The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2022

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NOV 2022 Issue
The Miraculous The Miraculous: Music

30. 1945, Paris

In the spring of 1945, the French government opens up three warehouses filled with pianos that have been stolen by the Germans, the vast majority from Jewish families, and invites the public to reclaim their instruments. In 1997, a French commission on looted Jewish property records 8,000 missing pianos, 2,221 of which were recovered by their owners or their descendants. Subsequently, an archivist studies the letters of 3,000 Parisians searching for their pianos in the immediate postwar period. She ascertains that thanks to the fact that most pianos have serial numbers, about half of owners were successful in their quest, but the experience of reading the letters is frequently heartbreaking. One elderly woman, identified by only her last name, writes to the French authorities in April 1945 describing how in June 1943, after her two daughters were denounced and deported, she had to go into hiding. The Nazis then stole the entire contents of her apartment, including her piano. The archivist reports that the woman’s efforts to recover her piano were unsuccessful, and that she never again heard from her two daughters.

(Caroline Piketty, Madame Roos)

Contributor

Raphael Rubinstein

Raphael Rubinstein is the author of The Miraculous (Paper Monument, 2014) and A Geniza (Granary Books, 2015). He is currently writing a book about the Jewish-Egyptian writer Edmond Jabès. A Professor of Critical Studies at the University of Houston School of Art, he divides his time between Houston and New York.

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The Brooklyn Rail

NOV 2022

All Issues