1940's

Nazi Reich minister Hans Frank becomes the Governor-General of Poland (this position was awarded to him by Adolph Hitler whom he represented as his personal attorney throughout the 20's and early 30's). Frank's reign of terror earns him the reputation as "Butcher of Poland."

By a strange twist of fate, Hans Frank is a music lover and gifted pianist. Frank collects works of art and promotes culture in Poland even as he decimates its population and strikes terror into the hearts of its citizens.

Frank "collects" memorabilia related to the life of Polish composer Frederick Chopin, and opens the "Great Chopin Museum" in Krakow. He "asks" Ludmilla to be the SOLE pianist to play at the opening of this Museum on October 27, 1943. Frightened, Ludmilla agrees to play, although as she had feared, it led to her denunciation as a Jew by an envious pianist! She appears on the Nazi newsreel footage of the Inauguration of the Museum playing a Chopin Scherzo on Chopin's own Pleyel Grand-stolen by the Nazis! (NAZI Newsreel: Windows Media Player or Quick Time Player)

Other Jewish pianists who competed with Ludmilla in the First International Chopin Competition suffer a different fate. Leopold Meunzer and Rosa Etkin-Moskowska, a friend of Ludmilla's who won third prize at the competition, are both killed by the Nazis.

After the opening of the "Great Chopin Museum" and screenings of the Newsreel an envious pianist, Ludmilla believes, denounces Ludmilla Berkwic as Jewish. The Gestapo demands that she and her mother endure humiliating examinations by Nazi doctors who would somehow determine if they are jewish. Despite the so-called scientific nature of these medical examinations, the Nazis cannot determine if they are Jewish. These terrifying examinations lead them to a drastic decision.They will escape Poland.

Ludmilla's fiancee is a German railroad engineer of Dutch origin who helps Ludmilla and her mother obtain train tickets and false ID's. They are able to take the last train out of Poland before the Russians arrive. He instructs them to go to his mother's home in Essen, Germany where they will be safe. Another railroad worker denounces him and he is never heard from again(presumably, killed by the Nazis). Ludmilla and her mother stay with her finance's family and Ludmilla works as a forced laborer in an underground munitions factory. She is unable to touch a piano for a year, until the Americans arrive in 1945.

Quick with foreign languages, Ludmilla learns some English and works for the Americans as an interpreter. She teaches the piano to the GI's and plays piano at the Officer's Club. Ludmilla performs concerts and conducts her own weekly radio program on the Armed Forces Radio Network-heard throughout Europe.

An officer, Captain Murray, helps Ludmilla obtain a visa to get to America where she tries to restart her piano career.


Chopin Museum - 1943

(NAZI Newsreel:
Windows Media Player
or
Quick Time Player)


Harvard - 1947


News Clip


Stars & Stripes News Clip


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©2004 Ludmilla Berkwic

Ludmilla's Berkwic's biographical data(1910-present) appearing on this Website was compiled and researched by Dr. Louis Alpert. The final text was written by Dr. Alpert in collaboration with musical writer and pianist, Mrs. Miriam Queensen.

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