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The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany Paperback – August 1, 2001

4.7 out of 5 stars 99 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Writing this book must have required enormous courage; reading it is overwhelming, especially for anyone personally connected to the events it describes. Martin Goldsmith, best known as the host of NPR's Performance Today, is the American-born son of two German-Jewish musicians who escaped the Holocaust. He anchors the Holocaust to the story of his own family, whom he never knew because most of them perished in Hitler's death camps. Goldsmith accompanies them through their lives in Nazi Germany, with its ever-tightening persecution and repression of the Jews, and on their nightmarish journey to the gas chambers. He follows his parents through their early musical training, their blossoming love, courtship, and marriage--making them seem like a normal, happy young couple--to their miraculous rescue and escape to America.

The book's linchpin is the Jewish Culture Association ("Jüdische Kulturbund"), in whose Berlin orchestra his parents met. Established by prominent Jewish leaders in 1933, after a "purge" of all Jewish Civil Servants, the Kulturbund flourished for eight years, with the permission and under the constant, increasingly repressive surveillance of the Nazis, who exploited it as a propaganda tool. Spreading from Berlin to other cities, its musical and theatrical presentations, lectures, and films offered employment to thousands of Jewish artists and the only cultural oasis to its Jewish audiences. In 1941, Germany's preoccupation with the war and the "Final Solution" rendered it superfluous, and it was dissolved.

But Goldsmith also furnishes the proper historical context for his uniquely individual, human account of the 20th century's most inhuman period. After a chillingly detailed description of the grass-roots rise of Nazism, he focuses on particularly horrifying events: the infamous 1935 Nuremberg Laws and the devastating 1938 pogrom, "Kristallnacht." The tragedy of the 937 refugees, including Goldsmith's grandfather and uncle, who were refused disembarkation first in Cuba, then in Miami, illustrates the world's customary indifference to "other" people's misfortunes. Nobody paid attention when, as early as 1922, Hitler declared that his first priority on coming to power would be the extermination of the Jews.

Goldsmith's factual, reportorial style increases the sickening horror, and he reminds us frequently that he is writing about his own family. Though his story's outcome is never in doubt, he generates real suspense--a measure of his skill, despite his unfortunate habit of hinting at the future. The Kulturbund has been accused of encouraging the Jews to ignore the desperate circumstances outside the theater, and therefore the imminence of their danger. Goldsmith refutes this. For most of them, emigration was impossible because, apart from the natural fear of pulling up roots, leaving everything behind, and starting a new life, they had nowhere to go. Moreover, how could anyone foresee the depth of the impending horror? It was, and still is, beyond the human imagination.

Goldsmith writes with insight and aching honesty about the survivors' guilt and its numbing effect even upon the next generation. But his parents also taught him to love music and appreciate its meaning in people's lives, and he talks about it with real knowledge and understanding. (However, someone should have corrected his opening reference to Siegmund's sword in Die Walküre, which is made of steel, not gold.) This is a brilliantly written, important, unforgettable book. --Edith Eisler --This text refers to the Digital edition.

From Publishers Weekly

As much a tribute to the power of music as it is a Holocaust memoir, this bookAwritten by Goldsmith, the former host of NPR's Performance TodayAtells a deeply affecting story of a love that survived the terrors of WWII. The lovers in question are Goldsmith's parents: G?nther, 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. An organization that performed at the pleasure of Joseph Goebbels's Ministry of Information and Propaganda, the Kulturbund hired Jewish artists (forbidden to play in German orchestras) to present concerts, plays and lectures for solely Jewish audiences from 1933 to 1941. Drawing creatively from historical documents and family memories, Goldsmith's story suggests that the Kulturbund was both a lifesaver and a cultural refuge for JewsAbut it was also a Nazi smokescreen that gave German Jews a false sense of security. In engagingly reflective prose, Goldsmith tells the story of this institution and recounts how his father jeopardized his life by returning from Sweden, where he had fled, to be with Rosalie in Germany. The two married and finally migrated together to the U.S. in 1941. But other family members did not fare as well. Goldsmith's paternal grandfather and uncle were passengers on the St. Louis, the ship that sailed from Germany to Cuba only to be turned away; both died in concentration camps. 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. B&w photos. (Sept.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Digital edition.
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 352 pages
  • Publisher: Wiley; 1 edition (August 1, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0471078646
  • ISBN-13: 978-0471078647
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1 x 8.9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 15.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (99 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #385,397 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
National Public Radio listeners have known Martin Goldsmith for years as the friendly, reassuring voice of "Performance Today." Encyclopedically knowledgeable about classical (and rock) music, Goldsmith has a relaxed and comfortable on-air style that helps to make classical music more accessible to broad audiences. That same style is found in "The Inextinguishable Symphony," helping to make another complex subject - the Holocaust - more accessible to audiences both familiar and unfamiliar with it.
But this isn't just "another book about the Holocaust." Nor is it about tragically anonymous victims. It is instead about Goldsmith's parents - Gunther, a flutist, and Rosemarie, a violist - who meet and charmingly fall in love in Nazi Germany in the `30s, as well as about Grandfather Alex and Uncle Helmut and other family members and friends, each of whom Goldsmith makes real and sympathetic through his rich, exquisitely detailed, and heartbreakingly honest narrative. These are people that the reader comes to care about deeply, and we celebrate - and in some cases grieve - their fates. Goldsmith is a helluva storyteller.
But the book is also not just a love story (Gunther literally does risk his life for his young sweetheart) or merely an author's purely personal journey in search of his own roots. Through the vehicle of his remarkable parents' own individual stories, Goldsmith explores the only-dimly known, but fascinating, story of the Judische Kulturbund - the Jewish Culture Association - to which Jewish musicians, actors, and others were artistically exiled in Nazi Germany.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is a story of love, family and music told against the backdrop of the Nazi era. This is a moving story about the author's family and how they endured the hardships as Jews in Germany through their love of music.I have read many books on the holocaust and I find this book to be one of the most moving and touching. It's impossible to read this book without shedding a tear. It is a great story, and I truly recommend this book.
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Format: Hardcover
This was a wonderful experience of survival. I was propelled into the lives of my "relatives" at a time in our recent past ... all historically true!
The book was gripping, I could not put it down. Memories of Victor Frankle's quote of Fredrick Nitche "He who has a 'why' to live for, can conquer any 'how'", as he survived from within the concentration camp, are repeated as these lovers flourish from "outside" of the that horror.
A story of a son's relationship to his parents, and their passion and discovery of each other. Thank you to the Goldsmith family!!!
A place of honor in my library!
-Craig Levine lotusnotesclp@kfwbmail.com
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Format: Hardcover
Martin Goldsmith has done the world a favor. Not only is this book compelling reading, the story it tells is one that everyone on the planet needs to know so that such abominations never again occur. Goldsmith has brought to life a courage of spirit, not to mention the power of music and culture to endure, which should resonate throughout humanity. If he never does another thing but write this book, he will have done a great service. The story of his family's experiences in the Kulturbund as well as in the concentration camps is both uplifting and heart rending. Goldsmith reminds us that freedom is a precious commodity, and so are compassion and kindness, not to mention music, which enhances the soul.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read other accounts of the holocaust. This one moved me the most deeply, perhaps because the author displays the courage to depict everyone - both the Nazis and the suffering individuals - with frankness and candor. His grandfather was a "rat" and a philanderer who left his faithful wife behind to die when he fled Germany with another woman. The many complexities and flaws of the head of the Kulturbund are also explored. Mr. Goldsmith's depiction of Jews as complex humans with foibles and flaws - not perfect humans suffering at the hands of the evil Nazis - endows this book with an extra measure of honesty that makes its tale much more moving. I also find it a troubling book. Confronted with Nazism, Germany's Jews could fall back on a rich tradition of art and music to unite them and foster their spirits. In America today, if we faced such a threat, what would uplift any of us, both Jews and non-Jews like myself? Nintendo? The Gap? We have gained a lot in America, but what have we lost?
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Format: Hardcover
As a daughter of Holocaust survivors, I was completely captivated by this book. Up to now I found it extremely difficult to read materials related to the Holocaust. It just felt "too close to home." Now that I see my own children growing up filled with musical talent, I wonder about our deceased relatives and what talents were buried with them. Mr. Goldsmith writes so beautifully, and allows me to finally understand much of what had occurred in that terrible time. He gives my mother's inner silent pain a "voice." Thank you so much.
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