A book about David Boder's recordings of concentration camp survivors sits next to one of his wire recorders on display at the University of Akron's Center for History of Psychology. (AP)
Wire recordings of Holocaust survivors singing melodies at a refugee camp in France in 1946 are being heard for the first time in decades, thanks to university employees in Ohio who pieced together a device to listen to them.
University of Akron officials say the six songs were sung by survivors in Henonville, France, for psychologist David Boder, who was among the first to record Holocaust survivors telling their stories during the 1940s. He recorded on steel wire, capturing the melodies with lyrics in Yiddish and German.
"Dr. Boder was determined to give the survivors a voice," said David Baker, a UA professor of psychology and executive director of the Center for the History of Psychology. "Dr. Boder is credited with being the first person to record testimony of Holocaust survivors."
Boder conducted numerous interviews on wire recorders, which were considered state-of-the-art equipment at the time. He also recorded religious services, folk songs and counseling sessions in addition to his work with Holocaust survivors.
The Akron Beacon Journal reports that one woman sang melodies that had been sung in a Polish ghetto and a forced-labor camp.
Some of Boder's spools were donated to the university in the 1960s and archived, but the content wasn't discovered until a recent project to digitize the recordings.
"It's the most significant discovery from our collections in our 52-year history," Baker said. "That we could give the world the melody to a song sung by those sentenced to their death through forced labor during one of the most unspeakable horrors and trauma of the 20th century is remarkable."
Boder's recordings are also held in the Library of Congress and at UCLA in California. The University of Akron has shared its collection with the national Holocaust Museum in Washington.
THE REDISCOVERED 'HENONVILLE SONGS'
In the aftermath of World War II, Dr David Boder interviewed displaced Holocaust survivors in Germany, Italy, France, and Switzerland.
A recording containing Jewish songs from a camp in Henonville, France had been referenced in his work, but remained a mystery for decades.
Researchers have now discovered it was incorrectly labeled in the archives at The University of Akron's Cummings Center as 'Heroville Songs.'
They've have shared several samples from the spool, including ‘Undzer shtetl brent’ (Our Village is Burning) by Mordecai Gebirtig.
It was performed in Yiddish by Gita Frank, who explains in the introduction that it was once sung by the composer’s daughter in the cellars of a Krakow ghetto.
The song was meant to inspire the people to rebel against the Germans, changing the original words to instead say ‘the Jewish people are burning.’
And, the recording also contains songs that the prisoners were forced to sing as they moved between labour sites at the concentration camps.