Collection of senior cantor Nathan Saretzki

Collection of senior cantor Nathan Saretzki

On Nathan Saretzki

Senior cantor Nathan Saretzki (March 11, 1887, Hohensalza, today: Inowroclaw - October 12, 1944, Auschwitz) was a tenor, religious teacher and the last senior cantor of the main liberal synagogue in Frankfurt. He was married to Emmy Ullmann (1890 - 1944) and had a son, Edgar (*1922).

In 1939, the 16-year-old son Edgar Saretzki managed to escape to Great Britain. Emmy and Nathan Saretzki, who also had to perform forced labor at the end, were deported to the Theresienstadt ghetto in August 1942. On October 9, 1944, the Saretzki couple was deported from Theresienstadt to Auschwitz, where they were murdered on October 12, 1944.

On the collection of Nathan Saretzki

from: Martha Stellmacher: "Organ ad libitum". Hannover, 2015 (partly slightly edited).

The sheet music is primarily printed music published between about 1880 and 1933. There are also three handwritten volumes included: a volume of sheet music by Hirsch Weintraub and two organ books for the Day of Atonement.


The collection is a possibly rather arbitrary compilation of sheet music that Nathan Saretzki had been able to save in 1938. That some of the volumes were frequently used can be seen from the signs of wear and handwritten entries.


Two considerations may illustrate the musicological significance that the present sheet music could have for the study of Jewish sacred music around 1900:

Since Saretzki was in a life-threatening hurry, it can be assumed that he did not painstakingly gather the volumes, but grabbed them as they stood together - possibly an order similar to a reserve shelf. Based on this, this compilation would allow us to draw conclusions about which literature was particularly frequently used in the service of that time (in the main synagogue in Frankfurt).

The sheet music is second-hand literature, and so there are handwritten entries in numerous volumes that give clues, for example, to the integration of music into the service, which was common at that time, or the use of organ stops.

From the volumes of the "Sammlung Oberkantor Nathan Saretzki," it is probably not possible to derive a general statement about synagogal musical practice at the turn of the century. However, since a large part of the sheet music of daily musical life in the synagogues was burned, each preserved volume may be considered a witness to history.

Technical collection data

Extent: 6 volumes of sheet music

Time period: 1880 to ca. 1933

Languages: German, Hebrew

Collector: Nathan Saretzki

Contents of the collection: The collection consists of 16 music volumes with synagogal music.

A more detailed overview of the collection can be found here.

Notes on the voyage of the collection of senior cantor Nathan Saretzki to Hanover

Frankfurt - Wiesbaden - Hanover

When Frankfurt's main synagogue burned down on November 10, 1938, Oberkantor Nathan Saretzki was on the scene with his son Edgar. Several times he ventured into the burning synagogue and saved a total of 16 volumes of music.

Before his deportation, Nathan Saretzki entrusted the volumes to Hermann Baumeister, who was the son of Catholic housekeeper Hermine Baumeister, who had been employed by the Saretzki family since 1934. Mrs. Baumeister transported the music volumes to her home at night with a ladder wagon, thus putting her own life at risk.

When the bombing of Frankfurt began in 1943, the Baumeister family moved part of their possessions, including the liturgical volumes, to safety in a village in Upper Hesse. After 1945, Hermann Baumeister, who by then lived in Wiesbaden, kept the sheet music in his cellar for decades.

In 1997, Edgar Sarton-Saretzki, the son of Nathan Saretzki, gave a lecture in Frankfurt. Hermann heard about this and contacted Edgar. When they finally met in person, Hermann returned the head cantor's sheet music to his son Edgar.Edgar later decided to donate the sheet music to the European Centre for Jewish Music in Hanover. On January 26, 1998, Edgar Sarton-Saretzki presented the "Oberkantor Nathan Saretzki Collection" to the ECJM. 


Further Literature:

Martha Stellmacher with the collaboration of Barbara Burghardt:
„Orgel ad libitum“: Einblicke in die Musik der Reformsynagogen am Beispiel der „Sammlung Oberkantor Nathan Saretzki“.
Hannover : Wehrhahn, 2015.
ISBN 978-3-86525-428-3
(See publication in the catalog of the German National Library)


Last modified: 2022-09-26

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