Laying on a three-level bunk of the barracks in a German concentration camp during World War II, 16-year-old Saul Dreier banged his wooden soup spoon, creating a beat to a fellow prisoner’s song.
Dreier then climbed down the bunks with his wooden spoon to drum and sing along. Prisoners sang evening after evening.
This was just the beginning of Dreier’s percussion career. Over 60 years later, he formed the Holocaust Survivor Band – composed of fellow Holocaust survivors and their children to spread joy and combat antisemitism.
On Nov. 28 at 7 p.m., Dreier will perform with a local band at the Sonja Haynes Stone Center for Black Culture and History at an event titled “Survival Through Song.” Before the performance, Dreier will speak about his life story, and the performance will be followed by a question-and-answer segment.
Dreier performs klezmer music, or Jewish folk music. He describes his performance style as “happy music.” The Holocaust Survivor Band performs at cities across the United States and across the world.
"To see someone muster up the courage to respond through joy, it's just a ray of light that we desperately need," Zalman Bluming, the rabbi of Chabad of Durham/Chapel Hill, said.
Dreier grew up in Krakow, Poland, and started playing music from a young age. His father was a musician and played several instruments, and he bought Dreier a clarinet when he was 9 years old.
But in 1939, when Germany invaded Poland and World War II began, 14-year-old Dreier gave up music entirely.
“When the war started, the show was over,” he said. “Everything was upside down.”