Coco Schumann

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Heinz Jakob "Coco" Schumann (born 14 May 1924) is a German jazz musician.[1]

Schumann was born in Berlin, Germany. His father Alfred was Jewish by choice (a German Christian practicing convert to Judaism)[2] and his mother Hedwig née Rothholz was Jewish by birth.[3] Schumann became passionate about Swing after having heard it during the Berlin Olympics.[4][5] He was transported first to Theresienstadt at the age of nineteen, where he became a member of the Ghetto Swingers.[6] Finally he and Martin Roman were transported to Auschwitz, where he came face to face with Josef Mengele. When Mengele inquired of the blue-eyed, nineteen-year-old Coco where he came from and what he did, Schumann shouted, "Berlin, Herr Obersturmbanfuhrer! Plumber, Herr Obersturmbannfuhrer!"[7][8]

When the Americans dismantled the camps, liberation reached Coco almost too late: Just a few days before the end of the Nazi regime, he had contracted the dreaded spotted fever that had carried off his campmates by the hundreds, and he spent weeks fighting high fevers and delirious nightmares. He and one other man were the only ones to survive the sick bay. When he was finally able to return home to Berlin, he learned that his grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins had perished in the camps. But he found his parents alive. Coco’s father had ingeniously succeeded in keeping his Jewish wife hidden from the Nazis by declaring her dead after a disastrous fire.[9]

After the war, Coco Schumann became a celebrated Jazz guitarist. He played with Marlene Dietrich, Ella Fitzgerald, and Helmut Zacharias, among others, before founding his own Coco Schumann Quartett.[10] Coco Schumann's eventful and colorful life is a subject of and is celebrated in a German-language true-to-life color graphic novel by Caroline Gille and Niels Schröder.[11] Subject graphic novel has an unmistakable highly compelling "autobiographical/first-person account" narrative thread.


  1. ^ A Woman at War: Marlene Dietrich remembered; p. 157 J. David Riva, Guy Stern - 2006 "Jazz guitarist COCO SCHUMANN was born into a mixed Christian/Jewish family in Berlin as Heinz Jacob Schumann. Even as a child he became a devotee of swing music, which was outlawed by the Nazi regime. As a "half-Jew," he survived the concentration camps, including Theresienstadt (Terezien), where he became a member of the legendary "Ghetto Swingers."
  2. ^ Caroline Gille and Niels Schröder: I got rhythm : das Leben der Jazzlegende Coco Schumann : eine Graphic Novel (Be.bra, Berlin-Brandenburg, 2014, p. 12/13).
  3. ^ "Archive". The Atlantic Times. 1924-05-14. Retrieved 2015-12-13. 
  4. ^ Coco Schumann, der Ghetto-Swinger: eine Jazz legende erzählt Coco Schumann, Max Christian Graeff, Michaela Haas - 2005
  5. ^ Fabrice d'. Almeida High Society in the Third Reich 2008; p. 212 "Coco Schumann, a young man who had become passionate about swing after having heard it during the Olympic Games, ... Heinz Schumann ('Coco' was his nickname) was born in 1924 to a bourgeois family. He was half-Jewish according to the classification of the time. His father was a war veteran. He suffered rejections but took advantage of a moment of ..."
  6. ^ Jerry Silverman The Undying Flame: ballads and songs of the Holocaust: 110 songs 2002; p. 29 "Guitarist Coco Schumann, of the Theresienstadt "Ghetto Swingers," [ ! ] who survived a 1944 deportation from that camp to Auschwitz, felt that music had saved his life: He was compelled to play while other prisoners were sent to the gas chambers"
  7. ^ Michael H. Kater Different Drummers: jazz in the culture of Nazi Germany, 1992 "Something similar happened to both Coco Schumann and Martin Roman, who escaped with their lives from Auschwitz. Schumann played for a while with various swing groups around Berlin, especially those of his old pal Zacharias, but then, ..."
  8. ^ African-American Jazz Musicians in the Diaspora; Larry Ross 2003 "Later, Roman was transferred to Auschwitz along with guitarist Coco Schumann and clarinetist Bedrich Weiss. Coco Schumann came face-to-face with Dr. Joseph Mengele at the Auschwitz concentration camp. Schumann, who had blue eyes, ...
  9. ^ Michaela Haas: Bouncing Forward: Transforming Bad Breaks into Breakthroughs, Atria/Enliven, 2015, p. 92/93.
  10. ^ Michaela Haas: Bouncing Forward, p. 88/89.
  11. ^ Caroline Gille and Niels Schröder: I got rhythm : das Leben der Jazzlegende Coco Schumann : eine Graphic Novel (Be.bra, Berlin-Brandenburg, 2014).