Holocaust Survivors Form Klezmer Band in South Florida
In March of 2015, two Holocaust survivors formed their own klezmer band in south Florida aptly called the “Holocaust Survivor Band.” After surviving the Holocaust, Saul Dreier and Reuwen “Ruby” Sosnowicz emigrated to America where they started families and had prosperous careers before retiring to Florida. For most elderly Holocaust survivors this would mark the end of the story and a victory in-and-of itself. Yet for Dreier, a drummer, and Sosnowicz, an accordionist, this was just the beginning of the next chapter.
At age 89 and 85, respectively, the two survivors teamed up to start a klezmer band playing the music they learned in their childhoods in Poland. Quickly, the “Holocaust Survivor Band” reached a certain degree of celebrity amongst Jews and non-Jews alike. In the last few years has performed in synagogues, nursing homes, and even the Venetian hotel and casino in Las Vegas.
Since their childhoods, music was central to the two men’s lives and key to their survival during the Holocaust. Saul Dreier, was born in Krakow, Poland and survived three concentration camps during WWII. In one camp, Dreier befriended a cantor (Jewish religious singer) in the sleeping barracks. To pass the time and briefly escape the horrors of the Nazi camp, the Cantor, Dreier, and the other boys former a choir in the barracks. Dreier would play the “drums” in the choir by banging two spoons together in the rhythm for Hava Nagila.
Similarly, for Reuwen “Ruby” Sosnowicz music was both a means of escape and healing. During the war, Sosnowicz hid in the barn of a polish farmer. He slept next to animals and would dig through trash at night for scraps of food, all the while he was forced to maintain the utmost silence. After the Holocaust, Sosnowicz moved to a displaced person’s camp in Germany where he learned to play the accordion. Upon immigrating to the United States, he became a professional musician playing gigs at parties in upstate New York and even the famous studio 54.
Outside of the US, the band has played all over Europe and Israel, even performing a concert outside the gates of Auschwitz – a Nazi concentration camp where more than 1 million Jews perished. They have even performed at Treblinka and on the site of the former Warsaw Ghetto.