Synopses & Reviews
Set amid the growing tyranny of Germanys Third Reich, here is the riveting and emotional tale of Günther Goldschmidt and Rosemarie Gumpert, two courageous Jewish musicians who struggled to perform under unimaginable circumstancesand found themselves falling in love in a country bent on destroying them. In the spring of 1933, as the full weight of Germanys National Socialism was brought to bear against Germanys 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 Jüdische Kulturbund, or Jewish Culture Association, was created under the auspices of Joseph Goebbelss 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 peoplewhile 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 Günther Goldschmidt was expelled from music school because of his Jewish roots. While preparing to flee the ever-tightening grip of Nazi Germany for Sweden, Günther 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 Gumperta woman who would change the course of his life. Despite their strong attraction, Günther eventually embarked for the safety of Sweden as planned, only to risk his life six months later returning to the woman he could not forgetand to the perilous country where hatred and brutality had begun to flourish. Here is Günther and Rosemaries 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 cafés of Frankfurt, where Rosemarie and Günther 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 Günther and Rosemaries families, this rare memoir also illuminates the Kulturbund and the lives of other fascinating figures associated with it, including Kubu director Kurt Singera 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 Germanys 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.
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
When the Music Stopped
The story of a symphony orchestra may seem an odd way to approach a retelling of the Nazi era, but a new book by Martin Goldsmith serves to illuminate the everyday human tragedy of the Jews in Germany in the 1930s and '40s. In The Inextinguishable Symphony (Wiley, $24.95) Goldsmith, a commentator for National Public Radio, movingly recounts the story of his parents, who were members of a "Kulturbund" orchestra made up of Jewish musicians whom the Nazis tolerated for eight years before they finally deported its personnel to death camps in 1941. A few of the musicians managed to get away, and they provide much of the source material.
The author researched his book thoroughly in Germany as well as in the U.S. He examines the Nazis' motives for permitting the orchestra its brief existence, describes the players' efforts to find in music a refuge from their fear and terror, and links the memory of that evil time with his personal search for identity. This relatively unknown aspect of Holocaust history is well worth recalling.
Incidentally, there really is a work called the "Inextinguishable Symphony". A powerful piece, it was written in 1916 by the Danish composer Carl Nielsen. The orchestra was preparing to rehearse for a performance of it when the Nazis ordered the Kulturbund organization dissolved.
--Parade Magazine (October 15, 2000)
(CNN) -- Question: did we really need another book about the
Holocaust? We've had hundreds, if not thousands. The legacy is
here. Those who went through it will never be compensated, but
by now their stories have been told enough that we can never
forget. Those of us too young to have gone through it can never
identify, but we can ensure it never happens again.
Answer: Despite all that, yes.
Martin Goldsmith gives us an unapologetically subjective, sweet,
and quietly powerful biography of his parents, two musicians in
the Judische Kulturbund, in "The Inextinguishable Symphony."
He plays upon all the Holocaust literature that has come before,
using the events of the 1930s in Germany as a backdrop for a
more simple tale, that of two people meeting and falling in love.
The type of explication common to Holocaust books is in
evidence here only a very few times, during events that haven't
been covered as exhaustively as others (the 1935 Nuremberg
conference, for example), and is refreshingly absent from most of
it. Goldsmith makes an attempt to focus on the Kulturbund, its
characters and culture, allowing the Aryans air time only when
absolutely necessary. It seems a parallel to the Jewish mindset
during the 1930s in Germany, and as a literary affectation,
Goldsmith pulls it off spectacularly.
A hard eye
That said, Goldsmith is no more an apologist for the voluntary
blindness of the Jews who chose to stay in Germany as the
Nuremberg laws clamped down on them any more than he is of
the enforcers of those laws. He turns a hard eye to those who
kept ignoring the warning signs on a fairly regular basis, asking
over and over again what possessed them to stay (at least, until
Germany closed its borders).
After detailing, in impressionist
fashion, the events of
Kristallnacht as they affected
Gunther, Rosemarie, and their
families, he wonders why some
chose to stay. He always comes
up with the same answer -- the
unbelievability of the events going
on around them, even while those
events were occurring -- but he
never seems quite satisfied with
that. If he were, why would he keep asking?
Celebration of the human spirit
The criticism is kept to places where it is appropriate, however,
and the bulk of the book is a celebration -- of the human spirit, of
the power of love, of the messianic qualities of music, of Jewish
culture in Germany between the wars, and most importantly of
the book's two subjects, Goldsmith's parents, and their families
and circle of friends.
Goldsmith isn't a scholar, or at least he doesn't try to come off as
one here. He writes with the naive sense of the barroom
storytellers who recited epic poems in medieval times and before,
poems in which joy and despair lived side by side, in which
heroic deeds and despicable acts lie next to one another, with the
listener drawing the comparisons between the two himself, and
most importantly, in which the teller just wanted to tell a story
that would make his audience feel enriched at the end of it.
Perhaps "The Inextinguishable Symphony" isn't on the same
literary level as "Beowulf" or "Parsifal," but its effect is the same;
we are allowed to indulge ourselves, as we read it, in the precious
idea that the human spirit will eventually conquer all.
--by Robert Beveridge
Special to CNN Interactive
"The Holocaust has hovered on the periphery of the American imagination for so many decades now, it's hard to believe a book could come along at this point to burn a whole new perspective into our consciousness. But that's just what Martin Goldsmith has done with this astonishing work. . . . Goldsmith [writes] with modesty, restraint, and skill . . . masterly."-SAN FRANCISCO CHRONICLE
"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, Grammy Award-winning Flutist
"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 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
"As much a tribute to the power of music as it is a Holocaust memoir, this book tells the deeply affecting story of a love that survived the terrors of WWII."-PUBLISHERS WEEKLY
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
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 director of classical music programming at XM Satellite Radio in Washington, D.C. From 1989 to 1999, he was the host of National Public Radio's Performance Today. Prior to that he served for a dozen years at WETA-fm, the NPR affiliate in Washington, D.C., as producer, announcer, and music director. He lives in Maryland with his wife, Amy Roach.
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".