The Brandenburg 300 Project
Lazaro (Lloyd) Pementil
Lloyd Pementil was a farm worker who would work a 12 hour shift, then come back
to the labor camp, take a long shower, and come out wearing a 3-piece suit,
fedora and two-tone shoes. He
would gather the children and play music for them until bedtime. Then he would take his own beloved
children and sing them to sleep playing "You Are My Sunshine." To me he was a a hero, a man of great personal dignity, love and joy who took care of the children and brought smiles to everyone around him. He didn't have the resources of an Albert Einstein, or the voice of Martin Luther King, but in doing everything you can to make this world a better place he was every bit their equal.
The Incredible Story of "You Are My Sunshine" is below . . .
You are my sunshine
My only sunshine
You make me happy
When skies are grey
You'll never know dear
How much I love you
Please don't take my sunshine away
All photos courtesy of Burnette Riley
Excerpt from "Steinbeck
and Sounds of the Filipino American Experience" prepared for the Exhibition "Filipino Voices Past and Present" Presented
by the National Steinbeck Center in 2012.
Lazaro (Lloyd) Pementil
And the Incredible Story of "You Are My Sunshine"
I was listening to the oral history of Mrs. Burnette Riley,
daughter of Lazaro (Lloyd) Pementil. She mentioned that her father hired out as
a musician when he was not doing labor in the fields around Salinas. The
short-handled hoe was his instrument in the fields. Once home, he would play
guitar, violin, double bass, ukulele or mandolin—anything with strings on it.
Lloyd and his wife Edna (Janke) Pemintel “loved singing along with Gene Autry
whenever they heard him sing on the radio.” He was self-taught, and his
four-piece band would learn songs by going to the Republic Café and other
places with juke boxes, feeding the machines nickels until they had learned a
particular song. The band played Hawaiian music, western “country music” songs,
and Filipino folk music.
Living in a labor camp with his family, Lloyd would come
home from work and take a long shower. When he came out of the shower house
he’d be sporting a three-piece suit, a fedora worn handsomely to the side, and
two-tone shoes shined brightly. He looked good, and he had a big smile on his
face because now was the time for him with his favorite girl in the whole
Burnette is a loving, sweet woman these many decades later.
And she loves her Daddy with her whole heart. Many think of these camps as
poor, desperate places. Not so the case with Burnette. She remembers playing
tennis, softball, field hockey, badminton, and basketball in school. There was
the rodeo with its carnivals and parades when her cousins would visit from the
San Joaquin Valley. They would go
the beach, or the Republic Café in Chinatown on Saturday or Sunday family
outings. Her wedding reception was at the Republic Café in 1963. A devout
Catholic, she was wed in Carson City, Nevada, however, because mixed-race
marriages were illegal in California at that time.
The children of the labor camp would gather around, and
Lloyd would strum his guitar and sing for the kids. At the end he would put his
baby girl to sleep. I asked her if there was a special song he sang just for
her, that he loved playing for her, and she loved to hear. “That’s easy,”
Burnette said, “It was ‘You Are My Sunshine’.”
Can’t you just see Burnette’s father singing to his baby
girl, both smiling, Burnette settling in to the warmth of her father’s love?
and Dad loved singing along with Gene Autry [who had a big hit with “You Are My Sunshine”] whenever they heard him sing
on the radio. It still gives me a warm feeling just thinking about it.”
A few days before I finished this manuscript,
Burnette found two records her father had recorded in Chinatown in 1950. There
was a kind of novelty recording studio there, where for a few cents people
could record anything they wanted for a few minutes. The recording machine took
the sound and put it in a needle that scratched the sound into a record as the
music was played. Much of the coating that was on the records had flaked off
through the years, but we were able to recover a bit of the Hawaiian/Blues type
music he and a friend played.
As you would expect, it is very sweet.
I sent the recording to Burnette to send to the family.
Burnette’s Mom (Edna) grew up in Napoleon, North Dakota in a
German/Scandinavian farm town. A conservative place, rife with the prejudices
of the day, she was brave to marry Lazaro in a time when intermarriage was not
only illegal but cause for all kinds of nastiness. Apparently Edna’s Dad, Burnette’s grandfather, could be
particularly nasty, especially after drinking.
Imagine Filipino musicians coming to the town in the ’40’s.
Burnette’s Aunt Velda remembers it well, and wrote to tell Burnette after she
received the recording.
just listened again to the recording , not bad for being about a 50 yr old
[restored] tape. You know I was about 10 or 11 when your folks came to the farm
in North Dakota, and the fellows would play for us. Dad being an old [bad guy]
had to admit it was good music but he never said it , But he sure had a
cauliflower ear on it. I remember they (your Dad and Sam) rented the hall in
Napoleon called the [Octagon] for an evening we even go to go listen to
them play. For a small town nearly everyone turned out, and enjoyed them. But
being set in their ways and beliefs I felt like curiosity had a better part in
it too. But [a] good number of people were there. So I can remember your
dad would put the guitar behind his neck and play it. Sounded great either way.
Now that’s a beautiful moment I thought I’d share with you . Burnie you have to
be so proud of him and his longevity . What a great Dad he must have been. Have
a Blessed day. Your dad will have beautiful memories to take with him and some
for you to keep forever. Bye and happiness always, love [Auntie Velda]”
Social Leader Leaves For Philippines
All of these articles from The Filipino
American Experience Research
Project © October 3, 1998. From the archives
of Alex Fabros.
July 29, 1940; page 5
C. C. MORALES, well known civic and social leader among Filipinos in Salinas
Valley, left for the Philippines on board the S. S. Tatsuta Maru which lifted
anchor in San Francisco Saturday morning, July 20. With her is her son,
her sailing, MRS. MORALES expressed her regret she could not see the Colmo del
Rodeo pageantry which a Filipino float was entered. She devoted much of her
time in helping the community raise the fund necessary for making of the
artistic float. On July 18, a farewell party was tendered in her honor by
members of the Shangri-La. This party was initiated by Mr. And Mrs. M. R.
Galicia. Songs and speeches featured the after-dinner program held under the
Arellano acted as the impromptu toastmaster and called on following: Frances La Verne sang "[You Are My]
Sunshine"; little Lily Malvas sang that Kundiman
"Pacing"; Helen Filomero gave another vocal solo, and the speeches of
Mrs. B. R. Sampayan, and Mr. Galicia who all wished MRS. MORALES and her son a
the evening of July 17, the Filipino Women's Club gave a party in her honor at
the Community Centre.
days ago, M. G. Collado sent a cablegram to MRS. MORALES wishing her a pleasant
trip on behalf of the community.
June 1945, Page 8
picnic was held at "Shangrila" (ranch of Andy Madalora) honoring the
departure of Mrs. Paulino MORALES, and her son, Clemente, Jr., for the
Philippines in 1940. MRS. MORALES was very well known in social and civic
circles in California during her time as President of the Filipino Women's Club
of Monterey County. Her husband, CLEMENTE MORALES, Sr., ranking labor
contractor of Salinas is indeed happy to learn that MRS. MORALES is safe in Mindanao
as one of the few Filipino women guerilla leaders in that region. His only
grief is the unknown whereabouts of his son Clemente, Jr., who was attending a
Military school for boys in Mindanao when the war broke out. MRS. MORALES
according to report went to Mindanao for a business trip and was not able to
return to Manila when the Japs attacked the Philippines.
Tales of Heroism: the Rescue of the Bataan Death
Bataan Death March Survivor in Japanese Prison Camp.
The American and Allied survivors of the Bataan Death
March were imprisoned at Cabanatuan. They were rescued in one of the great
operations of U.S. military and Filipino American History.
Major Robert Lapham's guerrillas in central Luzon
played a prominent part in effecting the dramatic rescue of over five hundred
Allied internees from the ill-famed Cabanatuan prison camp. The first in a
series of bold liberations of Allied prisoners from enemy hands, this daring
raid was carried out twenty-five miles behind Japanese lines by a mixed force
of 286 Filipino guerrillas, 121 troops of the 6th Ranger Infantry, and thirteen
The Alamo Scouts were the special
reconnaissance unit of the U.S. Sixth Army. From a simple advance
reconnaissance unit, the Alamo Scouts became a sophisticated unit in the
Philippines. [Approximately thirty] of the 1st Filipino Regiment soldiers
recruited for covert operations were assigned to the Alamo Scouts.
They conducted fifty-four reconnaissance and
intelligence-gathering missions and supplying and coordinating large-scale
guerrilla operations on Leyte and Luzon. From their first operational mission
in the Admiralty Islands in February 1944 to the end of World War II, the Alamo
Scouts performed 106 known missions behind enemy lines without losing a single
man, killed or captured. The Scouts are now recognized as forerunners of modern
U.S. Army Special Forces.
The guerrillas acted as the eyes of the raiding force
to guide it through the brush and as its ears to be on the alert for any
surprise flanking movement by the enemy. They constructed roadblocks at the
northeast and southwest approaches to the stockade to hold up hostile
reinforcements and also arranged for food caches so that the liberated
prisoners could be fed at convenient points along the return route.
The attack was launched on the night of January 30,
1945. Within thirty minutes the entire Japanese garrison had been wiped out and
the last prisoner removed from the prison area. The Rangers' return was covered
by a guerrilla delaying action that successfully fought off approximately eight
hundred enemy reinforcements sent to assault the strategically placed
roadblocks. Meanwhile the litter patients from the camp were transported by
guerrilla-organized carabao [a farm animal similar to an ox] cart train to
Sibul Springs [loss of these animals could make farming impossible thereby
risking starvation], whence they were evacuated to a hospital at Guimba.
The raid at Cabanatuan was the most
complex operation that Rangers conducted during World War II. It remains as the
greatest rescue mission in U.S. military history.
Afraid that the Japanese will
execute the remaining prisoners, if they hear of a rescue attempt, General
Walter Krueger plans a surprise rescue. He assigns the job to Lieutenant
Colonel Henry Mucci (commanding officer of the 6th Ranger Battalion.) The group
was originally assigned to remote mountains, carrying howitzers that broke
down, and was known as the 98th Field Artillery Battalion. Colonel Mucci
assigned this mission to his C Company under the command of Robert Prince.
Mucci, or “little MacArthur” as his men called him, told the soldiers, “ I only
want those of you that feel lucky.” The rangers looked around and not one
dropped out. The mission was kept highly secret, known only by General Krueger
and his G-2 or government intelligence people. The soldiers wore inconspicuous
clothes with no military markings and no heavy helmets since they were to be
traveling thirty miles on foot both directions.
The only advantage the men had was
the element of surprise. Early on the Rangers met a group of guerrillas, led by
a man named Joson, that would join them on their raid. They later met another
guerilla group led by Captain Juan Pajota. He helped with their plans and
brought “intel” about the prison. Their force now numbered four hundred, and
three Alamo Scouts who were valuable spies. Pajota also devised a plan to use
wagons pulled by carabao to transport the injured and weak soldiers. At the
suggestion of Juan Pajota, a Filipino guerrilla, Lt. Col. Mucci arranged for
the United States Army Air Forces USAAF to have a P-61 Black Widow night
fighter buzz the camp while the men made their way across the field. It proved
to be the biggest factor in achieving the element of surprise. F Company would flank the back. C
Company took out the guards in front and later stormed the front gate. A final
wave would move in with wire cutters and free the prisoners. The prisoners were
directed to the Pampanga River where the carabao oxcarts were waiting. After
this they had to travel thirty miles north toward American lines, with
guerrillas serving as a rear guard. All but one of the 511 American and Allied
POWs were rescued while an estimated 523 Japanese were killed or wounded. The cost
was two Rangers killed, and seven injured. (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ghost_Soldiers)
“They made the raid possible,” Herbert Wolff told Sonny Izon
for An Untold Triumph. “They made the
major gains and suffered the major losses. We cried like kids when it was all
Alex S. Fabros, Jr. gives the bulk of the credit to the 6th
There were probably less than thirty Filipinos who were assigned to
the Alamo Scouts during World War II. They were mostly assigned because of
their knowledge of several Filipino dialects. The majority of Filipinos
recruited out of the 1st and 2nd Filipino Infantry Regiments were sent to the
1st Reconnaissance Battalion (Special) in Australia, where they were assigned
to the Allied Intelligence Bureau, Philippines Section. They were sent into the
Philippines via submarine to establish radio communications between the major
guerrilla factions and Australia. One individual…who participated in this
raid…makes the claim that the Alamo Scouts were instrumental in conducting this
raid. This was a 6th Ranger Battalion operation from the beginning and was
commanded and led by the 6th Ranger Battalion. To attribute the success of this
raid to the Alamo Scouts would be a major factual error. There were only three
Filipinos assigned to the Alamo Scout unit that supported this raid.
Local resistance and guerilla fighters, however, played a
big role. To carry the wounded ex-prisoners they had to sacrifice the farm
animals that were essential to feeding their families. Already desperately poor
after years of war, they nevertheless made this sacrifice to save Americans.
Alex S. Fabros, Jr.’s maternal grandfather was a guerilla
operative for General Blackburn in the Cagayan Valley, and was executed by the
Japanese in April 1945. General Blackburn is a founding member of the Special
Forces as we know them today. (Alex S. Fabros, Jr. believes his grandgfather’s execution is portrayed
in the film “Surrender - Hell!” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KuJwlrMoR3k)
Unofficial Anthem of a Free Phllipines
Are My Sunshine” was played so much in the days after the war it became the
unofficial anthem of the Philippines in the three years between VE Day and its
Independence, ending over four hundred years as a colony of an occupying
After Four Hundred Years the Philippines Achieve Independence: the end
of World War II and retreat from American Imperialism
Events to Celebrate Philippine Independence Day
June 1946, Page 1
Mayor George Taylor Will Be
Guest of Honor at Dance to be Held at Armory. Gigantic and elaborate
preparations for the celebration of the forthcoming Philippine Independence Day
on July 4th are being made by all Filipino communities in the continental United
States and in the Territory of Hawaii. Leaders of these communities, especially
those in the Pacific Slope, in compliance with the recent instruction from the
office of the Resident Commissioner, are busy mobilizing their powers and
resources for the celebration of this most significant moment in the lives of
the eighteen million Filipinos, who for centuries have clamored, strove and
fought for freedom.
On July 4th, through the
operations of the Tydings-McDuffy Law passed by Congress in 1934, the war-ravaged
Philippines will take her place among the happy independent nations of the
world. As outward demonstrations of their overflowing gratitude toward the
United States for her unselfish efforts in helping them prepare for their
independence and of their overwhelming determinations to face the uncertainties
of the coming Atomic era, Filipinos everywhere are staging all-day and all
night affairs of unprecedented rejoicing. For centuries, these bolo wielding
Filipinos have incessantly struggled for freedom—they rebelled against Spain
and undermined the efficiency of the Japanese Occupation. Washington, Chicago,
New York, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, Boston, Kansas, St. Louis, Detroit, New
Orleans, Denver, Salt Lake City and Phoenix Filipinos will celebrate the event
with banquets, dances, programs, etc.
Greetings to Filipino
communities in the United States. Independence Day challenge to do our best and
utmost to dedicate ourselves, make success of freedom, justify faith of
America, and contribute our share to world during the community's frolics. And
even up there in far north Alaska where thousands of Filipinos are busy canning
salmon this day will be also their off day for fun and whoopee. In Tacoma,
Wapato and Portland and other towns where Pinoys are located will assemble for
a 24 hour rejoicing.
Filipinos living in northern
and central California will stage shows and entertainments that have the
earmarks outstanding. In Stockton, an expected mammoth parade of all the
existing fraternal and sectional organizations will take place. The Legionarios
del Trabajo, headed by their Grand Delegate F. M. Esteban, the Caballeros de
Dimas Alang with Grand Master C. T. Alfafara, the Filipino Federation of
America with Acting President E. C. Pecaon, the Filipino Community Prexy
Teofilo Suarez and scores of other associations will parade through the
downtown streets of "Little Manila." Floats and bands entered by
different American and Filipino groups will add to the color of the Fiesta. In
San Francisco and in Oakland, plans have been already perfected to stage big
and colorful banquets and dances in the cities' largest halls.
Those in Delano, Reedley,
Porterville, Sacramento, Marysville, Santa Maria, Santa Barbara, Oxnard,
Guadalupe, Pismo Beach, San Luis Obispo, Vallejo, and other towns will also
hold similar affairs. In Alvarado a well managed literary-musical program and
dance will be held by the residents of Northwestern Alameda and Contra Costa
Counties at the Portuguese hall. Participants in the program are well known
radio singers and speakers. Major John Haar of Hayward has been contacted as
the guest of the evening.
The more than ten thousand
residents in the Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, Monterey sector will spend their
Independence Day rejoicing at three places—San Jose, Watsonville and Salinas.
The Watsonville people will hold their banquet and literary program at the
famous Hotel Resetar on Wednesday evening. July 3rd. President Benny Tabangeay
of the community there has secured the services of many talented and well known
groups to participate in the program. Mayor Baker of the city will be the guest
speaker while Ireno Cabatit, official representative of the Resident
Commissioner's office, will be present to deliver the message of that office.
The other parts of the program are invocation by Rev. Critchon, selections by
orchestra, introductory remarks by Eddie Castro, vocal solo by Helen Cupal,
welcome address by the president, vocals by Dolores Catall, and selection by
At San Jose, the community
will hold an open-air, all-day grand picnic. From ten in the morning to six in
the evening the frolickers will enjoy watching the many different athletic
contests such as juego de anillo on bicycles, indoor baseball and volleyball
(between Mexican and Pinoy teams), track and field events and ping pong
tournaments. There will also be a dance contest. All winners in the athletic
and dance contests will be awarded handsome prizes…The day's program are
invocation by Rev. Callao, piano solo by Rebecca Austria, violin solo by Fred
Moribus, vocal solo by Pacita Totod, carinosa dance by Henrietta and Godie
Villarruz and Jennie and Rosita Paras: piano selection by Jorge Moribus, and
speech by Pres. Primo Villarruz. Another folk dance featuring the
"planting Rice" is also in the program. Scene of the all-day picnic
where everything will be given free is the Swiss American Club.
Undoubtedly the most
colorful celebration to be staged in central California on that day is the
Salinas Filipino affair. General Chairman Johnny Cacas and his energetic
subordinates have been busy putting the finishing touches on their show. They
plan to hold all-day and all-night affairs. During the day a big picnic will be
held at the Sherwood Park, near the Rodeo Grounds with different athletic
tournaments. Select volleyball and softball teams from this area will face the
formidable clubs from San Francisco and Guadalupe. The girl's volleyball team
under the managerialship of Estela Ben is expected to provide lots of thrills
and excitement as the members are known to be "ambidezterous
Amazona." Ping pong and tennis will also be contested upon. Chows,
consisting of lechons, fried chicken, Philippine delicacies and unlimited soft
drinks will be offered to the public for free consumption.
The main feature of the
daylight activity is the flag raising ceremonies which will be undertaken by
the members of the Fil-American Legion Post No. 652. The local American Legion
will officiate the ceremony—hoisting the Philippine Flag to the top of the
specially constructed pole. The Sherwood picnic will commence at nine in the
morning and end at six in the afternoon.
The nocturnal celebration
will be a literary and grand ball at the Salinas Armory hall starting at eight.
Highlights of the evening's occasion will be the coronation of the elected
"Miss Philippine Republic" and her Royal Court comprising the Misses
Luson, Visayas and Mindanao who were elected by a popular vote during the
community's last dance held on June 29th. Folk dances hitherto unseen in these
parts will be danced by trained participants. The Rigodon de Honor, the
national dance of the Philippines will make its initial debut that night. It
will be performed by married couples in the valley. Another folk dance
featuring the young children in the town will also be shown. Vocal rendition by
locally known artists such as Gloria Abarquez, Dolores Catalla, Mrs. Ramona
Lozada and Mrs. Maxima Sampayan are also listed in the night's entertainment.
The popular Mayor of the
city of Salinas, George Taylor, has been unanimously selected to be the Guest
of Honor. Manuel Luz, President of the Community and commander of the
Fil-American Legion Post No.652 will also give a brief talk.
Assisting the general
chairman in this celebration are Treasurer Philip Ben, vice-president Pantaleon
Espejo, Alejandro Barnachia, Auditor Leon de Asis and MRS. PAULINA MORALES.
Philip Sun is the chairman of the Program Committee, while Abe Aquino and
Silverio Recta are in the Social Committee.
“You Are My Sunshine” was the lullaby sung in England
by Police Constable John William Frederick Adshead, aka P.C. 49, in the village
of Hawkesbury Upton, Gloucestershire. Each evening the Home Guard reported to
him at his home, which was near the village police station. One of his main
responsibilities was making sure they were completely blacked out at night to
help lessen the chance of Nazi bombing runs—a nightly occurrence. His daughter
Jennifer was young, about five years old, and would hide under the dining
room table that was covered with red velvet cloth with tassels, where she
could also hear the adults give their reports. Everyone drank tea made by
Jen’s Mum (Violet Mary Robbins), and listened to the wireless. Promptly at 9
p.m. a voice would say "this is London." One of the Home Guard
chaps would always say "Oh, its still there then." London is about
eighty miles east of the village. Jen’s father—a stern
police/military/British stiff-upper-lip kind of guy, would put Jen to bed after
the nightly meetings, and sing her to sleep.
The nightly lullaby was, "You Are My
One night, after she'd gone to sleep, he came
upstairs and woke her, and carried her downstairs and into the garden
crying the whole time. Jen had never seen her father cry, and she never would
He asked her to look and tell what she saw. "Red
and green lights on the wings of the planes. And the lights of the town were
all on, every home, every building."
He asked, "Do you know what that means?"
"No, Daddy," she replied.
"It means the war is over. It means the war is over."
he sang his precious little girl “You Are My Sunshine.” It was Victory in
On that very day in Manila
On that very day, at almost that very moment, Maestro
Herbert Zipper finished conducting a concert of Beethoven at the bombed-out
shell of the Church of Santa Cruz in Manila to celebrate the liberation of
Manila and the few surviving members of his family from the German
Before World War II began, Maestro Zipper had actually
been in two of the worst concentration camps in Germany. For example, one night
the prisoners were forced to stand outside in 20-degree below zero weather for
nineteen hours wearing a thin pajama. Twenty-five percent of them died. During
a very brief window, his father got visas for Herbert and his brother, and
ransomed them from the death camps. Herbert joined his beloved in Manila, where
he was hired to lead the symphony. Shortly thereafter the Japanese Imperial
Army invaded the Philippines, and their commander ordered Maestro Zipper to
play a concert for his troops. He refused to cooperate, and instead hid the
instruments and key musicians, and was thrown in jail. Released after several
months, he spent the rest of the war working for the underground guerilla
In later life, Maestro Zipper found himself in the
middle of the Tiananmen Square revolt in China and the Los Angeles riots, where
he brought healing music to troubled times.
Celebrating the End of War, 1945
Reports say his orchestra’s rendition of Beethoven’s Eroica was
At the end of the concert a scratchy record was playing "You Are My
Sunshine" in the distance. And first one musician, then another, then the
whole orchestra played "You Are My Sunshine."
More on Maestro Zipper and the Sugihara Connection
In the course of completing the “Japantown in Chinatown”
composition, I interviewed Joe Yasutake at the suggestion of Aggie Idemoto,
President of the Japanese American Museum of San Jose. The interview centered
around the “Voices of the Issei” sculpture in the heart of Japantown, which
sets forth some core values of the Japanese American community, and is
discussed in more detail in the section beginning on page 227.
At the end of the conversation he asked me if I had ever
heard of Chiune Sugihara, who saved thousands of Jewish refugees during World
War II. Neither myself nor any of my Jewish friends and family, including
several with intense study of this area, had ever heard of him. Incredibly, forty
thousand or more people owe their lives to the Sugihara family. Detailed
information on the Sugihara story is contained in Appendix VI.
I wondered if there was a similar story in Filipino history.
The book Escape to
Manila by Frank Ephraim discusses the 1,600 Jews who escaped from Nazi
Germany to the Philippines. It talks about the concert of Beethoven—including Ode to Joy, one of the same pieces
Leonard Bernstein conducted to celebrate the fall of the Berlin Wall—Herbert
Zipper conducted in Manila the day after Allied victory over Germany. The text
mentions that “You Are My Sunshine” had sprung up overnight as the unofficial
anthem of the Philippines.
German Jew Herbert Zipper had been hired to conduct the
Manila Symphony Orchestra. While in a concentration camp his wife, renowned
dancer Trudl Dubsky, had moved to Manila. Here’s the Wikipedia entry
Zipper (April 24, 1904, in Vienna, Austria—April 21, 1997, in Santa Monica, California) was an
internationally renowned composer, conductor, and arts activist.
grew up in an affluent Jewish family in Vienna, the cultural center of Europe,
where he and his family rubbed shoulders with many of the leading writers and
artists of the time. On May 27, 1938, Herbert and two of his brothers were
arrested in their home and sent to Dachau Concentration Camp. Zipper would
spend a horrifying year in this camp, but instead of sinking into despair, he
used the experience to develop his character and his love for humanity, often
volunteering for the most demeaning of jobs. It also became a time for him to
explore the true meaning of art in human lives, and he discovered not only the
immense power of the arts, but the joy of giving. While in Dachau, Zipper used
music and poetry to bolster the spirits of the other inmates. He eventually
gathered a group of approximately fourteen prisoner musicians and instruments
to form a motley crew orchestra for which he composed music. The orchestra held
secret rehearsals and concerts on Sundays in an unused latrine. Zipper said
that the concerts were not for entertainment, but a means of keeping alive some
small measure of civilization and of restoring value to their lives. While at
Dachau, Zipper encountered the poet and writer Jura Soyfer, whom he had known in Vienna. Together
they wrote a song “Dachau Lied,” that was passed through the camp and
eventually made its way to other camps providing strength and hope to the
prisoners. Later at Buchenwald, Zipper was working on the typhoid fever detail
when Soyfer fell ill and eventually succumbed to the disease. The inmates on
the detail had not been given proper protection nor even clean water to wash
themselves and many contracted typhoid fever as a result. It was Zipper's
responsibility to carry the victims to be buried. Herbert wrapped his friend in
the proscribed paper shirt and placed him in the box for the unceremonious
September 23, 1938, Zipper was transferred to Buchenwald because of
overcrowding at Dachau. Zipper and his brothers were fortunate that during
their arrest, their father Emil Zipper had been in London trying to secure
documents for the family to leave Austria. Emil was eventually able to secure
the release of his sons [something that would be impossible within a year].
Zipper and his brothers were released on February 21, 1939, and returned home
to Vienna. Zipper and one of his brothers traveled to join the rest of the
family on March 16 in Paris. On May 3 of that year, Zipper received a call from
the Philippines asking if he would accept the position of conductor of the Manila Symphony Orchestra. Zipper’s
fiancée, renowned dancer Trudl Dubsky, had been working in Manila since 1937
and had recommended him for the post. Zipper accepted and joined Trudl in
Manila, where they were married on October 1, 1939.
the orchestra was of poor quality, Zipper’s skill and enthusiasm soon led to
successful concerts. Then disaster struck. The Japanese invaded Manila, and
Zipper found himself a prisoner again. After four months of imprisonment and
interrogations, he was released, and he and Trudl spent the next few years helping
friends and trying to stay alive, having lost what few belongings they had
accumulated. Zipper made many friends while in Manila, including General MacArthur's wife, who helped him organize a
victory concert after the Allies liberated the island.
Zippers had many brushes with death during the thirty-day Battle of Manila. On
more than one occasion the buildings they occupied were directly hit by
artillery shells. On February 26, 1945, at 4 a.m., Herbert left their
seven-story, partially destroyed, apartment building to fetch the daily water.
Recognizing an opportunity to make a run for American front lines, Zipper
crossed battle lines to reach American troops. There he learned that the apartment
building was scheduled to be razed to the ground by artillery bombardment in
fifteen minutes. Zipper exclaimed that the building could not be shelled as it
was occupied by eight hundred to a thousand civilians and there were no enemy
troops. The bombardment was delayed for forty-five minutes and Zipper hastened
back to begin the evacuation. He saved the lives of everyone in the apartment
building, including his wife Trudl.
an internee at Dachau, Herbert Zipper vowed that he would one day commemorate
the downfall of Adolf Hitler and the Nazi regime with a performance of
Beethoven's Third Symphony, "Eroica." One of a very few of Herbert's
possessions to survive the Battle of Manila was his musical score for the
Eroica, as he had carried it with him at all times during the intense battle.
With the arrival of American forces on Luzon Island, Zipper set out
reorganizing his disbanded orchestra, but some members of the orchestra had not
survived the Battle of Manila, including concertmaster Ernesto Vajello. Like a
phoenix from the ashes, the orchestra coalesced in the ruins of Santa Cruz
Cathedral for the performance. War correspondent William J. Dunn, who reviewed
the concert, recorded that on May 10, 1945, Herbert Zipper fulfilled the vow he
had conceived at Dachau more than a decade prior. News of the fall of the Nazi
regime reached Zipper the day following the concert. He had fulfilled his vow
in the ruins of Manila.
1946, Zipper and his wife joined the rest of his family in the United States.
His main reason for the trip was a fundraising mission for the Philippine
Cultural Rehabilitation Program that he had helped start. After only a few
months, he received word that the program had been put on hold. While that
project stalled, Zipper became burdened for what he saw as a deficit in arts
education in U.S. schools and embarked on what would be his major life work—to
help start community arts programs. In 1947, Zipper was offered a teaching post
at The New School for Social Research in New York
that had been founded in 1918 by Alvin Johnson, as one of
the country’s first adult education centers. Over the next few decades, Zipper
went on to start many community art centers throughout the country. He also
worked on reviving the disbanded Brooklyn Symphony, a group which had not been
active since their conductor Sir Thomas Beecham returned to England. Zipper’s role of
conductor with the Brooklyn Symphony focused much of their work on school
outreach programs while Zipper became increasingly involved in championing
racial equality, social justice, and environmental causes.
1953, Zipper took the position of director of the Winnetka School of Music in
Chicago where he worked during the main school year and then returned to Manila
each summer to conduct a summer concert series. Winnetka was a community art
school that served children and adults in afternoon and evening programs. In
1954, through a large fundraising effort, the school was moved to a better
location, expanded, and renamed the Music Center of North Shore. Through this
school, Zipper organized a professional orchestra whose purpose was to play
concerts in public schools. In 1972, Zipper took a job in California as the
project director for the School of Performing Arts at USC. His beloved wife and
partner Trudl died in 1976 of lung cancer. Despite his grief, Zipper continued
his zeal for the arts and in the early 1980s began trips to China where he
served as a teacher, arts advocate, and conductor. Zipper remained active in
the arts until his death in 1997 at age ninety-two.
He was the subject of the Oscar-nominated
documentary Never Give Up: The 20th Century
Odyssey of Herbert Zipper.