Playing to Live: Pianist Survived Holocaust by Performing for Nazis
Zhanna Arshanskaya Dawson’s name is etched on the wall of a stark underground memorial in Ukraine, next to that of her sister, Frina, their parents and grandparents. She was presumed dead, like the 16,000 other Jews from Kharkov who perished under the Nazis in the winter of 1941.
Only, Dawson survived, as did her sister.
They lived through the Holocaust, saved solely by their musical genius. Dawson’s son Greg believes his mother and aunt are the only two Jewish survivors from Kharkov.
He came upon their names at the memorial in 2006 when he visited Ukraine to write a book about his mother, “Hiding in the Spotlight.” After the war, she made a successful life for herself as an accomplished pianist in the United States and had kept silent on her history for many years until her sons had grown up.
Seeing her name came as a shock to Greg Dawson. He remembers his finger freezing upon the Russian lettering; shivers shooting up his spine.
How narrowly she had escaped death, he realized.