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The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany
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The Inextinguishable Symphony: A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany

4.17  ·  Rating Details ·  638 Ratings  ·  82 Reviews
In the spring of 1933, more than 8,000 Jewish musicians, actors, and other artists were expelled from their positions with German orchestras, opera companies, and theater groups. Later that year, the Jdische Kulturbund, or Jewish Cultural Association, was created to allow Jewish artists to perform for Jewish audiences. Here is the riveting and emotional story of Gunther Go ...more
Paperback, 352 pages
Published August 1st 2001 by Wiley (first published 2000)
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Apr 29, 2013 Carol rated it it was amazing
5 stars, not so much for the writing, though it was good, but for the sheer persistence of the author, Martin Goldsmith to bare the roots and expose the branches of the tree that grew in his living room. This tree, which Goldsmith used metaphorically like families of alcoholics use the elephant plagued his childhood. I understand it. My mother lost her first husband in World War II. She married my father and never spoke much about her first love but I knew, just like Goldsmith knew, there was a ...more
Steve Kettmann
May 02, 2010 Steve Kettmann rated it it was amazing
Here is my review of this wonderful book from the San Francisco Chronicle in 2001:

The Night Jewish Musicians Played Mahler Amid Nazi Terror
Reviewed by Steve Kettmann


A True Story of Music and Love in Nazi Germany

By Martin Goldsmith

John Wiley & Sons; 352 pages; $24.95

The Holocaust has hovered on the perip
Jun 18, 2008 Karen rated it it was amazing
"Where there is life, there is spirit. And where there is spirit, where there is even one human soul, there is music." P. 282 "And I am so proud of them [his parents] and so grateful to them for showing me what is truly important, for showing me that you must love the people and things that are important to you and that you must sometimes risk everything for that love. There is no finer lesson for parents to teach their children." P. 248 "Silence in the face of crimes committed may be regarded a ...more
Jan 19, 2013 Jeanette rated it really liked it
Wow! This book was so interesting. The author tells the story of his parents and their participation as musicians in the Jewish Culture Association during the time of Nazi Germany leading up to WWII, and how their participation in the Association most-likely saved their lives. The book is interesting because it is so many different types of books at once. A little bit of it is like this man's personal memoirs. Part of it is tracing his family history back a few generations. Some of it talks abou ...more
Apr 30, 2011 Valerie rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: Debbie, Gail
Recommended to Valerie by: crazy random happenstance
Shelves: shoa
This incredible story underscores the importance of happenstance in our lives. Martin Goldsmith tells the story of his parents, and grandparents and how music saved some of them. But in doing so he tells the more insidious story of how that same music may have doomed other Jews. By giving an air of normalcy to Nazi decrees, by continuing to put on the Kulturebund, did those artists unknowingly give a degree of consent to what was happening around them? Nowhere does Mr. Goldsmith suggest that the ...more
Dec 14, 2015 William rated it liked it
This is quite a moving story of the author's family escaping (in some cases not escaping) from the Nazis, of love of music, and many other great elements. So it really has no excuse for being SO BORING! I'm talking about the audiobook here, which was read by the author, who reads in a very soothing way that makes you just want to sleep. He's an NPR contributor, so you know the kind of voice. But the story itself is so slow-paced. Maybe the author was too close to the material, since it's about h ...more
A different take on the Jewish experience prior to WWII from a man whose parents belonged to the Kulturbund, a cultural refuge of sorts. Goldman intersperses a history of his family (and what he can piece together of the missing parts) with the history of the Kulturbund, resulting in a slower-paced, but still fascinating look at an aspect of Nazi Germany that I hadn't encountered before. The view into the machinations and propaganda that actually supported the artists (including musicians, dance ...more
Apr 28, 2012 Laurie rated it it was amazing
Beautifully written, this is a true story written by a son (NPR music expert) about his parents and their experience as Jewish musicians in Nazi Germany. The book starts with Gunther and Rosemarie as budding musicians in Germany during the very beginnings of the Nazi rule, and their involvement in the Nazi approved Jewish Orchestra which kept them alive. This book gives new insight into how Hitler's rule slowly and steadily crept into the lives of German Jews, against the background of timeless ...more
Mar 15, 2010 Dolores rated it really liked it
A beautiful love story, a testimony to the power and solace of music, and a beautiful tribute to Martin Goldsmith's parents. This book could open up meaningful discussions about the power of unbridled hate, the importance of love, and the need for each person to have something bigger than himself to hang on in the face of fear and hardship. It illuminated a chapter in the story of the Holocaust that is not well-known.
Jan 10, 2017 Masha added it
Shelves: book-clubs, nonfic, 2016
I wrote the following Book Club Discussion Questions on this book:

1. Carl Nielsen, composer of “The Inextinguishable Symphony,” is quoted as saying “Music is life, and like life, inextinguishable.”
a. What role does music play in your life?
b. Did you connect with the classical music descriptions and references in the book?
c. Do you think life is inextinguishable?
2. Goldsmith describes an enormous tree that grew in his house when he was growing up – the fate of his parents’ families.
a. Why does he
Jul 09, 2014 Laura rated it it was amazing
Martin Goldsmith's "The Inextinguishable Symphony is alternately inspiring, horrifying, very moving, and terribly sad. Goldsmith's book is both a biography of his parents, Jewish musicians who performed in Germany in the 1930s and early 1940s and a history of an organization called the Judische Kulturbund, a cultural organization created by German Jews and sanctioned by the Nazis as a way to keep German cultural activities "pure" while reaping the propaganda benefits of allowing German Jews to h ...more
Oct 16, 2012 Erin rated it liked it
This was the very first book that I added to my wish list back in August, 2001. Eleven years later I finally picked it up from the library. It seemed like the perfect combination for me - memoir, historically based, premise hinging on amazing coincidences, and across the board strong reviews. Unfortunately with all this expectation, it fell a bit short for me but was still an interesting read. This is the true story of two young Jewish musicians in Germany during the rise of Hitler an ...more
Oct 21, 2014 Andrea rated it it was amazing
Haunting and unforgettable, this book details an aspect of the Nazi era in Germany that I never knew of--that is, the lives of Jewish musicians in Germany. Fired from their jobs in various orchestras early in the 1930's, they participated in all-Jewish orchestras established in the various cities and overseen by the Nazis; Many great musicians and conductors spent the 1930's in this way, including a local Cincinnatian, the late Henry Meyer, whom we all knew from the renowned LaSalle Quartet. Mey ...more
Neil Pierson
Jun 17, 2014 Neil Pierson rated it liked it
In the late 1930s, the German government was still somewhat conscious of its image in the world. The Nazis authorized formation of a Jewish cultural organization called, for short, the Kubu. They intended it to be a PR tool to counter reports of antisemitism.

The Kubu's Jewish founders leveraged power and turf wars within the government to create an organization that employed Jewish artists to perform concerts, plays, and readings for Jewish audiences--but under close supervision. It was a way fo
May 18, 2009 Linda rated it it was amazing
Martin Goldsmith, former host of NPR’s Performance Today, has written a sobering and wonderful book about his parents. They were fellow musicians whose love affair and early-married life are set against the growing anti-Semitism of Nazi Germany. Gunter Goldschmidt, a flutist, and Rosemarie Gumpert, a violinist, met as members of the Judische Kulturbund, or Jewish Cultural Organization. The group, sanctioned by the Nazis, was made up of Jewish artists performing for Jewish audiences. The number o ...more
Sep 13, 2011 Paula rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: reviewed
It is a true story of music and love. But the story that stays with me is the story of the tree in the middle of the house, the story Martin begins and ends with - a story of guilt, and sorrow, and betrayal. The fact that Martin's parents can do nothing to save their own families; the fact that our own country turned away a boat load of refugees on our own shore, many of whom ended up, like Gunther's father and brother, in the very camps they fled. The other part of that tree that casts a shado ...more
Len Knighton
May 29, 2013 Len Knighton rated it it was amazing
This is one of the best books I have read in the past 10 years, perhaps ever. It is the wonderful story of Goldsmith's parents; a love story set in the midst of the hate of Nazi Germany. It is the story, not only of love between 2 remarkable people, but their love for music and their desire to share that love with their fellow Jews under impossible conditions.
Adding to the beauty of the book is Goldsmith's descriptions of the various pieces played in these concerts, played by Jews for Jews only
May 04, 2016 Barbara rated it really liked it
I don't know how my daughter reads so many books about the Holocaust. They leave me despressed and discouraged.

The author of this book is married to a woman I hike with. We're doing it as a book club selection and the author is coming to our discussion in 2 months. It should be an interesting discussion. It's such a personal account of life in Nazi Germany and the effect living through persecution has on family members.

I haven't read a whole lot of Holocaust literature, but this one certainly ad
Jan 26, 2010 Bonni rated it liked it
I only took 5 months to read this book, but I got through it! I was drawn to the book because I loved the title. That's just the romantic side of me. The book itself, however, is not very romantic. It is more of a history of music and culture in Nazi Germany and the experiences of one couple (including their families). Much of what I read was new information for me. I had not previously know about the Jewish Kulturbund nor its members. I would place this book more in the history category rather ...more
Nov 16, 2007 Gary rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is, without a doubt, the BEST book I've ever read. Martin Goldsmith is the former classical music host on NPR, who learned his love of music through his parents...two Jewish musicians who grew up in Germany in 1920s. He wrote the book after taking his father to visit the Holocaust museum in DC. It's the story of his family, beginning with his grandparents and following his parents through their young lives and how they meet, through their courtship, marriage, etc. What makes it most interes ...more
Sabrina Harvey
Aug 30, 2011 Sabrina Harvey rated it really liked it
For people who are interested in music and in Jews in Nazi Germany, this is a great story. The primary focus this book is the experience of the author's parents, both talented musicians, as Germany begins its persecution of Jews. Before this book I had never heard of the Kulturbund, an all-Jewish arts organization used by German leaders to control Jews and appease the international community. In spite of the increasing pressure on Jews, the Kulturbund thrived for many years, supported by many ta ...more
Jan 16, 2010 Rachel rated it liked it
Shelves: non-fiction, wwii, 2010
Wow. This book is an amazing picture of yet another part of life in Germany during the 1930s. It's about two young Jewish musicians and their experiences in the face of Nazism. The most interesting part for me was the story of the Kulturbund, which was basically a Jewish theatre/music/culture association operating under the auspices of the Nazis. It's an amazing story, especially reading about the performances of Mahler's massive Resurrection Symphony by an all-Jewish group in Berlin in 1941. It ...more
Jul 21, 2010 Shannon rated it liked it
Biographies of people make history come alive. And history comes alive in all its ugliness and tragedy in some of their stories. As a musician, I loved reading of the way that music became a lifesaver for some Jews in Nazi Germany, a way out for others, a channel through which to speak the emotions that they could not or dared not put into words, an inspiration when life was dark. Music is all that. This book reveals a facet of life then and there that the history books don't delve into. It's a ...more
Jan 25, 2011 Devon rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Dec 08, 2008 Ann rated it really liked it
Recommends it for: definitely
Recommended to Ann by: a friend
Set through the eyes of his father, Martin Goldsmith, presents his mothers and fathers experiences as Jewish musicians during the Nazi years. Their rights are slowly taken from them, hours to go to the store, schools that accepted them could no longer, etc. It was presented in such a thoughtful and first hand way. It was a difficult on the one hand to read because of the subject matter but it was also such a page turner. I recommend it highly. This is life in the cities, not in the concentration ...more
Nov 29, 2009 Jessica rated it it was amazing
This was an excellent book. Of course it goes without saying that it is sad (it takes place in Nazi Germany), but I learned so much from this book. It is about the Kubu, the cultural group formed in Nazi Germany when all of the Jews were forbidden from being in orchestras, acting, or even attending performances. The author's parents were part of the Kubu orchestra for 8 years. I learned so much about the timeline of events in Germany from the 1930 through 1941. The author is also has an amazing ...more
Aug 21, 2013 Debbie rated it it was ok
I was expecting "The Inextinguishable Symphony" to be a powerful book. Instead, it was a rather pale look at the lives of the author's parents in Nazi Germany. Parts if the book, particularly the end, were more of an editorial full of conjecture about what things really meant, not what he was told by those who actually experienced the events. I did learn some things about the arts among the Jews living in Nazi Germany, but I ultimately found the book far from emotionally moving. I would not reco ...more
Feb 28, 2015 Sandy rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Martin Goldsmith does an amazing job of describing life for German Jewish families in the years leading up to the Holocaust and provides insights on why the stayed in an increasingly hostile and evil country as well as a tender look at his parents' relationship as an oasis of love in a sea of hate. The story of the musicians and audiences is moving and powerfully demonstrates the indomitable human spirit to remain "normal" in even the most horrific of times. The unimaginable horrors of Kristelln ...more
Dec 09, 2008 Leslie rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This was a fantastic read!! I loved all the "extra" tidbits on info on the music and members of the Kubu. I could almost hear the music in my head!! It took me longer to read this than I usually take reading a book and at times it felt like a NPR program or text book; though it was in a good way. It was fascinating. Well researched and well written.

Any book about this subject can be a thick difficult read due to the subject matter BUT I feel it's important to remember those who suffered during
Cheryle Fisher
Jul 11, 2013 Cheryle Fisher rated it it was amazing
What a story!! It is unfathonable trying to figure out what the Nazi's thought. They wanted to eliminate the Jews and yet they wanted to present a "good face" to the world so they allowed a Jewish organization to flourish promoting the arts. This true story of two people who not only survived the Nazi regime, but were able to live the life of music they loved. Eventually they escape to America when many of their family and friends did not.
This era has always intrigued me. I am of German ancestry
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TFPL Book Posse: This topic has been closed to new comments. June_Inextinguishable Symphony 1 5 May 18, 2012 12:13PM  
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