The Cellist of Dachau

By Martin Goodman

Category: Fiction, Historical

Formats available: Paperback, Ebook

Publication date: 10/10/23

ISBN-13: 9781909954885

A novel of music and the Holocaust

‘A wonderful story. A beautiful book about the unimaginable and what can grow from it.’ – Marina Mahler

In 1938, Otto Schalmik, a 19-year-old musician from a Jewish family in Vienna, is arrested by Nazi police. Transported to Dachau, he is summoned to the home of the camp’s Adjutant, Birchendorf, who forces him to scrub the floors and play Bach on a priceless looted cello.

In 1990s California, Otto, now a world-famous composer, and a young Australian musicologist, Rosa, discover the ways in which their lives are linked through music and history. Weaving together the stories of three generations of women from both sides of Germany’s 20th century horror story, The Cellist of Dachau explores the ongoing impact of war, and the power of music to heal and rebuild lives.


A subtle novel that treads delicately around identity, values and life purpose.’

- The Hackney Citizen

A wonderful story. A beautiful book about the unimaginable and what can grow from it.

- Marina Mahler, granddaughter of the composer and founder and president of the Mahler Foundation.

Looks squarely at the horrors of the 20th century, and old divisions that still fester…This is one powerful story that dares to hope, and shows the way to love.

- Bonnie Greer

There is much to explore, from the orchestras established in the camps to the special treatment sometimes accorded to to talented musicians and the impact the Nazis had on Europe’s rich musical culture. The parts of the novel set in Dachau, Buchenwald, Terezín and Auschwitz ring with a visceral truth, and real figures such as Herbert Zimmer, who established a secret orchestra at Dachau, and Hans Krása – composer of the children’s opera Brundibár get respectful supporting roles.

- The Financial Times

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