The Ghetto Swinger by Coco Schumann

The Ghetto Swinger Coco SchumannThe Ghetto Swinger
A Berlin Jazz-Legend Remembers

By Coco Schumann

With Max Christian Graeff and Michaela Haas
Translated by John Howard
Afterword by Michael H. Kater

2016. Hardcover. 192 pages with 55 illustrations and an index.
9780983254041
$24.95 | US and Canada

Buy this book!

“Germany’s most famous swing guitarist.”
– Deutsche Welle International Broadcast Network

The Ghetto Swinger is a poignant, sobering, and at turns humorous account of a vibrant and soul-filled life in music.

Coco Schumann’s career as a jazz and swing musician spans more than seventy years and is replete with honors. But for decades Schumann bore his wartime experiences as a Holocaust survivor in silence, with only the pleasure of composing music and performing for live audiences to ease the burden of his most haunting memories. In his memoir, Schumann recounts the vibrant underground club scenes of Berlin in the years surrounding World War II as well as providing backstage glimpses into Berlin’s famous nightlife, where he shared the stage with such jazz notables as Helmut Zacharias, Tullio Mobiglia, Toots Thielemans, and American visitors like Louis Armstrong, Dizzy Gillespie and Ella Fitzgerald. At the same time, The Ghetto Swinger offers Schumann’s harrowing testimony from 1943–1945 about daily life inside Theresienstadt (Terezín) and Auschwitz, and provides readers with the important perspective of a Jewish Holocaust survivor who remained in Germany after the war.

In his home country, Schumann is a celebrated personality. But until now, his life story hasn’t been accessible to English-speaking audiences. Featuring rare photographs and an Afterword by Weimar- and Nazi-era culture scholar Michael H. Kater, The Ghetto Swinger is an engrossing historical document as much as it is a heartwarming memoir.

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PRESS AND PRAISE

Considered the first ever jazz electric guitarist in Germany, [Coco Schumann] played swing for years but was versatile enough to perform in much more commercial settings during the lean periods. He kept his memories of the prison camps mostly to himself for four decades. The Ghetto Swinger has Coco Schumann telling his story honestly, colorfully and with occasional humor. It is a fascinating [book] that is well worth discovering. Read more…
– Scott Yanow, L.A. Jazz Scene, March 1, 2017

DieZeit

Interview with Coco Schumann by Hanz Eck 
Die Zeit, October 29, 2015. Translated from the German and viewable in the original.

The Ghetto Swinger: The Incredible Story of Jazz Star Coco Schumann Who Played in Auschwitz For His Life by Michaela Haas
– Huffington Post, January 12, 2016

From his early enthusiasm for American jazz in Berlin cabarets to his membership of Terezin’s celebrated Ghetto Swingers and surviving Auschwitz through his music, to post-war appearances with the likes of Dizzy Gillespie, jazz remains a constant in a remarkable life story. […] Illustrated by a fascinating range of photographs.
– Ron Simpson, The Jazz RagJanuary 2016

It is rare and beautiful that someone can play with such sadness—and with such musical humor.
– Abendzeitung München 

The recently published, never-before translated book by “Coco” Schumann traces his journey from Berlin’s pre-war nightlife to a band in Auschwitz and back to Berlin – and doesn’t miss a beat. […] Look for this unusual book.
– 
Israel National News

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The Last Witnesses: Coco Schumann: “I didn’t want applause, I was in a concentration camp.”
Der Spiegel , May 2015, viewable in the original German.

His story is inspiring and profound, yet told with a youthful whimsy. Coco Schumann is the very best jazz guitarist you need to know.
– Book Bit with Doc Kirby, WTBF AM/FM 

An interesting and enlightening read. The passion and the clarity with which Schumann recalls his past experiences, playing with some of the greats, surviving World War II, his internment, are all very evident. I felt like I was listening to the gregarious great-uncle with stories almost too good to be true, other than the fact that they really are. This book very much feels like a conversation carried on between Schumann and anyone passionate about music.
– Reading for Sanity 

A spirited and colorful story about the art of humor, as well as the power of hope in circumstances where there is no hope. Even in the Auschwitz death camp music gave Schumann hope, and he gave it to others in the message of his music.
– Satakunnan Kansa

Why should you read this book? Coco Schumann takes you on a trip through his life and the history that surrounded it. This book not only gives a new perspective on World War Two, but provides a closer look at the jazz scene of the twentieth century as well. Schumann grabs your interest and lets you witness his beautiful, humorous and shocking experiences from up close.
– BLVD 

The reader is able to sense the tension between the author’s reluctance to speak of the horror and the simultaneous compulsion to bear witness.
The Jewish Book Council

Interview with coauthor Michaela Haas on “The Voice,” WQSC Charleston, SC March 1, 2016:

Read more:

Book review for The Ghetto Swinger by Rochel Sylvetsky
Israel National News (Arutz Shiva), March 16, 2016.

Jazz in Auschwitz – Coco Schumann Looks Back
Deutsche Welle, July 11, 2014. Feature article with video interview segments.

Coco Schumann – A Jazz Legend by Detlef Ott
VJAZZ, The Australian Jazz Museum’s magazine, May 2015. Feature article and collectible ephemera compiled by Ralph Powell.

Music in Hell by Ilario Tapio
Satakunnan Kansa (Saturday paper), Helsinki, March 7, 2016. Interview and feature in Finnish national newspaper, translated and viewable in the original.

Book review for The Ghetto Swinger by Jessica Heijmans
BLVD, May 4, 2016. Translated from Dutch and viewable in the original.

Drummer for the Nazis by Henk van Gelder
NRC Handelsblad, May 13, 2016. Translated from Dutch and viewable in the original.

Laughing Eyes by Thomas Winkler
The Atlantic Times, May 2009. Feature article on Coco Schumann.

Playing for My Life. Interview with Coco Schumann by Emilio Esbardo
Il Nuovo Berlinese, circa 1996, recently put online. Italian.

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The Critical “Dance of the Duck”: Berthold Klostermann interviews Coco Schumann on his 90th birthday.
Fono Forum, May 2014, viewable in the original German.

The Ghetto Swinger is Recommended Reading for 2016 in The San Diego Jewish Journal and The Jewish Ledger.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Coco Schumann, courtesy Proton Berlin

Coco Schumann, courtesy Proton Berlin

Coco Schumann was born in Berlin on May 14, 1924. Throughout his life, he has appeared in some of the best swing bands in Europe and alongside jazz notables like Ella Fitzgerald, Dizzy Gillespie, and Louis Armstrong. For years, he led his own quartet, was a composer and arranger, and taught at one of the most prestigious music conservatories in Berlin. He was the first musician in Germany to play electric guitar on stage and several times was named the best jazz guitarist in the country. His latest song collection appeared in 2014, and until his retirement later that year at 90 years old, Schumann was playing regularly in Berlin for packed crowds.

Recipient of the Order of Merit from the Federal Republic of Germany in 1989 and the Berlin Order of Merit in 2008, Schumann received the prestigious Ehrenpreise Lifetime Achievement Award from the German Record Critics in 2015.

Afterword by Michael H. Kater, a former professional jazz musician, who is Distinguished Research Professor of History Emeritus at York University in Toronto and a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada. He is the author of ten books, including Hitler Youth (Harvard 2004). His latest book is Weimar: From Enlightenment to the Present (Yale 2014).

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