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In this challenging time, many parents and guardians are looking online for meaningful activities for their children that don’t require too much prep or too many materials. Throughout this time, the Museum of Jewish Heritage – A Living Memorial to the Holocaust will post learning activities geared to a range of ages that guide children how to explore heritage, history, and learning through artifacts.

Note to parents/guardians: This activity refers to the Holocaust but does not go into detail about it. Please use your judgment to decide if this activity is right for your student.

This activity builds on the skills of making observations and using the observations to draw inferences. Our educational approach is grounded in the idea that every object tells a story, and we encourage students to observe and infer to try to determine what story each object is telling.

Today’s activity uses two images from our collection.

View the images here: Louis Bannet promotional photograph | Louis Bannet trumpet 

  1. What do you notice about the first photograph? What do you think it was used for?
    This is a promotional photo of Louis Bannet, who was known as the “Dutch Louis Armstrong” and was considered one of the best trumpeters in all of Europe in the 1920s and 30s. He helped popularize American jazz in Europe and was well known. When the Nazis invaded the Netherlands, he went into hiding with the Dutch underground in June 1942, but he was recognized six months later and arrested.
  2. Besides being an instrument that made him famous, this trumpet has a unique history. Louis Bannet brought it with him when he was deported from the Netherlands to the Westerbork transit camp and then to the concentration camp Auschwitz-Birkenau. Why do you think he brought his instrument with him to the camps?
  3. Upon arrival in Auschwitz-Birkenau, Bannet learned that he could have a chance to survive, at least for a while, as a member of the Men’s Orchestra. He ended up playing with the orchestra for two years. Does it surprise you to learn that there was an orchestra in Auschwitz? Explain your answer.
  4. What do you think the purpose of the orchestra was? Explain your answer.

Bannet played with the orchestra for more than two years, entertaining his captors and forced to play music as many of the 1.3 million prisoners who were murdered in the gas chambers of Birkenau were marched to their deaths. Most of Bannet’s own family members were among those killed at Birkenau, including his sisters and their children. Later, Bannet passed through other concentration camps, in Ohrdruf, Sachsenhausen, and Buchenwald. In Ohrdruf, music once again saved him, when he played a German song for a music-loving Nazi officer on a broken violin. As a result, he was given extra food and allowed to clean up, and then played the song for all of the other officers at the camp.

Bannet was liberated in 1945. He returned to Holland, where he formed a new band, and eventually settled in Canada with his family, bringing his trumpet with him.