Poland Gains Rights to Song Celebrating Heroism of Soldiers at Monte Cassino

The rights to a patriotic song celebrating the heroism of Polish soldiers during a major battle of the Second World War have been granted to Poland – after being held for more than a decade by a German local authority.

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Red Poppies of Monte Cassino (Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino) was composed by Alfred Schutz, with lyrics by Feliks Konarski, while they were serving in Italy in May 1944.

On May 18 of that year, Polish troops under General Władysław Anders stormed Monte Cassino – winning a decisive victory that allowed the Allies to push through to Rome. The song was performed that evening, and soon became popular.

Czerwone maki na Monte Cassino/YouTube:

The song was banned under the communist regime, when Poland was governed as a satellite state from Moscow after the war. Since Poland gained independence in 1989, it has been played at many patriotic concerts.

Alfred Schutz moved to Brazil after the war, and then to Munich, where he died in 1999. His wife inherited the rights to his music, which then passed to the Free State of Bavaria on her death in 2004.

Artur Nowak-Far, under-secretary at Poland’s Foreign Ministry, said the Polish state had requested the rights to the song from Bavaria – to which the latter agreed without argument.

He added: “This song… carries historic and emotional importance for Poles. It is a tribute to the bravery and sacrifice of the soldiers who fought at Monte Cassino for the freedom of Poland”.