Report on the concert given at Bergen-Belsen on 28 August 2016


to commemorate the concert given for Displaced Persons by Yehudi Menuhin and Benjamin Britten in July 1945

On 28 August 2016, a concert was given by the Ukrainian violinist, Aleksey Semenenko, and the Russian pianist, Inna Firsova, at Bergen-Belsen in Lower Saxony, Germany.

This unique event commemorated the concert given by Yehudi Menuhin and Benjamin Britten on 27 July 1945, for Displaced Persons who had survived the Belsen concentration camp. The concert was given in the same huge room, the former Officers’ Ballroom in a major Wehrmacht headquarters. The room was temporarily used, after liberation of the camp by the British army in April 1945, as a packed ward for the emergency hospital, but by July it was used for cultural events. The building became known by the British army as the Roundhouse because of its distinctive architecture. The British army occupied the whole military installation until two years ago, when it was handed over to the Germany army under NATO. For security reasons, the audience of about 300 had to leave their cars in the car park at the nearby Bergen-Belsen Memorial, and take a shuttle bus to and from the Roundhouse.

The two musicians were about the same age as Menuhin was in 1945 – 28 (Britten was slightly older).

The concert was planned and organized by Werner Schmidt, Vice-President of the International Yehudi Menuhin Foundation, Brussels, in the context of Yehudi Menuhin’s centenary. He made a short introductory speech, as did the Minister-President of the Land of Lower Saxony, and the Director of the Bergen-Belsen Memorial.

The two musicians’ programme included some of the works chosen by Menuhin and Britten in 1945, including Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata. Their encore, Ravel’s Kaddish, reminded the audience that this was not an ordinary concert. As Werner Schmidt observed, it was a concert that could only be organized once.