02 February 2011

2011 Books: The Inextinguishable Symphony by Martin Goldsmith

My goodness, am I ever on a roll for books this year.  First Driftless by David Rhodes, now The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany by Martin Goldsmith.  Both are books you should read (or hear, if you're doing audiobooks like me) soon.

Martin Goldsmith is the son of George and Rosemary Goldsmith, who were known in Germany as Günther and Rosemarie Goldschmidt, Jews from Oldenburg and Düsseldorf who were musicians in the Jüdischer Kulturbund (the Jewish Cultural Federation) until their escape to America in 1941.  The "Inextinguishable Symphony" of the title is both a poignant reference to his parents' enduring relationship, a reference to Danish composer Carl Nielsen's 4th Symphony, which was to open the fall 1941 Kulturbund season that never happened, and the will to live that can never be overcome, even by the worst of oppressors, murderers and genocides.

I'm finding it difficult to express the emotional impact of this book.  Certainly, one would never expect the atrocities committed under the Nazis to become commonplace, mundane, unremarkable, yet as I listened to Martin Goldsmith tell the story of his family (he reads the audiobook to which I listened) I found myself devastated over and over again by the sheer inhumanity of the Nazi regime.

But this is not just another Holocaust book (as if there ever could be such a thing).  It is a love story, a music story, the story of a people who were required to make agonizing decisions one should never have to make.  To stay and abide under a regime growing incrementally more despotic, in the hopes that one might outlast the despots?  To go, and abandon a country for whom one had previously bled?  Who should have to make these decisions?  Is there ever a right decision in such a case?

Martin Goldsmith is to be commended for his incredible book.  His writing is concise, honest and finds the proper balance between emotional connection and observational distance.  I will soon add this book to our bookcase at home, and can't recommend it strongly enough to you.

Grace & peace,

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