Ajzensztadt Maria (Miriam) (1921, Warsaw – 09 August 1942, Warsaw) – pianist, soprano singer.
Marysia (Maria, Miriam) Ajzensztadt (Eisenstadt), affectionately called Maniusia by her parents, was born in June 1921 or 1922 in Warsaw. She was the only daughter of Dawid Ajzensztadt – composer and conductor of the boys’ and men’s choir of the Great Synagogue on Tłomackie Street in Warsaw. Her singing talent – a magnificent coloratura soprano – attracted large groups of listeners. She was also a great improviser.
“She was excellent, not only when she performed what she had learned and practiced, but she also had her own inventiveness, wisdom, and creative talent”[1.1].
Many remembered her as a young, talented singer, a person of extraordinary beauty and personal charm.
Just before the outbreak of World War II, she graduated from the female “Yehudiya” lower secondary school at Długa Street in Warsaw; as a pupil, she organised public performances, the proceeds from which were used to support the school’s self-help account. She always tried to help the weaker. At home, thanks to her father, she was constantly involved in music. It was him who taught her Jewish folk songs and took care of her musical education. He wanted for Marysia to become a pianist. Thus, at first she attended piano classes at the Warsaw Institute of Music. Her piano teachers were Maria (Miriam) Bar, and afterwards Professor Zbigniew Drzewiecki. However, seeing that his daughter wanted to become an opera singer, Dawid Ajzensztadt began to teach her singing himself. He planned to send her to a music academy in Italy.
[...] she absorbed the spiritual atmosphere of the parental home, and it was the atmosphere of European Jewish culture. Issues related to literature, art, theatre, and music were her daily food for the spirit, and the Jewish revival fulfilled all her essence[1.2].
The outbreak of the war put an end to the idyllic life of the young girl with mind full of plans for the future. Towards the end of 1940, Dawid Ajzensztadt still had the possibility to flee to the USSR with his family, but following his wife’s admonitions, they decided to stay. All three of them ended up in the Warsaw Ghetto. In spite of the terror around them, Dawid Ajzensztadt and his daughter did what they loved – they sang, which also brought them some money to make ends meet. During their life in the ghetto, Marysia became famous not only for her beauty, but also for her outstanding voice, hence she was called “the ghetto nightingale.” Her performances were attended by crowds of listeners. Thanks to her singing, they could for a moment forget about the evil which surrounded them. She regularly performed at the Femina Theatre at Leszno Street, with an auditorium for about one thousand people. She also performed as a soloist with the symphony orchestra under the direction of Szymon Pulman, who was also her teacher in the ghetto, and of Marian Neuteich. She was usually accompanied by world-famous soloist Ignacy Rosenbaum. Years later, her performances in the “Sztuka” café at Leszno Street were thus recalled by Władysław Szpilman:
It was the largest café in the ghetto and had various ambitions. The “Sztuka” was the site of various concerts, and Maria Eisenstadt also sang there – she would surely have become very famous and known to millions of people had she not been murdered by the Germans[1.3].
Sometimes Ajzenszadt would also participate in concerts staged by underground organisations active in the ghetto. During her performances, she sang well-known classics, opera arias, folk songs in Yiddish and Hebrew (such as Eli, eli lama azavtani), as well as songs composed in the ghetto, describing the tragedy of everyday life.
Marysia belonged to a generation of young people with great potential whose plans and lives were cut short by the outbreak of war. She had every predisposition to make an international career as an opera singer. In her short life, she achieved a lot, but it is clear that if she had survived, she would have left behind much, much more.
Marysia Ajzensztadt was murdered on 9 August 1942 in Warsaw during the Grosskation and the transport “to the East.” According to Jonas Turkow, Marysia came to the Umschlagplatz together with her parents. When people were being rushed into cattle cars, her parents got into one, which then turned out to be fully loaded. Marysia, not wanting to be separated from her dearest relatives, tried to force her way into the same car. She was shot dead on her family’s eyes.
Despite her young age, she was mentioned in many diaries, reports, and memoirs from the ghetto, including those by Emanuel Ringelblum, Jonas Turkow, Abraham Lewin, and Władysław Szpilman.
The 2011 edition of the March of Remembrance, organised annually by the Jewish Historical Institute in Warsaw, was dedicated to her memory.
Dr. Martyna Rusiniak-Karwat