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98-year-old drummer is touring the world with band he formed with holocaust survivors

A Holocaust survivor decided to start a band with fellow survivors and is now touring the world performing their music.

98-year-old drummer is touring the world with band he formed with holocaust survivors
Cover Image Source: Facebook | Holocaust Survivor Klezmer Band

Music can serve as an incredible source of motivation and resilience in difficult times. This was exactly the case for Saul Dreier, who learned how to play drums at a concentration camp during the Holocaust, per The Washington Post. Dreier's story showcases just how much of an impact music can have on a person. He was brought up in a Jewish family that lived in Krakow and was sent to the Krakow-Plaszow concentration camp when he was just 16 years old. After some time, he was moved to a subcamp where he fixed automobile radiators.


 
 
 
 
 
View this post on Instagram
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 

A post shared by Saul Dreier (@sauldreier)


 

One of his fellow inmates at the concentration camp happened to be a cantor. A cantor is someone who sings liturgical music and leads the prayers in a synagogue. He eventually formed a group with other inmates and they sang traditional Jewish songs almost every night. Dreier partook in this and told his fellow prisoners that there was a crucial component missing in their music. Saying this, he took two metal soup spoons and hit them together to create a basic beat that would add to the music.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Saul Dreier (@sauldreier)


 

He spoke about this initial experience, saying, "That's how I learned to play the drums." Dreier is presently 98 years old and this was not his first experience with playing an instrument. His father was a musician and gave him a clarinet when he was eight years old. Life in the concentration camp was stressful, as he lived with the fear of being killed at any moment. In such a situation, music became a welcome escape. His parents and 25 other family members were killed by Nazis.


 
 
 
 
 
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A post shared by Saul Dreier (@sauldreier)


 

Dreier shares that music was the one big thing that kept him alive and inspired him to survive. He was soon sent to the Mauthausen Concentration Camp, which was located in Nazi-occupied Austria in 1944. Fortunately, he was rescued by Americans a year later and got out with the sole objective of finding his family again. He did not know at the time that they had all been killed. He continued to be actively involved in music by playing the drums at the Santa Maria di Bagni Displaced Persons Camp in southern Italy.



 

This was also the first place where he played on an actual set of drums instead of metal spoons. He recalls how young people would dance to his music. At the time, his band mostly performed traditional Jewish music along with a few Polish and Italian songs. He moved to Brooklyn in 1949 and got a job as a construction contractor in New Jersey. Dreier married Clara, another Holocaust survivor and had four children.



 

His wife passed away in 2016. Throughout his initial years in America, he never played the drums. Inspiration struck him in 2014 when he learned that Alice Herz-Sommer, a pianist who was thought to be the oldest known Holocaust survivor, died at the age of 110. Similar to his experience, Herz-Sommer found solace in music when she was in a concentration camp called Theresienstadt. He told his wife that he wanted to do something to honor her and decided to put together a band that consisted of Holocaust survivors.



 

His wife told him that he was crazy. He told the idea to his rabbi who was also of the opinion that it was a bit far-fetched. But Dreier decided to pursue his idea and bought a new set of drums. He was also able to find an accordionist, a violinist, a guitarist, a saxophonist and a trumpet player. All of the members of his band were either Holocaust survivors or were the children of people who survived. The band came to be known as the Holocaust Survivor Band and there is even a short documentary on them.



 

A decade has passed since he founded the band and they have performed approximately 100 concerts around the world. The band mostly plays Jewish folk songs, also known as klezmer music, which is the music Dreier listened to when he was a child. His band has developed so well that they got a chance to perform for President Biden at the White House Hanukkah party. Most of his original bandmates have passed away since they started and Dreier continues to be its only permanent member. He usually performs along with a few other musicians, all of whom are children of Holocaust survivors.

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