Beethoven in the Bunker: Musicians Under the Nazi Regime (Hardcover)
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This compelling survey examines the remarkable relationship between the Nazis and classical music through the stories of musicians, composers, and conductors across the political spectrum.
May 1945. A Soviet military patrol searches Hitler’s secret bunker in Berlin. They find bodies, documents, jewelry, paintings—and also an extensive collection of 78 rpm records. It comes as no surprise that this collection includes work by Beethoven, Wagner, and Bruckner. The same goes for a procession of other giants promoted by the Nazi regime: “It seems as if the Nazis put a steel helmet on Mozart, girded Schubert with a saber, and wrapped barbed wire around Johann Strauss’s neck,” composer Robert Stolz once said. But how is it possible that Hitler’s favorites also included “forbidden” Jewish and Russian composers and performers?
While Hitler sat secretly enjoying previously recorded music in his bunker, musicians made of flesh and blood were denied a means of making a living. They died in concentration camps or in other war-related circumstances. They survived but ended up in psychiatric care; they managed to flee just in time; they sided with the regime—out of conviction or coercion—or they joined the resistance. From fiery conductor Arturo Toscanini, who defied Mussolini and Hitler, to opportunistic composer Richard Strauss and antisemitic pianist Elly Ney, who collaborated with the Third Reich to varying extents and for different reasons, Fred Brouwers profiles the complex figures of this extraordinarily fascinating chapter in music history.
About the Author
Fred Brouwers is a Flemish radio and television presenter and connoisseur of classical music. For many years he has hosted the prestigious Queen Elisabeth Competition in Brussels, Belgium, for up-and-coming classical musicians. Beethoven in the Bunker is his first book to appear in English.
Eileen J. Stevens earned her MA in linguistics with a specialization in translation from the University of Amsterdam. Her translation credits include Anna Enquist’s The Homecoming and a co-translation (with Anna Asbury) of Connie Palmen’s Your Story, My Story, which was nominated for the Dublin Literary Award. She has also translated numerous essays on classical music and the arts. A graduate of the Hartt School of Music, Stevens played the violin in a Dutch orchestra for twenty-five years before turning her attention to literary translation.
“[An] intriguing study…Brouwers’s love of music and fascination with the era come through.” —Publishers Weekly
“A fascinating collection of historical glimpses, curated and examined, with palpable enthusiasm, by a man who has passionately served and studied music for most of his life. Beethoven in the Bunker preserves important stories: stories of bravery and activism, stories of unforgivable racism, and stories of lives that very same racism banished to obscurity. A must-read for music lovers, history buffs, and anyone seeking to understand our collective past.” —Arianna Warsaw-Fan Rauch, author of Declassified: A Low-Key Guide to the High-Strung World of Classical Music
“At a time when tribalism, nationalism, and authoritarianism are back on the front burner worldwide, the translation of Fred Brouwers’s heart-wrenching book could not be more timely, for the dogs of war, once again, froth at the mouth. The Flemish author’s crisply written accounts of the trials and tribulations of classical musicians, composers, and conductors under Nazism are also about the importance culture has in building our humanity, and about how politics at their very worst seek to tear up what makes us humane, and even human.” —Michaël Amy, Professor of Art History, Rochester Institute of Technology