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Herbert Zipper, conductor who formed Dachau orchestra, dead at 92

April 22, 1997

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) _ Herbert Zipper, a celebrated Viennese conductor who formed a secret orchestra in a Nazi concentration camp, has died. He was 92.

Zipper, the subject of an Academy Award-nominated documentary, died Monday at St. John’s Medical Center of lung cancer, said his biographer, Paul Cummins.

Zipper had first been imprisoned by the Nazis at Dachau, then later in Buchenwald. His family, living in Paris, got him out and Zipper went to Manila only to be imprisoned again by the Japanese. He later worked as a secret informant for Gen. Douglas MacArthur.

In Dachau, Zipper recruited fellow inmates who had been in Munich and Vienna orchestras to give secret concerts to raise the spirits of other prisoners.

Zipper, who was Jewish, co-wrote ``Dachau Song,″ a resistance song that spread from prison camp to prison camp.

``I realized in Dachau that the arts in general have the power to keep you not just alive, but to make your life meaningful even under the most dreadful circumstances,″ he told the Los Angeles Times a few weeks ago.

He also reassembled the Manila Orchestra for concerts after Manila was liberated in 1945.

After World War II, he started bringing classical music to inner-city schools. Zipper helped poet Langston Hughes put together music programs in New York City’s Harlem.

The conductor’s efforts continued in Chicago and, in the 1970s, in Los Angeles, where he worked with the School of Performing Arts at the University of Southern California.

Cummins’ biography of Zipper, ``Dachau Song,″ was published in 1992. ``Never Give Up: The 20th Century Odyssey of Herbert Zipper″ was nominated for an Oscar last year.

Zipper is survived by a niece, Lucy Horowitz of Boston, and a nephew, Henry Holt of Virginia. Plans for a memorial concert were under way.

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