Reconnecting with family history via opera broadcast during the Holocaust

Posted on: May 5, 2016

“I am listening to the love duet from Act II of Wagner’s ‘Tristan and Isolde’ in a 1943 recording, with Max Lorenz and Paula Buchner as the doomed lovers,” writes Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim in Thursday’s (5/5) New York Times. “Someone put up a clip of it on YouTube…. For me, it is a portal into my family’s history, to a cold April Sunday in 1944 in the Buchenwald concentration camp. My grandfather, Hermann da Fonseca-Wollheim, a doctor and at the time a political prisoner, had recently been transferred there…. Six weeks later he was dead of acute dysentery.… What … set me on the search that brought me to the vintage recording of ‘Tristan,’ was a single line [in a letter he wrote that April to my grandmother]: ‘Tonight at six I will listen to the Furtwängler concert on the radio…. Why don’t you, too, turn on the radio on Sundays, so we can think of each other fervently.’ … A glance at the program for spring 1944 shows that … [the] second act from ‘Tristan’ … aired the day of my grandfather’s letter…. However temporarily, music could offer some solace.”

Posted May 5, 2016