David Benjamin Gruenbaum, son of Brookline Holocaust survivor Michael Gruenbaum, marked his father’s milestone 90th birthday in a unique and musical way: “I wanted to create a song that expressed my father’s optimistic view of life. After what he went through in the Terezin concentration camp in the Czech Republic during World War II, my father truly enjoys every aspect of life, and we all need positive moments and inspiration right now.” He composed “Toast to Life” with this in mind.


Michael Gruenbaum, his mother and sister were imprisoned in Terezin from 1942 until 1945, but miraculously all of them survived. While in Terezin, Gruenbaum formed a special friendship with the other 40 boys of his age that lived in Room 7. They called themselves Nesarim, after the Hebrew word for “eagles.” Gruenbaum’s book, “Somewhere There Is Still a Sun” details his life in Terezin. The book is a best-seller and has now been translated into 13 other languages.

After the war, the 10 survivors of Room 7 made a huge effort to stay in touch even though they soon spread all over the world, including the United States, Germany, France, Switzerland, Brazil, Australia and Canada. As they had children and grandchildren, they organized reunions, a tradition that is still carried on today. The “Toast to Life” video above features photos of all the Nesarim, plus their families.

“It’s simply amazing to see all of the happy faces in the video,” remarks Gruenbaum. “It gives me great joy to realize that my friends and I survived, and therefore were able to give life to so many wonderful people who wouldn’t be here otherwise.”

Michael Gruenbaum on swing
Michael Gruenbaum (Courtesy photo)

The Gruenbaum brothers, David, Peter and Leon, decided to restart their childhood jazz trio, Dapele, to record the song. Dapele recorded an album in 1978 as teenagers. The album had a big resurgence in 2007 in Japan, and The Associated Press wrote a story because the album was selling for over $200 a copy.

David, Peter and Leon sing the vocals, Peter plays saxophone and Leon plays piano. David’s daughters and wife added additional vocals to give the song a multi-generational twist. The song was engineered by Ed Goldfarb, the “Pokémon” composer.

“We would like this song to lift everyone at the holidays,” says David Gruenbaum. “It’s my father’s 90th birthday, and nothing would make him happier than this song helping the world turn its head from the pandemic to the wonderful things we all have in our lives right now.”