Oral History

Sandor (Shony) Alex Braun describes how music gave him the strength to survive while imprisoned in concentration camps

Shony was born to religious Jewish parents in a small Transylvanian city. He began to learn the violin at age 5. His town was occupied by Hungary in 1940 and by Germany in 1944. In May 1944, he was deported to the Auschwitz camp in Poland. He was transferred to the Natzweiler camp system in France and then to Dachau, where he was liberated by US troops in April 1945. In 1950, he immigrated to the United States, and became a composer and a professional violinist.


The Symphony of the Holocaust, the melodies came to me while in con...concentration camp, and here is another thing that probably helped survive bes...beside God's will. Because when I got that despondent, that terrible low, that I was about to touch the, uh, barbed wire, I would say to myself first, "Why don't you, why don't you just play, in quotation, meaning play, goes through in your head. "Why don't you just play that movement which you just learned from before you were taken, Mendelssohn's Violin Concerto. Let's see if you can rem...remember." That gave me strength. I went through, while I was hitting the wood with the hammer, or I was, uh, lifting the heavy things which I really couldn't lift, but I lifted because there is a will to lift, you know, that stone, the salt stone. Some of them they were dynamiting, you know, and they were not telling us in time, so they killed many, many of us. But at any rate, so that gave me also an incentive to live. So this is how it started, and then another concentration camp, which, where I went, different melodies came to me. I couldn't write it down, but it came over and over and over, and when I had a chance I wrote it down, but only about five or six years ago that I completed it in a form of a symphony.


  • US Holocaust Memorial Museum Collection
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