Alma Rose Vienna to Auschwitz Kindle È Rose Vienna to

Part family biography part European and Holocaust history this book traces the life of violinist Alma Rosé along with that of other members of her illustrious musical family from her birth in 1906 in one of the world's foremost cultural capitals to her death in a Nazi extermination camp in 1944 It will be particularly fascinating and wrenching to anyone with similar roots Alma was the niece of the famous composer and conductor Gustav Mahler at the time director of the Vienna Opera and the daughter of Arnold Rosé concertmaster of the Opera Orchestra and the Vienna Philharmonic and leader of his own renowned string quartet Her older brother Alfred became a noted pianist conductor composer and teacher Alma named after her aunt and godmother Alma Mahler was taught by her father and both inspired and intimidated by the family's musical tradition she became a fairly successful violinistIn 1930 she established a girls' orchestra called the Viennese Waltz Girls with which she toured throughout Europe as conductor and soloist and which surprisingly had her austere father's blessing because of the high quality of the playing Her marriage to the famous dashing Czech violin virtuoso Vása Príhoda soon ended in heartbreak and divorce Disaster struck in 1938 when Hitler annexed Austria whose population welcomed him enthusiastically the country's always latent anti Semitism erupted swiftly and violently Though the Rosé family were completely assimilated and had even converted to Christianity Arnold immediately lost his orchestra position and pension His wife was ill and died that year leaving him stranded financially and emotionally Alfred and his wife managed to flee to Holland England and eventually Canada where he died in 1975 Alma mistakenly thought she was protected by the Czech passport gained through her marriage With dauntless determination and with the help of old friends including the famous violinist Carl Flesch she got her father and herself to England only months before the outbreak of World War II The Rosé Quartet's cellist and former principal of the Vienna Philharmonic Friedrich Buxbaum had arrived there earlier he later joined the re formed quartetSo far Alma's story parallels my own Born in Vienna 20 years later to musical parents who encouraged my violin studies I grew up near enough the Rosé house to encounter the illustrious concertmaster not only on stage but on the streetcar We witnessed Hitler's triumphant arrival but our Czech passports enabled us to escape to Czechoslovakia When Hitler caught up with us in 1939 we too managed with the help of friends to get to England just before the war A few years later I was thrilled to be the violinist in a trio with the venerable Buxbaum who still played with the facility and tone of a man half his age Here the resemblance ends While we survived the war in England and ultimately came to America Alma was tempted by performing opportunities to leave the comparative security of England for Holland where her career flourished and she earned enough money to help her father She was still fulfilling engagements when the Germans overran Belgium and the Netherlands her efforts to get back to England or join her brother in America failed Staying with friends she was almost picked up by the Nazis despite a hastily arranged marriage to an Aryan Dutchman and in 1942 she went into hiding tried to get into Switzerland but was betrayed arrested and deported to Auschwitz Birkenau From here on the story takes on a surreal character Shortly after her arrival at what has been called a wound in the order of being it was discovered that Alma was a violinist and in a grotesque replay of her past she was asked to take over a poor threadbare musical ensemble of women inmates By sheer courage fortitude and determination she turned this motley group into a viable orchestra training and coaching the players arranging music for its ill matched instrumental makeup from mandolins to sopranos and driving herself and her musicians to exhaustion Gaining unprecedented stature and exploiting some of the most brutal camp functionaries' love of music she saved her musicians from the gas chambers and also obtained some favors and privileges for them Forty years later one of them said that there is not a day when she does not remember Alma and thank her Alma herself succumbed to an undiagnosed illness which deepened the mystery surrounding herAuthor Richard Newman made friends with Alfred Rosé and his wife in Canada in 1946 The impetus for writing this book was the publication of a memoir called 'Playing for Time' by Fania Fénelon a singer with Alma's orchestra which gives a very harsh portrayal of her Newman's search for the real Alma lasted 22 years and took him around the world His sources are family letters interviews and correspondence with family friends and surviving members of the orchestra lending the book an overwhelming immediacy and authenticity Included are Mahler and Rosé family trees many pages of photographs a map of Auschwitz Birkenau and a list of the orchestra players The section dealing with camp life and death is written in an unemotional reportorial style full of facts and figures That approach may have saved Newman's own sanity and by its incongruity with the grisly content it both blunts and heightens the impact of the indescribable unimaginable details it recounts This is a book to numb the mind and sear the soul Edith Eisler

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