Synopses & Reviews
Set amid the growing tyranny of Germany's Third Reich, here is the riveting and emotional tale of G?nther Goldschmidt and Rosemarie Gumpert, two courageous Jewish musicians who struggled to perform under unimaginable circumstances-and found themselves falling in love in a country bent on destroying them. In the spring of 1933, as the full weight of Germany's National Socialism was brought to bear against Germany's Jews, more than 8,000 Jewish musicians, actors, and other artists found themselves expelled from their positions with German orchestras, opera companies, and theater groups, and Jews were forbidden even to attend "Aryan" theaters. Later that year, the J?dische Kulturbund, or Jewish Culture Association, was created under the auspices of Joseph Goebbels's Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Providing for Jewish artists to perform for Jewish audiences, the Kulturbund, which included an orchestra, an opera company, and an acting troupe, became an unlikely haven for Jewish artists and offered much-needed spiritual enrichment for a besieged people-while at the same time providing the Nazis with a powerful propaganda tool for showing the rest of the world how well Jews were ostensibly being treated under the Third Reich. It was during this period that twenty-two-year-old flutist G?nther Goldschmidt was expelled from music school because of his Jewish roots. While preparing to flee the ever-tightening grip of Nazi Germany for Sweden, G?nther was invited to fill in for an ailing flutist with the Frankfurt Kulturbund Orchestra. It was there, during rehearsals, that he met the dazzling nineteen-year-old violist Rosemarie Gumpert-a woman who would change the course of his life. Despite their strong attraction, G?nther eventually embarked for the safety of Sweden as planned, only to risk his life six months later returning to the woman he could not forget-and to the perilous country where hatred and brutality had begun to flourish. Here is G?nther and Rosemarie's story, a deeply moving tale of love and the remarkable resilience of the human spirit in the face of terror and persecution. Beautifully and simply told by their son, National Public Radio commentator Martin Goldsmith, The Inextinguishable Symphony takes us from the caf?s of Frankfurt, where Rosemarie and G?nther fell in love, to the concert halls that offered solace and hope for the beleaguered Jews, to the United States, where the two made a new life for themselves that would nevertheless remain shadowed by the fate of their families. Along with the fate of G?nther and Rosemarie's families, this rare memoir also illuminates the Kulturbund and the lives of other fascinating figures associated with it, including Kubu director Kurt Singer-a man so committed to the organization that he objected to his artists' plans for flight, fearing that his productions would suffer. The Kubu, which included some of the most prominent artists of the day and young performers who would gain international fame after the war, became the sole source of culture and entertainment for Germany's Jews. A poignant testament to the enduring vitality of music and love even in the harshest times, The Inextinguishable Symphony gives us a compelling look at an important piece of Holocaust history that has heretofore gone largely untold.
"As much a tribute to the power of music as it is a Holocaust memoir, this book... tells a deeply affecting story of a love that survived the terrors of WWII. The lovers in question are Goldsmith's parents: Gunther, a flutist, and Rosalie, a violist, were German Jews who met in 1936 when they were both playing in the Kulturbund's orchestra in Frankfurt....Dealing perceptively with the complex emotions aroused in him by his parents' lifelong refusal to discuss their past and with their passion for each other and for the music that may have saved their lives, Goldsmith's account offers an excellent contribution to Holocaust studies." Publishers Weekly
The Israeli Holocaust scholar Yehuda Bauer once remarked that when you write about the Holocaust, you should remember that you are writing in front of burning children. What he meant was that the murder of six million Jews is a subject that requires a unique sort of humility-a warning that seems especially resonant today, now that redemptive Holocaust tales are suddenly in fashion. I'm referring to films such as "Schindler's List," the story of a transformed Nazi who just wants to save Jews, and "Life Is Beautiful," where the message appeared to be that you shouldn't let a genocide prevent you from having a good time.
Of course, the urge to find even a flicker of light in this darkest of human tragedies is an understandable one. Perhaps more to the point. Holocaust stories that are, in some utterly improbable way, a little bit uplifting or empowering are part of the larger saga-albeit a very, very small part of it.
Such is the case with Rich Cohen's The Avengers and Martin Goldsmith's The Inextinguishable Symphony, the latest literary contributions to this genre. The Avengers is the tale of the Vilna partisans, Zionists who tunneled out of the Jewish ghetto before the Nazis could round them up and kill them. . .
The Inextinguishable Symphony is, on its pace, less dramatic. The author, Martin Goldsmith, reconstructs the lives of his parents, two young German Jewish musicians who fell in love and married during the war. His mother, a violist, and his father, a flutist, were both members of the Kulturbund, a Jewish cultural organization that allowed the Nazis to purge their various arts entities of Jews without sounding international alarm bells. It was a crude form of segregation, and the Nazis closely monitored all performances to ensure that they were in no way political and that, above all, they didn't sully any cherished German ideals, but the Kulturbund nevertheless became a cultural and spiritual refuge for a people with nowhere else to go.
War and revenge versus music and love:
The two books are opposite sides of a single coin. Cohen's is self-consciously muscular, macho, the story of a courageous group of people who refused to accept the fate handed to them. Goldsmith's is more sensitive, more humanizing: Here are two young people who did the best they could to simulate a normal life within unthinkable circumstances. . .
Goldsmith, by contrast, is conscientious about alerting the reader to his flights of imagination, and his motives are clear. He is not writing compensatory history; he wants to know what happened to his parents before they escaped to America. But more than that, he wants to understand how they became who they were: it's a literary journey reminiscent of Art Spiegelman's in Maus.
In the book's most moving passage. Goldsmith describes his father fleeing Berlin during Kristallnacht, the murderous rampage during which the Nazis torched synagogues and razed Jewish-owned stores. Goldsmith's father boards an overnight train to the small town where his future wife lived with her mother and father, a music teacher. He shows up at their home early in the morning and unannounced; he is out of breath and desperate to alert her family to the imminent danger, but her father only dismisses the going's on as the work of some drunken hooligans.
Goldsmith's prose is spare and simple, as if this were just a little sliver of the huge, terrifying story of the Holocaust-and that is precisely the point. This is the humility about which Yehuda Bauer was speaking.
Renewed b/JONATHAN MAHLER
--Jonathan Mahler is a senior writer and editor at Talk Magazine
Advance Praise for the Inextinguishable Symphony "A Fascinating Insight into a Virtually Unknown Chapter of Nazi Rule in Germany, Made all the More Engaging through a Son's Discovery of His Own Remarkable Parents." -Ted Koppel, ABC News "An Immensely Moving and Powerful Description of those Evil Times. I couldn't Put the Book Down." -James Galway "Martin Goldsmith has Written a Moving and Personal Account of a Search for Identity. His is a Story that will Touch All Readers with Its Integrity. This is not about Exorcising Ghosts, but Rather Awakening Passions that no One Ever Knew Existed. This is a Journey Everyone should Take." -Leonard Slatkin, Music Director National Symphony Orchestra "For Years I've been Familiar with Martin Goldsmith's Musical Expertise. This Book Explains the Source of His Knowledge and His Passion for the Subject. In Tracking the Extraordinary Story of His Parents and the Jewish Kulturbund, Martin Unfolds a Little-Known Piece of Holocaust History, and Finds Depths in His Own Heart that Warm the Hearts of Readers." -Susan Stamberg, Special Correspondent National Public Radio "[A] Strong and Painful Book, Well-Written, Well-Researched, Moving, and Very Instructive." -Ned Rorem, Pulitzer Prize-Winning Composer
About the Author
MARTIN GOLDSMITH is senior commentator for National Public Radio. From 1989 to 1999, he was host of Performance Today, NPR's daily classical music program. Prior to that he served for a dozen years at NPR member station WETA-FM in Washington, D.C., as producer, announcer, music director, and program director.
Table of Contents
Alex and G?nther.
Julian and Rosemarie.
La Vie Boh?me.
A Protest in Paris.
Chocolate and Canaries.
Vaterland und Vaterhaus.
"One Slap after the Other".
New World--and Old.
Appointment in Quito.
Eine Kleine Curfew Music.
The Resurrection Symphony.
The Inextinguishable Symphony.
"Crying Like Dogs."
"It Will Be on Your Conscience".