruffin, Iris Berben & Cem Özdemir
Artistic direction by Asteris Kutulas
Produced by Alexandros Karozas & Asteris Kutulas
It was a great musical and political event – an event that was unique, because it went to the heart and helped to remember not to forget.
Alexandros and me received support from many friends & partners, especially from Jörg Krause, Ina Kutulas and Sandra von Ruffin. Sandra also took over the recitation in 5 cities. We also thank Iris Berben for her cooperation in Düsseldorf and Cem Özdemir in Berlin. We were supported by the Jewish & Greek communities and by many artists, including Konstantin Wecker and Vicky Leandros and so many others. We thank them from the bottom of our hearts.
Asteris Kutulas, 27.1.2021