Szymon Laks

Szymon Laks (1901-1983) was born in Warsaw, studied mathematics for two years at the Vilnius University, and then entered the Warsaw Conservatory in 1921 as a violin and composition student. He left Poland in 1926 to continue his musical studies in Paris. In 1941, he was arrested by the Nazis and spent three years imprisoned at the Auschwitz and Dachau concentration camps. There he survived in part thanks to his grim, absurd assignment as a member of a concentration camp orchestra. His memories of that experience, and the role of music in concentration camp life during the Holocaust, are recorded in his memoir, La Musique d’un Autre Monde, published in Paris in 1948 and later translated into English as Music of Another World. In 1945 he returned to Paris, where he remained for the rest of his life, composing searching modern neo-classical music ranging from symphonies to lyrical song settings. His compositions often engage directly with the themes of war, destruction, and memory, and the Polish Jewish experience.