Leopold Kozłowski (en yiddish : לעאָפּאָלד קאָזלאָװסקי), né le 26 novembre 1918 à Przemyślany non loin de Lwów, pianiste, compositeur, chef d'orchestre. Représentant de la tradition klezmer en Pologne, surnommé le « dernier klezmer de Galicie ».
Leopold Kozłowski est le petit-fils de Pejsach Brandwein qui créa le plus célèbre ensemble musical klezmer de Galicie avec ses nombreux fils. Le groupe se produisait y compris devant les souverains d'Europe. Un des oncles de Leopold Kozłowski, le clarinettiste Naftule Brandwein, propagea aux États-Unis la tradition klezmer.
Leopold Kozłowski termina des études musicales de piano au conservatoire de musique de Lwów en 1941 et de chef d'orchestre dans la Haute-école de musique de Cracovie. Fonda et dirigea pendant 23 ans l'Ensemble de chants et de danses de Cracovie. Fut le directeur musical du Théâtre juif de Varsovie, du groupe tsigane Roma, consultant musical du groupe folklorique polonais Rzeszowiacy. Composa la musique de plusieurs films dont Austeria réalisé par Jerzy Kawalerowicz (1983). Il joua dans le film La liste de Schindler de Steven Spielberg dont il fut le consultant musical pour la musique du ghetto. Il travailla sur la version polonaise de la comédie musicale Un violon sur le toit. Il se produisit en tournées en Europe, aux États-Unis, en Israël. Aujourd'hui encore il joue, dans le quartier de Kazimierz

The last klezmer: A Holocaust survivor's musical revenge
Leopold Kozlowski, 94, is a cultural figure in Poland, where he is known as 'the last klezmer.'

By , Sep. 21, 2012

Krakow, Poland - At noon last Wednesday Leopold Kozlowski walked into his regular cafe, Klezmer Hois in this city's Jewish Quarter. As he does every day, Kozlowski ordered a cold beverage and sat down at his own reserved table.
Kozlowski, 94, is a cultural figure in Poland, where he is known as "the last klezmer."
"Music saved my life," he says, adding, "I was in a concentration camp, in a ghetto and in the forest. Music gave me strength. Hitler destroyed Judaism, but not its music. It lives forever."
Despite his advanced age and the suffering he endured during the Holocaust, Kozlowski still plays professionally. This year he has performed in Madrid, Venice, Berlin and Toulouse, and this week in Lviv. He played in Israel in 2007.
He plays to full houses, to the many Poles who have taken an interest in Jewish culture in the past several years. Proof of this renewed interest is amply evident on every corner of Kazimierzin, the city's Jewish Quarter, where cafes have Hebrew names and the bars and restaurants play Jewish music.
Does Kozlowski see a future for Judaism in Poland? "There's a future, but no Jews," he says.

Leopold Kozlowski during his 2007 Israel tour.
Photo by Daniel Tchetchik

There has been a revival of klezmer music, but genuine klezmorim, from before the war, are few and far between, making Kozlowski's sobriquet an accurate one as well as the title of a 1994 documentary, "The Last Klezmer: Leopold Kozlowski, His Life and Music."
"I'm the last klezmer who stayed real and with a Jewish soul," he says. "The others are new, with chords and a different harmony, musicians who profess to be klezmorim but play modern music," he says. "Genuine Jewish music isn't a melody - it's a story, the story of what is in the heart."
He tells the young musicians he teaches in Krakow to keep the sheet music at a distance and their instruments close to them. "In Jewish music the notes are in the heart, the heart will tell you how to play," he says.

It is difficult to believe that behind this joyful, colorful, vivacious man is a story so sad, difficult and convoluted. Kozlowski, whose original name was Kleinman, was born in the Polish town of Przemyslany, near Lviv (now in Ukraine, and spelled Peremyshliany ), in 1924. His grandfather Pesach Brandwein was a famous klezmer. His father, Zvi, and Zvi's 11 brothers were also musicians. "They even appeared before Kaiser Franz Joseph," Kozlowski boasts.
Kozlowski's brother Yitzhak-Dulko was a gifted violinist. "Were he alive today he would be known worldwide," he says. When they were teenagers, he relates, Dulko won first place in a music competition for the entire Lviv province. Kozlowski took second place.

Before the war half of Przemyslany's 7,000 inhabitants were Jews. In September 1939, after Poland was divided between Germany and Russia, the town became part of Soviet Ukraine. In 1941 Przemyslany nearly doubled after many Jews fled there to escape the Nazis. The German army entered the town in July of that year; within four month a number of labor camps were built nearby. Two years later, in late May of 1943, Przemyslany was declared Judenrein, "cleansed of Jews."
When the Germans came Kozlowski, his father and his brother fled and joined the retreating Russian soldiers. His mother stayed behind because she believed the Germans would not harm women. The three of them got as far as the outskirts of Kiev, where they hid in a cemetery, "right among the graves," Kozlowski emphasizes.
One night they were stopped by an SS patrol. "My father asked for permission to play something before they killed us. Bit by bit you saw their rifles go lower and lower. The Germans were incapable of shooting during the music," Kozlowski says.
The three of them returned to their town. In November 1941 the Gestapo ordered all the Jewish adults to assemble in the town square. "My father went, together with 360 other Jews," he says. "They brought them to the forest and shot them all."
His mother was murdered shortly after that, while hiding in a barn. Kozlowski and his brother joined the partisans in the summer of 1943. Dulko was stabbed to death by "Ukrainian criminals" during that time.
Kozlowski spent several months in labor camps (Jaktorów and Kurowica, near Lvov, in occupied Poland); in Kurowica he taught the accordion a Nazi officer, Karl Kempka, (to play Strauss' "Blue Danube"), in exchange for food, in Jaktorów SS Shaul forced him to compose a "Death Tango" and play while other Jews were led do their deaths. 

The Book of Klezmer
The History, the Music, the Folklore
Yale Strom




After the war he settled in Krakow where he married and raised his daughter. For 23 years he was the conductor and musical director of a military orchestra. He has composed music for films and the theater, and even acted in "Schindler's List."
What is it like for a Jew his age, a Holocaust survivor, to live in Poland?
"My father, my brother, my whole family lie in this soil, I cannot leave them."
How long will he continue to play?
"Music is my revenge, my life, I intend to keep playing to the last moment."

The Last Klezmer: Leopold Kozlowski, His Life and Music (1994)
Documentary. 85 min.

Directed by Yale Strom

Produced by Music by Cinematography by Oren Rudavsky
Film Editing by David Notowitz



Meet the last klezmer to have grown up in the tradition and who is still performing and teaching his art to mostly gentiles in Poland today.
Leopold takes a trip back to his hometown of Prezmyslany, Ukraine for the first time since 1945 and shows Yale what life was like for a klezmer before WWII.
Along the way we meet a friend of Leopold's and learn how they both survived the war.


Leopold Kozlowski
The Last Klezmer
Global Village Music

Leopold Kozlowski
The Last Klezmer of Galicia, Jewish songs
Klezmer Hois