The fascinating docufilm, Orchestra Of Exiles, about Bronislaw Huberman’s mission of mercy and how he saved 1000 Jews from the Nazis claws and preserved the seeds of the classical music Jews championed and culture that we all enjoy today.
This week, in an event under the auspices of StandWithUs, co-sponsored by American Friends of the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (www.afipo.org), at the Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills, I was privileged to watch Orchestra Of Exiles, which, at times, brought tears to my eyes.
Josh Aronson is the Writer/Producer/Director of Orchestra of Exiles. One day his friend Dorit-Straus Grunschlag ( asked him if he ever heard of the prodigious Polish violinist Bronislaw Huberman. The answer was no.
Dorit told him that due to Huberman she has a large family in Israel and all over the world. Aronson was intrigued. He began researching the tip Dorit gave him and was exposed to a story of the Oskar Schindler of the Jewish musicians’ world. The result, Aronson decided that it is his duty to the Jewish world, in particular, and to the world at large, to document the time in the life of this renounced, almost forgotten, musician when he ran a saving Jewish lives enterprise, and so to remind humanity that nothing should stand in the way of one’s will. The result is a mesmerizing, seamless docufilm everyone should see.
Orchestra of Exiles explores this great man Huberman’s four year odyssey, which culminated in the founding of The Palestine Symphony Orchestra, later to become the Israel Philharmonic. This captivating story touches many of the major themes of the 20th century and the unfolding drama of Huberman’s life is riveting.
The Palestine Symphony Orchestra was founded in 1936, under the leadership of Bronislaw Huberman. Huberman, a violinist virtuoso, who, at first, envisioned an international center for the arts, but instead focused on developing a critically acclaimed symphony orchestra. In 1933, when conditions in Europe had become such that Jewish musicians were fired from their jobs his ‘coin dropped’. He realized he had to found an orchestra that could serve as a haven for persecuted Jewish musicians; that orchestra was to be founded in Palestine of all places. The yishuv of pre-state of Israel was longing for culture they have left behind in Europe; the enthusiasm of having a local symphony orchestras was overwhelming.
Huberman traveled all over Europe and recruited the best of the best of Jewish musicians. Unintentionally he had to operate along his own selection method [oppose the Nazis selections method] and became the judge of who will live and who will die, as those he did not select to play in his orchestra perished in the Holocaust.
Immigration to Israel certificates were readily available, mostly for working hands, rather than instrument’ playing hands. Huberman fought hard to obtain the permits for his band of musicians to enable them to arrive to Palestine and many times he was literally one man against the world. But he won, by bringing to Israel seventy two top soloist, first chair, musicians and their families, who were the initial members of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra. And thus he saved 1000 Jewish lives who would have been, otherwise, definitely gassed by the Nazis. Among the orchestra members was David Grunschlag, Dorit Grunschlag’s father, one of the brilliant violinists, who, in the difficult days, prior to the establishment of the State of Israel, was called to be a soloist as well as leader of the violin section of the Palestine Symphony Orchestra.
While rivers of Jewish blood were flooding Europe’s lands, in Palestine exiled Jewish musicians of the Palestine Symphony orchestras were playing to full houses. The only weapon they had against the Nazi killing machine was their music and their instruments.
While Huberman continued to work on behalf of the orchestra, Arturo Toscanini agreed to become its first conductor. With the establishment of the state of Israel, David Ben Gurion, Israel’s first Prime Minister renamed the Orchestra the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra (http://www.ipo.co.il/eng/HomePage/.aspx),today, one of the best Philharmonic Orchestras in the world.
Bronislaw Huberman was one other Jew who made the difference. He was a musician and a leader.
PBS will be showing this riveting docufilm on April 14th 2013.
Theodore Herzl said, “If you will, it is no legend” and Bronislaw Huberman seconded him with his actions.