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Mendelssohn Does Not Live Here Anymore:
Synopsis, background, and scene summary

Synopsis: 

Set in Germany in the 1930’s and 1940’s and based on historical facts, including Third Reich sources, this play weaves together the stories of a sophisticated Jewish family, descendants of Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, and a young German couple grappling with music forbidden during the Third Reich.  Tying their stories together: a richly decorated chest passed down from the Mendelssohn family, filled with classical German music, including Mendelssohn’s music, auctioned in 1942 after the Rosens get deported to a concentration camp in this heart-wrenching battle of music versus ideology.  

(5 men, 3 women, possible doubling, three sets, 2 interiors, 1 exterior)

To read the script of the scene between the young German couple during WWII, click here. 

Background:  

I found extraordinary information on the treatment of Felix Mendelssohn, the prodigy and composer in Germany who was celebrated during his lifetime but badly maligned during the Third Reich.  Under the Nazi rule, Mendelssohn’s music was totally banned, the entire stock of Mendelssohn's music at his publishers in Leipzig was burned by the SA the day after Kristallnacht, 1938, and his music publisher was sent to Auschwitz where he died.

I searched both in the US and in Germany, and found many historical documents from Mendelssohn's time, which, even in the early 1800's, are devastating in their anti-Semitic use of language, all the way to documents from the Third Reich and also quotations from people who lived under that regime, and who shared with me what their parents said about Mendelssohn and other Jewish artists.

Through the use of these documents and other historical sources from the Third Reich, including letters from my father, Alf Eger, a German War Correspondent from Occupied France, I hope to show that labeling other people racially—in this case, Jewish people that are considered “vermin”—can bring about disastrous consequences for both the abusers and the abused. 

Summary of the sample scene from Act II:

CAST:

1. Gritt, a beautiful, poorly educated, though musically very talented young German woman during WWII

2. Alf, a handsome and dynamic young German journalist and officer

The scene shows the conflict between a very musical young woman who has just discovered Felix Mendelssohn's music, unaware that it was forbidden to be played during the Third Reich, and her husband, who tries to convince her that Mendelssohn stole the music, and that "what the Jews cannot destroy, they poison."  He even cites Wagner, who hated Mendelssohn's music, and Hitler, who personally had given instructions to have the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy monument in Leipzig destroyed.

The scene begins with a very excited, beautiful young German woman in 1942, who is practicing welcome music as a surprise for her husband's furlough from the war.  Because of the scarcity of wallpaper during WWII, she has papered the wall with music sheets to create a beautiful environment for his return, including her newly discovered favorite, unaware of Felix Mendelssohn's Jewish background.  When her husband arrives and sees Mendelssohn’s music intermixed with the German composers that he admires, he tries to educate her on Jewish art and Mendelssohn’s music in particular. 

However, when she does not believe him and insists on playing Mendelssohn’s music, he flies into a rage.  She does not recognize the anti-Semitism and the lies and refuses to give up her love for Mendelssohn's music.  

 

2008 Henrik Eger

www.henrikeger.com

eger@aol.com