Robert Arthur Neff
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Geisteswissenschaften, Kunst, Musik / Geschichte
In less-conflicted times they might never have met, but as Germany lurched toward World War II many lives were forced to change direction. Dieter is the orphaned son of a music professor and one of that teacher’s pupils. His father had been killed in World War I and his mother died in the influenza pandemic of 1917, leaving the young man as a ward of the music school where he had been born. There he played the piano for gratuities and earned the favor of older boys in the school dormitory by sharing their bunk space, until an edict closing the Jewish-managed school evicted him into pre-war Berlin. Dieter became the resident “piano man” in a pub favored by students and Nazi military personnel. Sofie is the indulged daughter of a prominent Wehrmacht general, and a graduate music student at Berlin’s finest university. She serves as her father’s hostess in his elegant home on Wilhelmstrasse, which is frequented by prominent leaders of the Third Reich. Sofie enjoys the new popular music being written and performed in America – but banned from most German halls. She and her fellow students regularly visit the pub where Sofie is attracted to Dieter. This leads to an invitation to Dieter to tune her piano in the Wilhelmstrasse residence, and an unlikely alliance is formed between the two young people. They learn that each had a Jewish mother; Dieter’s is deceased and Sofie’s remains in her native Poland where she is a senior operative of the SSW, Poland’s European intelligence-gathering network. When The Oster Conspiracy, an attempt on Hitler’s life by some of his military officers, is uncovered, the blanket of suspicion comes dangerously close to Sofie’s father and the young couple is forced to flee secretly to Prague, Czechoslovakia. There they are relatively safe until a minor Gestapo operative becomes suspicious of their identity and begins to delve into their backgrounds. With her father’s help, Sofie relocates to France where she enjoys success as a cabaret singer. Dieter, assisted by Gypsies and two female SSW members, manages to elude capture several times, earning him the inaccurate identity of a mysterious super spy. Eventually his luck runs out; he is captured and imprisoned in Germany’s most unusual concentration camp, Theresienstadt, where the Reich makes a great public display of the talents in “The Village Hitler Gave to the Jews”. This story might never have been known except that Dieter recorded it faithfully in writing on the backs of music sheets during his four years in Theresienstadt and then smuggled it out with the help of Gypsies and one of the SSW women. It reached Sofie’s mother in wartime London, where the SSW continued as part of the exiled Polish government. Dieter recounts the intrigues and horrors of the Nazi movement, but also the determination of many non-political people to continue their lives below the tempest. He wrote it for Sofie’s eyes, in case their lives never united again, but it serves as a testimonial for all readers of one of the most troubled yet fascinating decades in modern history. While Dieter and Sofie are fictional, many of the personalities with whom they interact were real; the historical events presented are accurate and the music they perform together was the entertainment currency of that era.
Wehrmacht, Jazz Music, Gypsies, World War II, Gestapo, Theresienstadt Concentration Camp, Nazi Germany, Oster Conspiracy, cabaret singer, Third Reich, spy thriller, Hitler, Romance, Mystery