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The Ghetto Swinger: A Berlin Jazz-Legend…

The Ghetto Swinger: A Berlin Jazz-Legend Remembers

by Coco Schumann

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This is a translation of Coco Schumann's, a Jazz guitar player during the early days of Jazz and Swing, autobiography. It was an interesting time in Berlin not only was this type of music starting to take hold so were the Nazi's.

I found Mr. Schumann's story so very interesting although there were parts that kind of drug for me just because I did not know any of the musicians that he mentions. The story of how he began playing at the age of 13 and how he survived the concentration camps was scary as well as amazing. He also tells of the lasting effects those years had on him. ( )
  Diane_K | Mar 12, 2017 |
The first half of this harrowing book covers life in Berlin and then the concentration camps.
Up to the time Coco was taken to Theresienstadt, life in Berlin was carefree, from his younger years and later in his teens, playing in the clubs and bars.
The pogroms etc., must have washed over him as though hecwas not involved. It must have been exciting, especially when playing "subversive" jazz.
The description of the conditions in Theresienstadt is horrific even though the Nazis portrayed it as a model camp when the Red Cross organisation came for an inspection.
The joy Coco experienced when finding a "cafe" with his kind of music emanating and joining the Ghetto Swingers, to the dumpling laying him low, was in stark contrastto seeing emaciated people and worst of all, two months later finding out that his grandparents who were there also were sent to Auschwitz-Birkenau.
Playing with the band made life in the camp easier to bear. In contrast descriptions of his journey to Auschwitz-Birkenau was hard to read. Even harder to read was the shock realisation of what was happening in the death camp.
The exterminating of Roma Gypsies to make way for Coco's intake was especially difficult to take in.
Until January 1945 they were on the move again, halting at various camps until they arrived in Wolfratshause in April 1945.
Eventually the American army arrived. Coco was sent to a sickbay and finally found his way back to Berlin where he met up with his parents, who by some miracle had survived the horrors of the war.
But best of all he was able to resume his playing career in the rubble of a broken city.
The second half concentrates on Coco's life travelling, getting married, forming his own band, mixing with famous people especially my all time favourite Ella Fitzgerald!
Back in Berlin Coco made his way slowly back entertaining and playing his music albeit morphing to more modern music.
Even after all the horrors and hardship that was perpetrated during the war the saddest part of this account was the incident in Bad Bevenson when people who were with Coco doubted all that had happened, insinuated that the "foreigners" were to blame and worst of all the postcard that was sent to uim.
I hope that these days this sort of behaviour has gone away.
I was given a digital copy of this book by the publisher via Netgalley in return for an honest unbiased review. ( )
  Welsh_eileen2 | Jan 23, 2016 |
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0983254044, Hardcover)

“From his early enthusiasm for American jazz in Berlin cabarets to his membership of Terezin’s celebrated Ghetto Swingers and surviving Auschwitz through his music, to post-war appearances with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, jazz remains a constant in a remarkable life story. […] Illustrated by a fascinating range of photographs.”
– The Jazz Rag (UK)

“It is rare and beautiful that someone can play with such sadness—and with such musical humor.”
– Abendzeitung München (Germany)

“The recently published, never-before translated book by “Coco” Schumann traces his journey from Berlin’s pre-war nightlife to a band in Auschwitz and back to Berlin – and doesn’t miss a beat. […] Look for this unusual book.”
– Israel National News

“An interesting and enlightening read. The passion and the clarity with which Schumann recalls his past experiences, playing with some of the greats, surviving World War II, his internment, are all very evident. I felt like I was listening to the gregarious great-uncle with stories almost too good to be true, other than the fact that they really are. This book very much feels like a conversation carried on between Schumann and anyone passionate about music.”
– Reading for Sanity (USA)

“A spirited and colorful story about the art of humor, as well as the power of hope in circumstances where there is no hope. Even in the Auschwitz death camp music gave Schumann hope, and he gave it to others in the message of his music.”
– Satakunnan Kansa (Finland)

“Why should you read this book? Coco Schumann takes you on a trip through his life and the history that surrounded it. This book not only gives a new perspective on World War Two, but provides a closer look at the jazz scene of the twentieth century as well. Schumann grabs your interest and lets you witness his beautiful, humorous and shocking experiences from up close.”
– BLVD (The Netherlands)

Coco Schumann’s career as a jazz and swing musician spans more than seventy years and is replete with honors. But for decades Schumann bore his wartime experiences as a Holocaust survivor in silence, with only the pleasure of composing music and performing for live audiences to ease the burden of his most haunting memories. In his memoir, Schumann recounts the vibrant underground club scenes of Berlin in the years surrounding World War II as well as providing backstage glimpses into Berlin’s famous nightlife, where he shared the stage with such jazz notables as Helmut Zacharias, Tullio Mobiglia, Toots Thielemans, and American visitors like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. At the same time, The Ghetto Swinger offers Schumann’s harrowing testimony from 1943-1945 about daily life inside Theresienstadt (Terezín) and Auschwitz, and provides readers with the important perspective of a Jewish Holocaust survivor who remained in Germany after the war.

In his home country, Schumann is a celebrated personality. But until now, his life story hasn’t been accessible to English-speaking audiences. Featuring rare photographs and an Afterword by Weimar- and Nazi-era culture scholar Michael H. Kater, The Ghetto Swinger is an engrossing historical document as much as it is a heartwarming memoir.

(retrieved from Amazon Tue, 30 Aug 2016 09:56:37 -0400)

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