This article investigates music in the concentration camps before the second world war. For the camp authorities, ordering prisoners to sing songs or play in orchestras was an instrument of domination. But for the prisoners, music could also be an expression of solidarity and survival: inmates could retain a degree of their own agency in the pre-war camps, despite the often unbearable living conditions and harsh treatment by guards. The present article emphasizes this ambiguity of music in the early camps. It illustrates the emergence of musical traditions in the pre-war camps which came to have a significant impact on everyday life in the camps. It helps to overcome the view that concentration camp prisoners were simply passive victims.