On April 4, 1946, my great-aunt Maddi Bernstein, a concert pianist, played in a “Lenteavond” (Spring Evening) concert in Soest, Holland, along with her friends Miep Quelle and Mien van der Ploeg. Maddi, who less than a year previously had been a prisoner at the Theresienstadt concentration camp in what is now the Czech Republic, was 43 years old at the time. Discovered in hiding in Holland with her husband Henry and son Rolf, she had been interned with them in Westerbork and then Theresienstadt, before Rolf and Henry had been sent to Auschwitz in October 1944 and promptly murdered. Maddi alone survived. In July 1945 she had shown up at the home of the Blankensteins, from where she had been taken, and reunited with her sister Thea and her nephew, my father. I can’t imagine what must have been going through her mind that evening, as the trio played through an extensive evening of Schumann and Schubert (Maddi loved the Romantic era in classical music; she would have gotten along well with my wife Donna, a big fan of German lieder) and a variety of Dutch composers. [Click on the images and photo to enlarge; click twice to really enlarge.]
Miep Quelle (1922-2000), incidentally (as my friend Thea in Holland informs me), was a journalist for many years for the Dutch newspaper Trouw, which had began as an illegal underground paper during the war, writing under the name Mink van Rijswijk. She also wrote several books.
A little over a year later, Maddi would sail to New York along with her sister, nephew and an orphaned niece; by the early 1950s she would move to Waupun, Wisconsin. She played occasional concerts in the Waupun area before arthritis took away her ability to play the way she wanted to; she would keep her baby grand piano with her to the end of her life. I’m sorry that I never had the chance to hear her play.
The program reads:
A new Spring…
A new sound.
on Thursday, April 4, 1946 in “Eltheto,” Driftje (Soest), at exactly 8:00 p.m.
The Eltheto building, long since torn down, was a church building frequently used as a cultural and community center. There were a couple of complimentary notices in the local press. It was a beautiful evening, one review stated, and at the end the trio graciously received well-deserved floral bouquets. A new spring, indeed.