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Charles Paul article

Charles Paul article - A Belgian Refugee's Memories World...

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A Belgian Refugee's Memories: World War II, Sweatshop Labor, and Beethoven In 1989 I had the distinct sensation of déjà vu when I heard the broadcast of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony directed by Leonard Bernstein celebrating the fall of the Berlin Wall and thus the end of the Cold War. For it was the same symphony - or rather the opening stanza of the "Ode to Joy" - that celebrated for me in 1944 the end of another war that had been waged around me (and sometimes against me) for four years. That occasion had also been a prelude to a new world of music I had never experienced in the first thirteen years of my life. Before 1940 I had not even owned a radio or heard music broadcast at our home in Antwerp. Between 1940 and 1944, music, even systematic education, was replaced with poverty and war. I was almost nine years old when we fled Belgium from the advancing German troops into southern France. There we were interned by the Vichy government in the two concentration camps of Brens and Rivesaltes. My sister was then hidden in a convent while I was sheltered in three orphanages between November 1941 and March 1944. Even for those fortunate enough to have escaped the camps or to have been able to maintain a normal family life, the conditions in Nazi-occupied Europe added anti-musical dimensions to the war that are totally unknown to the overwhelming majority of Americans. When I was able to read about Beethoven after the war, my empathy for him deepened when I learned that in his lifetime France and Austria had been almost continuously at war between 1792 and 1815, Vienna had twice been occupied by the French armies, his deteriorating hearing had to endure the deafening roar of artillery during the French siege of the Austrian capital in 1809, the Austrian currency had been devalued to the point of endangering the sources of his patronage, and that tyranny that had led him to change the dedication of the Eroica Symphony from Napoleon to Lobkowitz had re-appeared in different guise with the Metternich restoration of 1814. Thankfully Beethoven was spared other horrors of modern warfare that I had experienced or witnessed: the rationing of food down to the level of bare subsistence; bombings by both the Axis and Allied powers; the imprisonment of Jews, Gypsies, Slavs, Jehovah's Witnesses, intellectuals, homosexuals, clergymen, and Communists in concentration camps; and the rounding-up of "enemies of the New Order," whether ethnic, religious, social, or political by the Gestapo and the S.S. and their French allies in the Milice.
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Until the summer of 1943, we felt comparatively safe in the orphanage in the very small village of Brout-Vernet near Vichy in central France, where I had resided since November 14, 1941. But as rumors of the Milice raids increased, we were moved from orphanage to orphanage until it was decided that for some of the children the best solution was escape into neutral Switzerland. In early 1944 I was one of nine boys ranging in age from ten to fifteen who were provided by the Oeuvre de secours aux Enfants (O.S.E; Society for the Rescue of Children) with money, false identity papers, a
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Charles Paul article - A Belgian Refugee's Memories World...

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