Willy Rosen "Der Text und die Musik ist von mir!" "Ich heiße Willy, nicht Wilhelm!"

Willy Rosen - Schlager Songs and Sadness

Willy Rosen in the News

Max Ehrlich

Title Page of Book presented to Gemmeker September 27th 1943 by Rosen, Ehrlich and Ziegler

  • There have been many recent articles in Newspapers concerning The Jewish National Fund Concert in Jerusalem to commemorate the Music performed in various Nazi Camps throughout German Occupied Europe, in World  War II. 
  • Alan Ehrlich, the Nephew of the the great Cabaret Star Max Ehrlich was interviewed at great length concerning  his Uncle's association with music performed, especially at the Nazi Transit camp at Westerbork, Netherlands.
  • Unfortunately the information provided by Alan Ehrlich to the JNF and the various well known Newspapers, such as Jewish Star, Times of New York, the Guardian and the Telegraph is incorrect.
  • Alan Ehrlich was under the impression that his uncle, Max had composed the music for the shows, the same music that was performed at the JNF Concert in Jerusalem in April 2018.
  • His reasoning for this, was a file of papers given by his uncle to an inmate, for safekeeping, when Ehrlich was going on the transport to Terezin. The papers, indeed by Ehrlich surfaced recently and were donated  to The Netherlands Theater Museum.
  • Alan Ehrlich expressed his disappointment that there was not any music amongst these papers.
  • The simple reason, there was not any music in the Ehrlich Papers , is that Max Ehrlich did not write any music or songs produced at the Westerbork camp.
  • The songs were written by Willy Rosen, with Erich Ziegler. 
  • Erich Ziegler in his statment to the allies after he was released, clearly states that he and Willy wrote the Music and Words for all of the shows and that Ehrlich was a performer and Director.
  • Willy Rosen  was banned by the Nazis as a musician in Lexicon der Juden in der Musik. Max Ehrlich was not entered in the book as a musician.
  • Willy Rosen had over 600 compositions published. Max Ehrlich had none.
  • Hofmesiter's Monatsbericht, which complied annually all music published in Germany, records many of Rosen's compositions. There is not one entry for Max Ehrlich.
  • The Revues performed at Scheveningen, according to adverts, were Willy Rosen's, Max Ehrlich appeared as Guest.
  • The programmes printed for the camp revues, clearly show Max Ehrlich was the Director of the shows and that Willy Rosen was responsible for the songs.
  • Westerbork Museum has original works by Rosen.
  • When Francesco Lotoro first produced CDs of camp music, he attributed all the tracks from Westerbork to Willy Rosen. 
  • When Ute Lemper sang  "Wenn ein Packetchen kommt", at a concert in the Auditorium Parco della Musica, Rome, the song was attributed solely to Willy Rosen.
  • Look closely at the photograph above. This is the Title Page of a book presented to Albert Gemmeker, Westerbork Nazi Commandant. It was presented by Rosen, Ehrlich and Ziegler to Gemmeker. It clearly states: The Stage Camp Westerbork, plays under the leadership of Max Ehrlich. Production by Max Ehrlich. It was Willy Rosen's revue and the music was by Willy Rosen and Erich Ziegler. The Album text was written by Ehrlich. The three men signed page 2, expressing to  Commandant Gemmeker,  their good wishes! One year and 2 days later, Max and Willy were transported east.
  • Etty Hillesum in her letters refers to Rosen as the songwriter (Schlagerkomponist) and Ehrlich as a Comedian. She doesn't speak well of either man. 
  • On the Transport List for September 4th 1944, Willy Rosen is listed as "Komponist". Max Ehrlich is listed as "Schauspieler".
  • Alan Ehrlich has done his Uncle little favour by ascribing his name to work by Willy Rosen.
  • The Newspapers did not check what they were being told. Poor journalism.
  • However at the JNF concert in Jerusalem, to commemorate 70 Years of Israel, the song that was performed was attributed solely to WIlly Rosen. 
  • Much of this is contemporary evidence from the time that Rosen and Ehrlich were at Westerbork, not conjecture or wishful thinking. 
  • Everyone would like to think that their uncle had done marvellous things. Indeed Max Ehrlich was a great "Komiker" and a much loved and highly revered Cabaret star. Willy Rosen's family in South America, also need to know their Uncle is remembered as one of the greatest  composers of Schlager, in Germany. 

New Synagogue in Magdeburg


This is the old Synagogue, blown up on the orders of the City Council

  • In 1933, 1,973 Jews lived in Magdeburg, served by a rabbi, a chazzan and a teacher; 254 schoolchildren received religious instruction in 1932/33. 
  • Beginning in 1933, anti-Jewish violence and legislation intensified in Magdeburg: that year, guests at a Jewish hotel were attacked; two Jews, members of the Communist Party, were arrested in 1933/34; and a local Jew was sentenced to 10 years’ hard labor in 1935. 
  • As a result of the deteriorating situation, many local Jews emigrated. In 1938, all children who had been expelled from German public schools received general schooling at the school for religious studies. 
  • Later, on Kristall Night (November 1938), members of the SS and the Hitler Youth looted the synagogue and destroyed its interior; the Torah curtain, however, was saved. Other Jewish facilities were demolished that night, Jewish homes and stores were vandalized and 375 Jewish men were arrested, beaten up and taken to Buchenwald concentration camp.
  • In 1939, approximately 700 Jews lived in Magdeburg. Ownership of the synagogue building was transferred to the municipality, which ordered that the building be blown up. 
  • In 1940/41, the remaining Jews were forcibly moved to so-called “Jews’ houses”). Approximately 500 were deported to the concentration and annihilation camps in Eastern Europe; of these, most perished in the Shoah.
  • Amalie Mally Rosenbaum, Willy's mother was born in  1875. On the 2nd December 1942 she was ordred to report to Magdeburg Railway station, from there she was transported to Theresienstadt in Nazi occupied Czechoslavakia. She was murdered on March 21st 1943.
  • People from Magdeburg watched as the Gestapo and Hitler Youth rampaged. They watched as Jews were arrested. They watched as Jews reported for deportation at the railway station. They watched when the city council ordered the Synagogue to blown up. People watched in cities all over Germany and Austria and in other Nazi occupied cities, towns and villages. There was one incident, when the Gestapo released Jews following a mass demonstration outisde the  building where Jewish men were being held. This was an  exception, not the norm - the Rosenstrasse Protests.
  • A new community was founded in Magdeburg in 1947, which has been home to a Jewish community center at 1a, Groeperstrasse since 1968. In November 1988, a memorial was erected near the former synagogue; the area around the memorial is now called An der Alten Synagoge (“at the old synagogue”). At the Jewish cemetery on Fermersleber Weg, two memorial stones have been unveiled. In 2007, the Jewish congregation of Magdeburg consisted of 591 members.
  • The construction of a new synagogue ("assembly house") in Julius-Bremer-Straße is intended to restore the Magdeburg Jewish faith to a religious center. At the same time, this center should be a meeting place for all Magdeburgers, who want to connect with Judaism and to enter into conversation. The plan is to build a new three-storey building when funding will be available. For this project, which benefits our city, public support is needed in the broadest sense - by the city and the country, but also by many donations and sponsors.
  • Unfortunately the Magdeburg Jewish Community has been met with latent anti-semitism, notably the destruction and defacing of posters and banners in the city. Perhaps the work of a handful of persons, but silence is acquiescence.

Corrections to Wikipedia German Version

  • Willy Rosen was murdered on the day that he arrived at Auschwitz Birkenau September 30th  1944. (Yad Vashem and Holocaust.cz) He was not murdered on 28th October.
  • "Rosen wurde im Durchgangslager Westerbork inhaftiert, wo er an den von Max Ehrlich gestalteten Theaterabenden mitwirkte." Max Ehrlich directed the shows. He did not write all of the material. Songs were written by Rosen and Ziegler, using much of the material Rosen had written for the Prominenten.

Next News

Article in Spanish Enlace Judio, about the music of Willy Rosen.

*Please note contains incorrect information*


It is difficult to maintain the joy and charm towards life when things are not going well. However, surviving the persecution, hiding, putting together the same theater company several times and continuing to sing and make jokes requires greater force. This is the story of Willy Rosen the most famous cabaret singer in Germany who did not stop singing, playing and dancing until the Nazis killed him in Auschwitz. Next we tell you his story.

Few things were so simple for Willy Rosen to organize successful evenings in cabarets. What was his secret?

Two comedians, one fat, another skinny. Five kilos of charm, a couple of sticky songs. A little old jokes and a lot of new jokes. Three or four different scenarios, red, green and white lights. It must seem improvised, so it needs a lot of practice and above all ... No politics!

This recipe made Rosen one of the most famous cabarets in the Weimar Republic, before Nazi Germany. And it was also painfully put into practice in the Dutch work camp of Westerbork, where Rosen was one of the leaders who impelled the theatrical life. Like many of his colleagues, he believed that his art would also save him from being transported to certain death. However, like many, his talent was not enough to save his life.

He was born with the name of Willy Rosenbaum in 1894 in Magdeburg. He learned to play the piano since he was a child, but he began his working life working in textiles. It was until the First World War, after contracting a wound, that he began to work as a pianist and entertainer of the German troops.

However, his first big success was working at the Weimar in Berlin, where he served as a song writer, pianist and animator; sometimes even making ambient music for movies. He became famous with the title of "complete artist" and when he sat down at the piano he would announce his songs with the logo "text and music, made by me."

When the Nazis came to power Rosen was forbidden to continue acting, which is why he emigrated to Holland crossing Switzerland and Austria. Already on Dutch land he settled in the town of Scheveningen and created the "Celebrity Theater," one of the most famous cabarets of the time.

It was an artistic space created by famous actors and actresses with whom the Dutch audience was familiar through Weimar films. It was a resounding success, so much so that the cabaret organized several tours around the non-Nazi Europe, without losing the ties that the artists maintained in Berlin. Just one example of the relationships that Rosen knew how to handle is that of his continued friendship with the comedian Max Ehrlich, and the artists who formed the Kulturbund. In 1937, the company finally returned to Holland, where Rosen continued his strict law to avoid touching political issues. Part of the marketing he used is based heavily on this point he constantly delivered programs and made songs where he said: "When you want to forget your worries come with us, to the theater without politics. As he heard it: no politics! For three years we have clung to it and we plan to continue it."

In 1941, Rosen and many of his actors joined the "Cabaret Ensemble for Emigrants" that accepted only Jews.(He founded The Prominenten) A friend of his, exiled from Berlin, had been trying to take him safely to the United States. With funds from several successful concerts, Rosen had obtained a visa to Cuba and was in the process of receiving one from the United States. However, this plan was not successful: As soon as the United States entered the war, all visas issued to German refugees were blocked, and the Nazis moved quickly over the Netherlands. The fate of Rosen ended in 1943, where the few remaining Jewish artists in the city were imprisoned and transported to Westerbork, a labor camp.

In this place, for the last time in his life, Rosen organized "the best cabaret in the Netherlands". With his friends and collaborators Max Ehrlich and Erich Ziegler, who were in the same situation and in the same place, he wrote several songs and works that still managed to sneak into German stages, obtaining success when being represented. Some of his verses during this time are: "If you are unlucky, then life has no meaning; if you are unlucky, then you slip and fall; that's why I beg you fortune, do not abandon me."

Before being taken on a train to Theresienstadt, Rosen wrote a farewell poem. He died together with his mother in Auschwitz in the winter of 1944.

Source: Muic and the Holocaust

Translated by Aranza Gleason


Israeli Schoolkids Perform Lost Music Written by Jews During Holocaust 

A better article describing the Concert held in Jerusalem.

 "The orchestra will play pieces like “Tatata,” a cabaret song written in Westerbork – a transit camp in the Netherlands – by German composer Willy Rosen, who was later gassed at Auschwitz. "

" Willy Rosen, the German composer who wrote several cabaret songs in the Westerbork transit camp, the Netherlands, before being transported to the Auschwitz death camp in Nazi-occupied Poland." 

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Extract from Berlin Cabaret P263

Westerbork holds a troubled place in the history of cabaret because six revues were staged there between July 1943 and June 1944. The numbers were written and composed by Rosen and Erich Ziegler, a musician who had been a long-time member of the Prominents. The stars of the show were Max Ehrlich and Camilla Spira.....