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The Beauty of Song

Vught concentration camp
Vught concentration camp
“It is a gloomy winter’s day in 1943 on the field where the roll is called in the Vught concentration camp. A hard, cold north wind blows sand high into the air. Over 10,000 men stand shivering, divided into straight blocks. A few snarled commands. The men are nameless, numbered, and alone. Each stands there with his own thoughts, his own desires, his own hatred, his own hope. High in the air, a few crows caw, the only birds in sight.

In that gray silence, suddenly a voice is heard - a high, clear voice, a voice from the women’s camp. Louise de Montel is singing Ave Maria. She is standing by the barbed wire and is singing for us men in the grim field. Then all around me, a miracle happens: The faces brighten and break into smiles - even the SS officers stand listening. And we know that this is the most beautiful thing that the pure heart of a girl can offer us, and not one of us is alone any longer.

Only now do I understand how valuable art is, the art of pure, beautiful singing, the beauty of the voice, the beauty of song, and the honesty of emotion. And I will never forget it as long as I live. Now we have that voice and the song on a record and can listen to them as often as we like.”

Hans Tiemeijer (Dutch actor, 1908-1997), preface to the single release of Ave Maria