As soon as our ship landed (I don’t remember where) we were transported to Ft. Dix for discharge. I called Lotte from Dix and said: “Can we get married tomorrow?” And she said: “I’ll make all necessary arrangements.” And that is when a totally new music began!
On 30 April, 1945, Hitler finally did what someone should have done to him twelve years earlier, and on 8 May, 1945, Admiral Doenitz signed an Unconditional Surrender. We had just arrived at the small town of Cham, close to the Czech border. So now it was no longer war but occupation.
On December 7, 1941, Lotte and I were at her apartment, listening to the broadcast of the Sunday symphony, when the program was interrupted to announce that the Japanese had attacked Pearl Harbor and sunk several ships. The next morning I stood in line, with perhaps a couple hundred other guys, at the Navy Building on Church Street, trying to enlist.
A little while later there were prisoners that didn’t look quite right to me. I said to the guy: “You don’t look like soldiers. Who are you?” And he said: “We are the Munich Symphony Orchestra.” Then I knew for sure that the war was over. And I said to him: “You will be making music soon, again.” (Two years later, when I was in Germany again, I heard them on the radio, being conducted by Knappertsbusch.)
The same fellow who had introduced me to the princess also introduced me to the painter Ludwig Haller who had come to Kitzinger from Dresden. Could I help him a little bit? He lived in poverty because he had been ostracized by the Nazis because he was a cubist and therefore considered degenerate. But he had won the prestigious Prix de Rome, and that and other things were enough for the Germans to make a sizable restitution (after we had left), and then a count who owned several castles gave him an apartment and an exhibition hall in one of his castles
When the bell rang, I opened the door, and there she was, a skinny girl with a prominent nose and large eyes – Lotte Kirsch. I don’t know how exactly it got to that point, but at some point I said that I had planned to visit the Hayden Planetarium and would she want to come with me. And she said ‘yes’ – and it has been ‘yes’ all the way for the past 71 years – so far.
Length of complete piece: 8:30 Recording artist: Monica Bunch
It so happened that Marlene Dietrich came to Nancy to entertain our troops. They put her up in a hotel in Nancy. And I said to the guys, wouldn’t it be fun If we had her here to our place for a visit. And they said, yea, right. But I went to her hotel and asked to see her. And I told her that we had met in Berlin at the UFA (movie studio) when she was doing the Blue Angel. She would not remember me because I was a kid then. I had just made a movie in Danzig and came to Berlin to be introduced to Emil Jannings, to see if he could help me with my career. It was a good story, and she had no reason not to believe it.
One day I am playing the piano, and the doorbell rings. A tall guy is at the door, and he says: “Was that you playing the Rhapsody in Blue?” I said: “Yes.” He said his name is Kenny Steele, he has a small band, and they just lost their pianist – would I join them? I said: “What if some old lady had played and opened the door?” He said he would have complimented her and walked away. The members of the band were the nicest kids one would care to associate with. It lasted until the War. Kenny got killed early in the war.
Length of complete piece: 4:45 Recording artist: Monica Bunch