A Matter of Introduction
Once in Dachau, I chanced upon the list of people incarcerated there. There were poets, writers, artists, politicians and even musicians. Dachau happens to be one of the early places where the Nazis started Adolf Hitler's Nazification progam, an experiment in terror and inhumanity. Intellectuals were among the very first ...... And true enough after they burned books, they started to burn people... Going to the list of musician/intellectual one name caught my eyes, the name; Herbert Zipper.
|Dachau, place of horrendous brutalities in Nazi times|
I recall, in the rehearsal hall of the old Manila Symphony Orchestra (MSO I) at the Manila Metropolitan Theater, two pictures hang on the wall, that of MSO founder, Alexander Lippay and Herbert Zipper the orchestra's famous conductor. So there in Dachau I asked myself: "Is this Herbert Zipper and the celebrated Herbert Zipper of MSO, one person?" I also remember some MSO old timers telling me; Zipper was MSO conductor before and also during the Japanese occupation. If it was him, how did he made it to Manila?
|The author at Dachau's commemorative wall|
What I found out later was much more interesting. In 1939, Herbert Zipper was released from Nazi imprisonment. Once free, he got an invitation to direct the MSO with the recommendation of his fiancee, viennese ballerina Trudl Dubsky, who was that time living in Manila and was a dance instructor. He made it to Manila the same year. After two years of leading the orchestra, disaster struck once again. Manila surrendered to the Japanese. Zipper was then incarcerated for the second time at the UST internment camp for civilian POW's.
|The author at Dachau's main gate and that frightening message|
A Viennese Jew
Herbert Zipper was born Aprill 24 1904 to a prosperous Jewish family in the outskirt of Vienna. He studied composition and conducting under such renowned luminaries as Maurice Ravel and Richard Strauss. In 1938 after the Nazi Anschluss (annexation of Austria), Zipper like many of Jewish descent was arrested and was sent to Dachau. In the concentration camp, Zipper together with musicians colleagues organized a secret ensemble, playing with improvised instruments on abandoned latrine. Together with a friend playwright Jura Soyfer he wrote "Dachau Lied" (Dachau Song) which became the protest song of the camp. Confronted with inhumanity they organized such activities to make life bearable. It gave him strength to go on and to somehow resist the inconceivable.
|Zipper's "Ausweiss" or ID card|
Herbert Zipper was then transfered to another camp at Buchenwald in 1939. Finally in the middle of the same year, his family was able to secure his release. He went to Paris and from there traveled to Manila to lead the MSO and to be with his fiancee Trudl Dubsky, where they were later married. Manila that time was fast becoming a haven for Jewish refugees. President Manuel L. Quezon's program of providing asylum to European Jews is unique in history. While other countries refused to take them, the Philippines was offering a place and even conceptualizing Mindanao as a permanent haven for Jews. So they came, there were businessmen, doctors, engineers and artist like Zipper and his wife who added their expertise to the already rich cultural scene of the country.
Collectively this Jewish refugees would be known as "Manilaners".
Intelligence for the Allies
When Manila fell to the Japanese, Zipper was incarcerated at UST for almost four months. Due to the liniency of the Japanese towards German and Austrian Jews in the early part of occupation, Zipper was released. He was asked to lend his services and that of the MSO to the Japanese cultural authorities. It was said that Zipper hid some of the instruments outside Manila, so that they would not play for the Japanese.
|LIFE Magazine photo of the UST internment camp for civilian POW's after it was liberated|
When liberation finally came, the American Liberation Forces through Mrs.Jane McArthur (wife of General McArthur), then asked Zipper to lead the MSO in a performance of Beethoven's Symphony no. 3 "Eroica" and Antonin Dvorak's New World Symphony. It was a scene to behold, watching the emaciated Herbert Zipper, fresh from the horrors of the liberation of Manila, conducting the MSO in the half ruined church of Sta Cruz. As if the whole country was saying; " We are still here. You did not completely destroy us!"
|The Program that said a lot.|
|The MSO concert at the ruined Sta. Cruz Church May 1945|
Teacher of our teachers
In the Philippines, Herbert Zipper is fondly remembered by the generation he trained and conducted as their "Maestro". That when asked about their musical training, most uttered such familiar line: "I was with Zipper".....".I trained under Maestro Zipper". Perhaps the younger generation of musicians does not realized it anymore, but Herbert Zipper was the teacher of our teachers.
One could only sum up Zipper's contribution in Philippine music as simply, immense. With the of kind of outstanding young talents we have right now in classical music, one cannot help but wonder what could have been without the likes of Maestro Zipper imparting his knowledge to our country. Scratch an orchestra musician in Manila and you will find Herbert Zipper.
In 1995 Herbert Zipper's life was featured in a documentary film, Never Give Up: The 20th Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper. It was nominated for an Oscar that same year.
Herbert Zipper died in 1997 in Santa Monica, California at the age of 92.
Paul Cummins' Dachau Song: The 20th Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper. Is at the moment the only written biography of Herbert Zipper.
Frank Ephraim wrote a wonderful book entitled, Escape to Manila From Nazi Tyranny to Japanese Terror. It is a good source when dealing with the subject the "Manilaner". It dedicated two pages about Herbert Zipper. It is also interesting to note that Frank Ephraim mentioned that his mother sang in the choir with the MSO conducted by Zipper during a performance of Beethoven's Ode to Joy.
Benito J. Legerda Jr. - Occupation 42 and Occupation:The later years, two books that deals about the Japanese occupation provided me with new insight. It is also interesting to note that Benito J. Legarda's family were early patrons of the Manila Symphony Society and the MSO. In the book Occupation: The Later Years, one can find the photo of Zipper conducting the MSO in the half ruined Sta Cruz church...... Incredible indeed!
On Nazi history particularly about persecution of intellectuals in Nazi times, I cannot think of a better source but to mention "The Rise And Fall of the Third Reich, written by William L. Shirer. One can focus on book two, where the author dicussed the "Nazification of Germany"
One can check on a link by Dr. Bonnie Harris website, it is an outstanding study and it has eyewitness narrations about the Jews of Manila. Thank you Dr. Harris!
Crossroads School in Santa Monica, California, one of the instutions where Herbert Zipper served has a website lovingly dedicated to Herbert Zipper, (whom they fondly called Papa Z) Please check it.
The story about some musicians of MSO being members of the guerilla movement was told to me by my violin teacher, Prof. Rizal V. Reyes, who also trained and performed under Herbert Zipper.