1926 c. Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944).

Relation to Gustav Mahler (1860-1911): A daughter of a sister (niece).

  • Brother: 1:
  1. Alfred Eduard Rose (1902-1975).
  • Marriage: 00-00-1930 Location unknown.
  • Husband: Vasa Prihoda (1900-1960) (Czech Republic, violinist virtuoso).
  • Children: No.
  • Divorce: 00-00-1935 Location unknown.
  • Profession: Violinist.
  • Died: 04-04-1944 Ausschwitz, Germany. Aged 37, food poisoning.
  • Buried in name: 00-00-0000 Grinzing cemetery (20-5-6), Vienna, Austria. Rose family grave. She is not in the cemetery administration, only a memorial.


Alma Rosé was an Austrian violinist of Jewish descent. Her uncle was the composer Gustav Mahler. She was deported by the Nazis to the concentration camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau. There, for ten months, she directed an orchestra of prisoners who played to their captors to stay alive. Rosé died in the concentration camp of a sudden illness, possibly food poisoning. Rosé's experience in Auschwitz is depicted in the controversial play "Playing for Time" by Fania Fénelon.

Early years

Alma Rosé's father was the violinist Arnold Rosé (né Rosenblum; 1863–1946) who was the leader of the Vienna Philharmonic Orchestra for 50 years: from 1881-1931 as well as leader of the Vienna State Opera orchestra and leader of the legendary Rosé String Quartet. Her mother, Justine (died 22 August 1938), was Gustav Mahler's sister. Alma was named for Alma Mahler.


Alma grew up to be a violinist. In 1930 she married the Czech violinist Váša Příhoda (1900–1960). In 1935 the marriage was dissolved.


Rosé had a highly successful career. In 1932 she founded the woman’s orchestra, Die Wiener Walzermädeln (The Waltzing Girls of Vienna). The concertmistress was Anny Kux, a friend. The ensemble played to a very high standard, undertaking concert tours throughout Europe.

Escape from the Nazis and final arrest

After the annexation of Austria with Germany in 1938 Alma and her father Arnold, himself a famous violin virtuoso, managed to escape to London in 1939. She returned to the continent and continued to perform in the Netherlands. Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944)When the Germans occupied the Netherlands, she was trapped. A fictitious marriage to a Dutch engineer named August van Leeuwen Boomkamp did not save her; nor did her nominal status as a Christian convert. She fled to France, but in late 1942 when she tried to escape to neutral Switzerland, she was arrested there by the Gestapo. After several months in the internment camp of Drancy she was finally deported in July 1943 to the concentration camp at Auschwitz.


Upon arrival in Auschwitz, Rosé was quarantined and became very ill, but was eventually recognized. She assumed leadership of the Mädchenorchester von Auschwitz (Girls Orchestra of Auschwitz). The orchestra had been in existence before Rosé's arrival, a pet project of SS-Oberaufseherin Maria Mandel. Prior to Rosé, the orchestra was conducted by Zofia Czajkowska, a Polish teacher. The ensemble consisted mainly of amateur musicians, with a string section, but also accordions and a mandolin. The orchestra's primary function was to play at the main gate each morning and evening as the prisoners left for and returned from their work assignments; the orchestra also gave weekend concerts for the prisoners and the SS and entertained at SS functions.

Rosé conducted, orchestrated and sometimes played violin solos during its concerts. She helped to mold the orchestra into an excellent ensemble, all of whose members survived during her tenure, and after her death, all save two would live to see the end of the war. 

Rosé herself died, aged 37, of a sudden illness at the camp, possibly food poisoning. The orchestra included two professional musicians, cellist Anita Lasker-Wallfisch and vocalist/pianist Fania Fénelon, each of whom wrote memoirs of their time in the orchestra that were eventually translated into English. Fénelon's account, Playing for Time, was made into a film of the same name. Alma's father, Arnold Rosé, died in England not long after the war ended.

  • Began in Auschwitz in 1943 after request by SS soldiers
  • First led by Zofia Czajkowska then taken over by Alma Rosé
  • Encouraged by Maria Mandel
  • Played regardless of weather conditions


  • All official events like orders from Lagerführer - commandant
  • Played during arrivals or when people were being sent to gas chambers
  • False hope, made it seem like nothing was wrong
  • Played during role calls, Selections
  • Gave private concerts to SS soldiers, played for the sick in the infirmary
  • Concerts on Sundays
  • Auschwitz/Birkenau had six different orchestras
  • One contained 100-120 musicians at one point

For Prisoners

  • Used as survival technique by prisoners
  • Members were given special privileges
  • Milder work assignments, better rations and living conditions (wooden floors)
  • Could alleviate terror for a moment, reminded them of traditions, distraction
  • Gave a sense of companionship and belonging

Alma Rosé

  • Austrian violinist
    • Founded orchestra groups Viennese Waltzing Girls
  • Musical background
    • Daughter of renowned violinist Arnold Rosé, Founded the Rosé String Quartet
    • Niece of famous composer Gustav Mahler
  • Captured and sent to Auschwitz in 1943
  • Impressed guards and transferred to Birkenau
  • Took over Women's Orchestra of Auschwitz
  • Respected by Maria Mendel
    • Gained respect from guards
  • Gained privileges for members
  • Had less talented removed
    • Kept as assistants or employees
  • Expanded music to more classical taste
  • Fell ill and died in April 1944
    • SS soldiers held solemn ceremony for her


Arnold Rosé's performances together with Alma were eventually released on CD.

1914. Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944).

1915. Alfred Rose (brother), Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944) and Justine (Ernestine) Rose-Mahler (1868-1938).

1924. Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944). Picture by Dora (Madame d'Ora) Kallmus (1881-1963).

1926. Debut Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944). Konzerthaus, Vienna, Austria.

1927. Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944) and Arnold Josef Rose (1863-1946).

1930. Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944).

1930. Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944) and the Wienser Walzermadeln.

1930. Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944) and the Wiener Walzermadeln.

1930 c. Vasa Prihoda (1900-1960) and Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944).

1933 c. Justine (Ernestine) Rose-Mahler (1868-1938)Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944)Arnold Josef Rose (1863-1946) and Vasa Prihoda (1900-1906).

1940. Women in Auschwitz.

Grave Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944)Justine (Ernestine) Rose-Mahler (1868-1938) and Arnold Josef Rose (1863-1946)Grinzing cemetery (20-5-6), Vienna, Austria.

Grave Alma Maria Rose (1906-1944)Justine (Ernestine) Rose-Mahler (1868-1938) and Arnold Josef Rose (1863-1946)Grinzing cemetery (20-5-6), Vienna, Austria.