Horrors of War

Horn, Viola, Cello
Completed: 2/27/10; Premiered: 3/7/10
Unpublished – Contact the composer

This piece was composed to accompany an exhibit at the University of Alabama in Huntsville in February-March, 2010.  Dora and the V-2 – Slave Labor in the space age was produced by the Department of Art and Art History and the Department of History at UAHuntsville.  More information on the exhibit is available here.

During the final months of World War II, the Nazi government was building V2 rockets at an underground facility attached to a forced-labor camp known as Dora-Mittelbau.  Prisoners at this camp included many nationalities, and conditions were horrifying.  It is estimated that 20,000 inmates died from a total population of 60,000.

The art used in this composition is from two French artists who had been captured (Maurice de La Pintiére and André Guichard), plus a photo taken by the U.S. army when the camp was liberated.  Thanks to La Coupole, History and Remembrance Center, Saint-Omer, France, for permission to use images of the art.

Music and the Holocaust has a quote about music from a former Dora inmate here.  In it, he mentions four songs that the prisoners liked to sing.  Snippets of these four songs are heard throughout the composition, usually altered to reflect the dark subject matter of the visual art.

  • Old Comrades March (Alte Kameraden)
  • A Young Miner Marches to Work (substituted Polish Miners Song)
  • Volga Volga
  • Lili Marleen

The nine short movements are divided into four groupings.  See below to view the art and hear the music from each movement.

  1. Labor – Latrine Duty
  2. Labor – Uphill
  3. Labor – Carrying Water
  4. Love – Up in Smoke
  5. Love – Prisoner’s Fiancée
  6. Loss – Public Execution
  7. Loss – Execution with an Orchestra
  8. Horror – Too Many Corpses
  9. Horror – Way Too Many

1. Labor – Latrine Duty

Maurice de La Pintiére shows one of the most trying tasks, the “latrine duty.”  Prisoners had to take out the half-drums that were used as toilets in the Tunnel during the installation of the underground factory.

2. Labor – Uphill

The French artist Maurice de La Pintiére, a prisoner at Dora as of November 1943, completed this pen-and-ink wash drawing in June 1945 after his return to France.  The Dora prisoners experienced brutal conditions during the excavation of the external entrance.  (Private collection)

3. Labor – Carrying Water

French deportee André Guichard illustrates well the chaos of the underground work site.  Two prisoners carry water while their fellow prisoners remove rock.  (Private collection)

4. Love – Up in Smoke

Two drawings by Maurice de La Pintiére done during his captivity at Dora, recall the fantasies and obsessions of the prisoner:  “Woman in the form of smoke, a convict’s dream” (above).  Dora, December 1944.  (Private collection)

5. Love – Prisoner’s Fiancée

Two drawings by Maurice de La Pintiére done during his captivity at Dora, recall the fantasies and obsessions of the prisoner:  “The convict’s fiancée” (above).  Dora, December 1944.  (Private collection)

6. Loss – Public Execution

A pen-and-ink drawing by Maurice de La Pintiére shows the mass of prisoners on the roll call square required to watch a public execution.  (Private collection)

7. Loss – Execution with an Orchestra

André Guichard depicts the same scene with the addition of an orchestra.  (Private collection)

8. Horror – Too Many Corpses

In January, 1945, with trainloads of prisoners evacuated from the eastern camps (Auschwitz, Gross-Rosen) arriving at Dora, the number of dead was so high that the camp crematorium was unable to keep up.  Pyres were then lit in the open air.  Maurice de La Pintiére recalls this scene.  (Private collection)

9. Horror – Way Too Many

Soldiers of the 3rd U.S. Armored Division and the 104th Infantry Division experience a horrifying shock as they discover Boelcke Barracks at Nordhausen on April 11, 1945, finding a few surviving prisoners intermingled with hundreds of corpses.  The latter are buried in communal graves by men from Nordhausen comandeered by Americans.  (National Archives, Washington, DC)