Get our newsletters

Learn “How Saba Kept Singing” to survive the Holocaust

Posted

David Wisnia remained silent for much of his life about how he survived the Holocaust. But many years later, his grandson, Avi, who grew up in Yardley, helped the cantor find his voice.

“He didn’t talk about his story for many decades,” Avi Wisnia recalled about his grandfather, whom he called Saba. “But towards the end of his life, he started to realize that the world needed to hear his story.”

That story is told in “How Saba Kept Singing,” an award-winning documentary that shows how music saved David Wisnia’s life at Auschwitz.

The film will be screened for free at 7 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 28, in the Zlock Performing Arts Center at Bucks County Community College, 275 Swamp Road, Newtown. Avi Wisnia, who is featured in the film as he accompanied his grandfather to Auschwitz, will lead a discussion after the screening.

Free tickets can be reserved at www.bucks.edu/tickets. Bucks County Community College is located at 275 Swamp Road, Newtown, where there is ample free parking.

For years, Cantor Wisnia’s story centered around the belief that he survived Auschwitz by singing to entertain his Nazi captors. However, when he returned to Poland for one last performance, he discovered that someone else had a hand in his survival. Directed by Sara Taksler (“Tickling Giants”), “How Saba Kept Singing” premiered on PBS earlier this year and was produced by Hillary Rodham Clinton and Chelsea Clinton.

Avi Wisnia, who is now a musician, noted that music is a very powerful tool for healing and for memory.

“For my grandfather, who did not talk about feelings very openly, music was his way of articulating things that you couldn’t say in words,” said Wisnia, who now lives in Philadelphia. “When he sang, you could hear his pain, you could hear his tradition. Music was his entry point to start to deal with these really hard things.”

David Wisnia passed away in 2021, about a year after the documentary was filmed.

Howard Greenberg chairs the Bucks County Kehillah of the Jewish Federation of Greater Philadelphia, which is cosponsoring the event. He says it is vital to get the stories of survivors out to the community who may not have otherwise heard first-hand stories of survival.

“Cantor David Wisnia’s life story as the sole survivor of his family demonstrates how the Holocaust serves as a cautionary tale of the dangerous combination of anti-Semitism and fascism,” noted Greenberg. “Through telling his grandfather’s story from vocal prodigy to Auschwitz survivor to American cantor, Avi Wisnia is guaranteeing that the warnings of the Holocaust will sound down through the generations.”

The event is among several educational forums at Bucks County Community College to encourage dialog on issues surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion. To learn more, visit bucks.edu/diversity or contact diversity@bucks.edu.


X