www.henrikeger.com

Mendelssohn does not live here anymore

Scene of a play

by

Henrik Eger, Germany and USA

eger@aol.com  

 
Setting: Germany, 1942.  First floor of a little farmhouse in Bavaria.  An efficiency, with a kitchen/living room, walls plastered with vintage sheet music and some letters in various colors.  Room is sparsely furnished with a small kitchen table (set against the wall) with fresh country flowers on it, two chairs, a bed and a large bookshelf above it, holding a German WWII radio, a simple wooden box with Alf’s letters, Hitler’s Mein Kampf, art books, and a Brockhaus (encyclopedia).  In one corner a large dowry chest with a nice country cloth thrown over it, and a beat-up old upright piano.  Sitting on top an elegant box, with inlaid roses in ivory or mother-of-pearl, coming from some very wealthy home, contrasting strikingly with the simple German oak country furniture in the farm room.

 

Gritt, a beautiful young woman, not very well-educated, but very musically talented, though mostly self-taught, playing famous piano music by heart.

 

Door opens, Gritt walks in.  Alf, handsome German officer in uniform, carrying a small leather suitcase,   walks in hesitantly because he’s blindfolded.  He enters the room and she twirls him around, very excited to have him back. 

 

Gritt

Welcome home, Alf.

 

Alf

Oh Gritt, you sweet girl, our first real home, even though I can only stay for a few days. 

 

Gritt

Every hour with you is a whole year of sunshine.

 

Alf

I feel the same way, but why have you darkened my sunshine and blindfolded me? (he laughs) I thought you were going to show me our new home?

 

Gritt

Well, I have a big surprise for you. 

 

Alf

Good. (he tries to grope here) Are you going to wear that Parisian lingerie from our wedding for me?  (he laughs)

 

Gritt

Sorry, that was last year.  Now we are building a home and I have decorated our room for you. 

 

He pays no attention to her; instead, although still blindfolded, he grabs her and twirls her around the way dancers would.  Both are deeply in love and very happy with each other. 

 

Alf

Let’s go to bed for a while first.  (He hugs her.)  I can’t see you, but I can smell how beautiful you are.  That’s my Guerlain, isn’t it? (they fall onto the bed, lightly making love, kissing, cuddling) 

 

Gritt

Yes, your favorite French perfume, but wait, wait, wait, it’s still early, and you haven’t even seen what I’ve done for you. (she jumps up and drags him from the bed) I want you to guess what design I have chosen for our walls.

 

Alf

All right, but after that, I want you to wallpaper me. 

 

Gritt

(laughs) Oh, stop it.  Now guess.

Alf

You bought wallpaper with my favorite flowers?  

Gritt

(playfully) Roses? Try again.

 

Alf

Oh, you’ve chosen a French pastoral?

 

Gritt

What’s a “pastoral”? 

 

Alf

Oh, you know, a country scene, a shepherd and his shepherdess--you and I, lying in a field . . . (he laughs, tries to grab here again, Gritt giggles).

 

Gritt

Maybe later.  Do you want a hint?  The wallpaper has to do with my music and your writing.

 

Alf

Really?  (full of pride)  You plastered the walls with my newspaper articles, especially the ones I wrote about German music. 

 

Gritt

Conceited brute, although you’re very close.  Actually, I went to Herrsching and bought a box filled with sheet music.  And I added your letters.  (she twirls him around once more) Now see for yourself. (She takes off his blindfold, and Alf, a bit giddy, rubbing his eyes, looks around in amazement.)

 

Alf

Gritt, this is wonderful!  You have filled our home with music.

 

Gritt

And the letters you sent me

Alf

Really, my letters.  Very nice, Gritt.

 

Gritt

They add color.  Yellow paper and blue, and cream, and red, even some light pink.

 

Alf

In wartime you write on whatever’s available.  I can remember where I was stationed just by the color of the paper.  (He leans over) Here, this yellow one: (reading, skimming) “My dearest Gritt, Once again your letter is intoxicatingly charming, so honestly derived . . . Cry! Cry in my arms, you’re at home there . . . you can be the darling of tears . . . Don’t say you’re sorry, we’re not ashamed of the way we are.”  Oh, Gritt. I was in Belgium then, shortly after we marched in.

 

Gritt

And I was scared and I missed you. 

 

Alf

Yes, our first time away from one another (he leans over, about to read more)

 

Gritt

Don’t read anymore of that one, it’s too sad. 

 

Alf

All right.  What about the blue ones over here?  I’m sure I wrote them from Cherbourg. (again, skimming, reading with growing pride) “Here in France I negotiate with community leaders, with high ranking clergymen . . . and play one against the other . . . more and more French activists are joining our plan . . . (pause) and you know as well as I that the red vermin must be destroyed, and with it the gold kings.”  (He hits the wall, angrily) Damn them, all of them. 

 

Gritt

Alf, I am very proud of you being in charge, although I wouldn’t have put that one up if I knew it would make you angry. 

 

Alf

I’m not . . . But reading it reminds me of all the petty aggravations of war when all I want to do is be here with you and forget it all. 

 

Gritt

I’ll put another in its place, so that when you come home again, you can remember only good times.  That’s why I put my favorite here(said with great delight and anticipation), the red one,right above the table where I can read it all day long, oh Alf, my Alf.  Here, you read it:

 

Alf

“My dear Gritt, I’m consecrating the table that was always intended for the letters to you.  I know my woman will act and speak right . . . You are my equal bride, my comrade, who should never allow herself to get lowered.” 

 

Gritt

(excitedly) Do you remember where you were when you wrote that?

Alf

Definitely, that was In Paris.  Lonely but very excited, waiting for you to arrive for our wedding. 

 

Gritt

See, only good memories. 

 

Alf

How true.  It’s a good home you’ve made here, Gritt.  At least we were lucky to find this small room, away from the Allied bombers.  And you made it look amazing. 

 

Gritt

So you like it?

Alf

Absolutely, Gritt.  How did you come up with that idea: using music sheets as wallpaper? 

 

Gritt

No one had any wallpaper for sale, so, I bought this beautiful box with the music at an auction.  (she points at the magnificent box on top of the old piano)

 

Alf

Beautiful, but an auction?  In the middle of war?

 

Gritt

The auctioneer said that a wealthy family deserted their house and left for a vacation in Poland, leaving everything behind. 

 

Alf

Gritt (he laughs), nobody goes on vacation in the middle of a war.  Nobody goes to Poland for fun.  (he becomes serious) Did you find out that family’s name?

 

Gritt

Yes.  It has to do with your favorite flower.

 

Alf

Rosen?  Rosental? Rosenblut? 

 

Gritt

Yes, something like that. 

 

Alf

(light snicker) Well, after all, maybe the Rosens did join the Rosentals and the Rosenbluts and went to Poland--on a long “vacation.”

Gritt

But you just told me that no one goes to Poland during a war.

 

Alf

Well, in a war, things change, people change, we all change. In fact, we become better. (He hugs her, kisses her)

 

Gritt

(Unaware of what she just heard) That’s true, we all change and become better.  I love you more than ever before.  (He hugs her and swirls her around, with her feet in the air.) Now put me down, I have another surprise for you. 

 

Alf

I knew it.  (he laughs) You’re going to dance for me with a veil? 

 

Gritt

Oh, stop it.  Can’t you be serious for a moment?  I practiced my piano and want to play a little private concert for you and you must be my conductor. 

 

Alf

Certainly, but I don’t have a baton.

 

She grabs a wooden ladle from above the sink and gives it to him.

 

Gritt

Here you are, Maestro.  (She sits at the piano.)

 

Gritt

Now, you look around the room and decide what you want to hear first. 

 

Alf wanders about the small room, looking at the music plastered to the walls.

 

Alf

Ah, Mozart, Eine Kleine Nachtmusik, take it away.  She plays some for him on the piano while he conducts with the ladle.  While she is playing, he looks around and taps the wall gently, announcing the next composer.

 

Alf

Beethoven.  The “Heil to the Day” chorus.  (“Heil sei dem Tag” Chor)  Again, she plays some for him on the piano while he conducts with the ladle.  He goes to the bed and sees the Wagner music.

 

Alf

Richard Wagner, my favorite, you sweet girl.  From the Master Singers, one of my favorites: “Craziness, craziness, everywhere craziness.”  (“Wahn! Wahn! Uberall Wahn!”)

 

As she is playing Wagner, he kisses her, trying to get her to join him in bed, but she is adamant that he gets to see all of the composers. 

Gritt

Not yet, pick another one. (pause) At least one more.

 

Alf

Oh sweetheart.  I will, but first, your conductor wants to lead you into a very private concert.  (he tries to drag her away from the piano but she pushes him away)

 

Gritt

You promised one more composer.  Pick any you wish.  (she stops playing Wagner)

Alf

All right.  Just one, just for you.  And this time, I won’t look.  (he laughs playfully, closes his eyes, extends his arm to the wall with the ladle, touching a piece of music by chance, sees the name.  His demeanor changes instantly. He becomes very stern.)  What is this?  Mendels-sohn? Felix Mendelssohn?  

 

Gritt

(beaming with joy) Yes,  Mendelssohn. Isn’t he wonderful? Just listen to this.  (She begins playing some Mendelssohn, and he slowly and very angrily walks toward the piano.

 

Alf

(angry) Stop that. Stop playing that music.

 

Gritt

Why, did I make a mistake? 

 

Alf

Yes, you did.  You want to play Mendelssohn after you just played Wagner?  Wagner, who hated his music? 

 

Gritt

Frankly, I don’t care for Wagner’s opinions, and I don’t like his music either.  But I like Mendelssohn. 

 

Alf

Gritt, we will not have that kind of music in our house—if you call that “music.”

 

Gritt

But it plays so nicely (she continues playing).  I practiced for you because I wanted to surprise you. 

 

Alf

You certainly did. But I don’t want you to play anything unhealthy, nothing that pollutes our home. 

 

Gritt defiantly keeps on playing, louder, nearly hammering the keys.  Alf, outraged at her defiance, suddenly hits the top of the piano hard with the wooden ladle.  She abruptly stops playing the piano.

 

Alf

Gritt!  Stop it! You will not play this non-German, un-Christian music in our home. 

 

Gritt

Not German and not Christian?  (triumphantly) Mendelssohn was born in Hamburg and buried in Leipzig. 

 

Alf

That means nothing!

 

And, since you clearly don’t know, he was baptized a Lutheran like both our families.  So there. (she resumes playing Mendelssohn)

 

Alf

(getting increasingly angry) Gritt, that’s nothing but trickery.

 

Gritt

What do you mean?  I got this from the Brockhaus encyclopedia that you gave me and told me to read!

 

Alf

And as usual, you didn’t read the whole story.  I know that even the Brockhaus says that he was born a Jew.  Think, Gritt. Mendels-sohn, Jew-son.   And once a Jew, always a Jew. 

 

Gritt

His music was in this box (points at it) with Beethoven, and Bach, and Mozart, and yes, even with your beloved Wagner. 

 

Alf

I’m not surprised.  Just like cultural vermin who worm their way into decent, upright German culture.  But unlike them, Mendelssohn is not a real composer.  He’s nothing but a musical parasite who has stolen from all sides—typically Jewish.

 

Gritt

Whatever you say, I like his music.  (she resumes playing)

 

Alf

Gritt, I guess you never heard what happened in Leipzig just four years ago?  When German citizens liberated the Peters publishing house from Jewish control and burned the entire stock of Mendelssohn’s so-called music?  It was a healthy fire, Gritt, a very healthy fire.  

 

Gritt

A healthy fire?

 

Alf

Yes, and two years before that, when our Fuehrer had enough and personally ordered the pretentious Mendelssohn statue pulled off its pedestal and turned into more useful products? (She shakes her head in disbelief) No? I thought you wouldn’t know. 

 

Gritt

Alf, it’s beautiful music.

 

Alf

(earnest) Listen, we all have an obligation.  If the Party won’t keep a statue of him in front of the music hall in Leipzig, then I’m certainly not going to let him in my house either.  Gritt, (very seriously)  Mendelssohn is forbidden in the Reich, and you will certainly not play his “music” here.  (stern) Do you understand that?

 

Gritt

(crying) No, I don’t.  I practiced for days to have a special welcome concert for you and all I get is your anger.  What have I done wrong?

 

Alf

(He embraces her) My dear Gritt, you have done nothing wrong.  You just have been deceived.  We have all been deceived. 

Gritt

But I don’t even know any Jews.  How can I have been deceived?

 

Alf

My sunny child.  I have always been honest and open with you, but those people?  The deception went so far that Mendelssohn’s father did not even allow any of his Jew-sons to be circumcised.  Do you know what that means?  (She shakes her head) Usually these Jews are so cruel that they take a helpless infant and cut his foreskin.  (She cringes)

 

Gritt

Oh, stop it.

 

Alf

Wait, it’s getting better: Mendelssohn’s father wanted his son to “fit in” completely, so that on his wedding night, not even Mendelssohn’s young wife would know who he really was.  Imagine the trickery!  (Gritt looks confused)

 

Gritt

I don’t believe it.  You just made that up.

 

Alf

No, I didn’t.  And on top of it, imagine a father who forbids his son to carry the family name and makes him wear another:  (full of contempt) “Bartholdy.” 

 

Gritt

Alf, stop it, stop it.

 

Alf

Gritt, I don’t blame you for not knowing these things.  I don’t blame you for being one of many innocent young people who simply don’t recognize Jewish deception.  Believe me, “What the Jews cannot destroy they poison.”

 

Gritt

Destroy?  Poison? Alf, it doesn’t matter to me whether Mendelssohn was cut or not, whether he was Jewish or not, or what his real last name was.  (with great conviction) His music is beautiful. 

 

Alf

(getting even more agitated) Gritt, his music is dangerous.  Without people ever knowing what has happened, this degenerate filth weakens the spirit and saps the will.  And if you are playing Mendelssohn in our home, you don’t even realize that you have drunk from the cup of Jewish conspiracy.  (Then, slowly, and with angry determination)  But we’ll see to it that you, like the whole of Germany and all of Europe, will be cured of that irrational nonsense.  Mark my words, Gritt, Mendelssohn does not live here anymore.  We will keep our home clean. 

 

He goes to the wall and searches for any sheet music by Mendelssohn.

 

Gritt

(fearful, she jumps up)What are you doing, Alf?

 

Alf

Nothing, just making sure that there is nothing on the walls that pollutes our home. 

 

(He walks up to the wall, reads the names of the composers quickly) Liszt . . . Chopin . . . Schumann, Schubert . . . Bach . . . Beethoven . . . Wagner . . . There, there: Mendelssohn, Mendelssohn, I knew it . . .

 

He finds the Mendelssohn music, tears it off the wall.  She screams loudly and tries to wrestle the music sheets from him.  But he holds the sheets above his head, and, finding more Mendelssohn music, tears those from the walls as well.

 

Alf

(getting very angry) Jews are everywhere, like termites.  Termites, destroying our homes. 

 

He tears more sheets from the wall.  Gritt collapses to the floor. 

 

Alf

Gritt, as your husband, let me tell you.  You will not play this “music” again.  (full of conviction) Listen carefully: (very slowly and with determination) Mendelssohn does not live here anymore. 

 

He tears the sheets into countless little pieces, repeating “Mendelssohn does not live here anymore,” then throws the torn pieces high into the air.  Gritt, still on the floor, tries to catch them as they fall, and then begins gathering them up, clutching them to her heart.

 

Gritt

You’re wrong, Alf. (clutching the torn pieces to her heart like wounded birds) Mendelssohn lives . . . Mendelssohn lives . . . in here.  Right here.

 

They freeze.  Lights fade out, leaving a lone light from above focused on the beautiful old box from the Rosen family  that had contained the sheet music while Mendelssohn begins playing with ascending volume.

 

Henrik Eger, 2008

eger@aol.com

www.henrikeger.com

May 14, 2008