AND THE VIOLINS STOPPED PLAYING by Alexander Ramati

AND THE VIOLINS STOPPED PLAYING

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Although subtitled ""A Story of the Gypsy Holocaust,"" this ""true-life novel"" is primarily a flight-to-freedom story that does not grapple with the Holocaust until its final third. The author was contacted at a World Romany Congress session by Roman Mirga, Polish gypsy and Holocaust survivor, and asked to assemble his recollections into a professional product. The period covered is late 1942 to early 1945, and the focus is on the Mirga family, big-city gypsies living in Warsaw. Father, mother and young Roman are musicians in a nightclub patronized by German officers, including Dr. Mengele. When word reaches them of gypsy roundups, they flee to their tribe's winter camp outside Brest-Litovsk, but cannot persuade their complacent tribal leader to move south into unoccupied Hungary. A last-minute tip convinces the tribe that they are facing the same fate as the Jews; they replace their leader with Roman's father, who moves them through the Ukraine to Hungary. En route their numbers dwindle from 84 to 50, they abandon horses and wagons, and Roman marries his sweetheart Zoya. Once in Hungary they regroup and thrive before falling victim to the Nazi invasion a year later. They are transported to Auschwitz, where Roman becomes a clerical assistant to Mengele and his father plays in the orchestra outside the crematorium until he too must ""take the bath"". . .but Roman escapes, his mission to tell the world their story. This skimpy recycling of life at Auschwitz adds nothing to Holocaust literature, and while Ramati's novel does have the elemental appeal of escape stories, even here it is hobbled by threadbare characterizations and starchy dialogue (""Father, grant me my wish. Let me marry Zoya today, so that we may know at least for one night what life is"").

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 1986
Publisher: Franklin Watts