Gui­tarist sur­vived Holo­caust with mu­sic

Weekend Argus (Sunday Edition) - - OBITUARIES -

COCO Schu­mann, a Ger­man jazz gui­tarist who per­formed along­side Ella Fitzger­ald and Mar­lene Di­et­rich dur­ing a decades-long mu­si­cal ca­reer, but who gave his most con­se­quen­tial per­for­mances as an in­mate of the Nazi con­cen­tra­tion camps where, he said, mu­sic saved his life, died on Jan­uary 28 in Ber­lin. He was 93.

Schu­mann’s death was re­ported by the Ger­man news agency DPA, which de­scribed him as “one of Ger­many’s most cel­e­brated jazz mu­si­cians”. The cause was not im­me­di­ately avail­able.

“The hu­man is a pe­cu­liar cre­ation,” Schu­mann once told an in­ter­viewer, re­flect­ing on his ex­pe­ri­ence dur­ing the Holo­caust.

“Un­pre­dictable and mer­ci­less. What we saw in those days was un­bear­able and yet we bore it. We played the tunes to it, for the sake of our bare sur­vival. We played mu­sic in hell.”

Schu­mann first heard and made mu­sic in what he called the “roar­ing” jazz scene of Ber­lin, where he was born Heinz Jakob Schu­mann on May 14, 1924. (A French girl­friend dubbed him

Coco.) The son of a Jewish mother and a fa­ther who had re­port­edly con­verted from Chris­tian­ity to Ju­daism, Schu­mann said he grew up cel­e­brat­ing Jewish as well as Chris­tian hol­i­days.

An un­cle gave him his first drum set, which Schu­mann played in Ber­lin cabarets un­til he had saved enough money to buy his first gui­tar.

But by the late 1930s, the Nazi govern­ment un­der Adolf Hitler had be­gun to sup­press jazz, which the regime con­demned as “de­gen­er­ate” be­cause of its as­so­ci­a­tion with Jewish and black com­posers and mu­si­cians.

Schu­mann, whose par­tial Jewish her­itage made him par­tic­u­larly vul­ner­a­ble to Nazi anti-Semitic per­se­cu­tion, nonethe­less con­tin­ued to per­form. Schu­mann was ul­ti­mately ar­rested in 1943, and sent to There­sien­stadt, the camp-ghetto in Cze­choslo­vakia. – Wash­ing­ton Post

Coco Schu­mann

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