The cellist of Dachau


An acclaimed and ‘masterful’ novel of the Holocaust – the legacy that haunts us, and the music that binds us. In 1938, Otto Schalmik, a 19-year-old musician from a Jewish family in Vienna, is arrested by Nazi police. Transported to Dachau, he is summoned to the home of the camp’s Adjutant, who forces him to scrub the floors and play Bach on a priceless looted cello. In 1990s California, Otto, now a world-famous composer, and a young Australian musicologist, Rosa, discover the ways in which their lives are linked through music and history. Weaving together stories from both sides of Nazi Germany, ‘The Cellist Of Dachau’ explores the ongoing impact of war and the power of music as a transcending force to heal and rebuild lives.

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SKU: 9781909954885 Category: Tags: ,


Music transcends war trauma in this extraordinary novel that opens in 1938 Vienna when 19-year-old Jewish cellist Otto Shalmik is arrested with his father and interred at Dachau concentration camp. To remain sane, Otto approaches every task – from shoveling sand to cleaning the latrine – as rhythmic in his imagination. One day the Nazi Adjutant, Dieter Birchendorf, takes Otto to his home where he instructs him to play a coveted Stradivarius cello stolen from a Jewish family. Birchendorf’s pregnant wife Katja is a musician who is suffering idiopathic deafness, but he believes she will feel the vibrations as Otto plays. By 1943, Otto learns that his mother, sister and five-year-old niece have been imprisoned at Terezìn and later transferred to Auschwitz. Post-war, Otto travels to Toronto where he studies at the Royal Conservatory of Music and builds a career as a composer. In the 1994 present, he embraces a reclusive life in Big Sur, California where he agrees to be interviewed by Australian musicologist Rosa Little, who is hoping to secure his permission to become his biographer. Secrets connect the two strangers, ones that will change their lives. An important, aching, artful Holocaust novel.– The Toronto Star

Additional information

Weight 0.36 kg
Dimensions 19.8 × 12.7 × 2 cm