Women's Orchestra Under Rosé

Alma Rosé (above: Alma with her violin)

In August 1943, Alma Rosé, renowned violinist and professional musician, became the new conductor of the orchestra. Under Rosé, the orchestra took a new direction. She was a strict, demanding conductor who worked with almost absurd fervor and energy to produce quality music. Rosé's dedication to her job led her superiors to support her activities in Birkenau to the extent they did. She had an unprecedented relationship with SS. They held her in high esteem, but she made sure the women in the orchestra benefited from her power. Players have her to thank for their exceptional status and subsequent survival. Unlike Tchaikowska, selections were discontinued on the basis that it was making it difficut to maintain the standard of the ensemble. She attempted to save as many lives as possible by involving them in her orchestra. She made sure women who failed their auditions for the orchestra were assigned to secondary tasks in the block. Such women and other ousted musicians were kept on as assistans and copyists.

She also had unquestionable control over who could play in the orchestra. Controversy arose when she dismissed many of Tchaikowska's Polish musicians and replaced them with primarily Jewish women. Some condemned Rosé's perceived preference for Jews, but most believed she was more concerned about obtaining qualified musicians. 


Repertoire under Rosé

The level of playing improved within a matter of weeks after Rosé took over. Under Rosé, the orchestra had a larger and more impressive repertoire than the men's orchestra. The repertoire expanded to include hit German songs, arias, excerpts from symphonies and other large-scale orchestral works for violin and piano. The repertoire included:

 - Schumann's Traumerei

 - Excerpts from operettas by Lehar and von Suppe

 - Arias from operas by Verdi, Puccini, and Rossini

 - Orchestral music by Brahms, Mozart, Schubert, Dvorak, & Johann Strauss

            - "Rosamunde" 
            - Schubert's "Marche Militaire"

            - Various marches by Sousa & Strauss

 - Dance Melodies

As liberation neared, the orchestra dissolved in September 1944 when the women were evacuated to Bergen-Belsen.