The Ghetto Swinger

A Jazz Legend
Coco Schumann was born in Berlin in 1924, and discovered jazz and swing music at the age of thirteen. Thanks to his Aryan looks and his cheeky Berlin tongue, Schumann, half Jewish, not only escapes deportation until 1943 but performs almost daily in bars and clubs, first as a guitarist and later as a drummer. Jazz is prohibited, but he can easily switch to 'Rosamunde' or some other croon song when a brown shirt appears.

At the age of 19, Coco Schumann is arrested by the Gestapo and taken to Theresienstadt, the "model ghetto" of the Nazis. As a member of the legendary 'Ghetto Swingers' he has to act in Nazi propaganda films such as 'The F├╝hrer Donates a Town to the Jews'. When the film is finished, the members of the band are deported to Auschwitz. Nazi jazz enthusiasts allow Schumann to play, "sometimes for hours, especially when new prisoners came in and were tattooed, a process the Nazis found very boring".

Soon after the war, Coco Schumann is celebrated as one of the world's best jazz guitarists, but he does not stay in Germany. For a couple of years, he tries his luck in Australia and becomes the jazz star there. In the middle of the fifties, when pop and rock 'n' roll replace jazz and swing as popular music forms, things quiet down for Coco Schumann. He has to get through hard times by playing in slapstick films, on cruise ships and at carnival balls. Now, after a considerable break, Coco Schumann is back on stage in Berlin with his own combo. Even some of his closest friends and colleagues are unaware that Coco Schumann once had to play for his life in a concentration camp. "I am a musician who was once in a concentration camp, but I was not a prisoner who played music", he still insists.


dtv Sachbuch
240 pages, ISBN 978-3-423-43497-3
31. Mai 2018