The Last Quartet
A Violinist's Memoir of the Holocaust E-Book: The Last Quartet - A Violinist's Memoir of the Holocaust $12.99
by Alfred Mur
(downloadable pdf e-book, 170 pages) Foreward
by Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violinist In the immediate aftermath of World War II, violinist and Holocaust survivor Alfred Mur could not help but tell people of his terrifying experiences. 'You should write this down,' they all encouraged him. So The Last Quartet was written between 1951 and 1952 but it was not available to the public until published by violinist Kelly Hall-Tompkins in July 2009.
"My boss looks at me as if I were my own ghost… He didn't even dream that I escaped from the concentration camp…They are surprised to see us. No one has come from outside for many months; they say it over and over again…"
Read the incredible story of how the late Alfred Mur and his brother Fredi, 98 and 94 at the time of release of the original e-book edition, not only escaped the Nazi's in Poland, but kept their hope alive throughout their ordeal through the power of music. A new edition of the book, released in 2016, with additional photos and new Afterword by Kelly Hall-Tompkins, is now available in paperback.
"Here in the Krakow ghetto, in this place of death and agony; I hear music in my mind. It is music broken into short fragments; a melody from a quartet, a passage from a concerto, a motif from a symphony. Nothing is complete. Music comes dancing in my mind, but it dances right out again. I feel a great need to make music – to play another quartet… if it is to be my last quartet, let it be my last quartet; but music I must have."
by Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violinist
I met my good friend Alfred Mur in the summer of 2004 in my New York City neighborhood while walking my dog Billy. Billy is such a friendly outgoing character, like his human, that Alfred came right over and struck up a conversation with us. Alfred is 98 years old, 93 at the time, and he is rich with a fullness of life that many younger people never discover. We had talked about many interesting things standing there on the street when we finally realized that we are both violinists. He was elated to discover this as he had a violin he wanted to sell. I too was elated -at the prospect of discovering a great old European violin in the hands of one owner for a long time. So he invited me to his home that very afternoon to see the violin. The instrument turned out to be of student quality and was unfortunately not of the professional caliber I was seeking.
But Alfred and I became fast friends and talked easily about more topics of common interest. He collects many interesting newspaper clippings, old books, and interesting articles about violinists etc. And I think he even played a little bit for me that day. Most fascinating of all, however, was the manuscript that he showed me, his own memoir in fact. Alfred Mur is a survivor of the Holocaust and wrote a memoir from 1951- 1952 about his life during the war. He handed me the tall volume in forest green hardback, which he had bound himself and was typed by his late wife. I was amazed when, after only meeting a few minutes before, he encouraged me to take it home to read. I told him I would not dare do such a thing unless he had other copies. He assured me he did and even pulled them out for me to see. So I eagerly took the memoir home to read.
From the very first page, his life story during the war unfolds with poignant and gripping scenes about his many escapes from death at the hands of the Nazis, while watching his own family being executed or taken on the death trains to Auschwitz. This memoir, entitled "The Last Quartet", is deeply moving and insightful, a paradoxical story of death, cold hatred and terror juxtaposed with the sublime music played by his quartet, and the love shared between two brothers who actually managed to escape together after hiding for years apart from one another. Alfred is originally from Krakow where he was forced into the ghetto there. He worked as a furrier in order to remain useful to the Nazi war effort and thus alive. However, as music was his passion, he assembled a quartet of friends to read chamber music regularly for as long as it was still possible in the ghetto. This was much to the chagrin of some and a beacon of inspiration to others. Following the war, Alfred Mur joined the Prague Philharmonic. Mr. Mur prefers to think of this as a 'violinist's memoir', not a 'holocaust' document. Understandably, that term does not conjure any pleasant memories for him.
Each page practically turned itself as I read and when I finished, I was completely overtaken with a passion for helping Alfred to get the book published. I am a professional violinist and a neophyte in the publishing world. Except that I read a lot of books, I felt I was a fish completely out of water.
Despite this, I managed to compile my best list of acquaintances, colleagues and leads that was not too shabby. I put an abridged version of the manuscript in the hands of several publishers and writers who, as it turned out, didn't necessarily resonate with the topic or said there were already so many of these memoirs. I then turned to Jewish memoir projects and sent an inquiry to a very prominent one. As their initial response was very positive, I sent the manuscript with much anticipation. Months went by, then a year. It was still being considered, they told me. After about another year, their response came. Incredibly, their board had decided that although the manuscript was wonderful, they would not publish it because they didn't believe Alfred was "Jewish enough." He is half French/Jewish on his mother's side and his father was Polish/Catholic. Knowing that he was indeed Jewish enough to suffer in the camps and watch his entire family be sent away, I was incredulous and disheartened with the decision. This book has suffered a long trail of rejections for a variety of reasons. In 1953 Alfred Mur sent the manuscript to Eleanor Roosevelt. Unfortunately, she confessed in a signed letter sent to him that she had not had the time to read it, and that he should find an agent. Even so, he still reveres the letter very highly and I have included a copy of it in the book.
After some time, the concept of E-books seemed to be taking root and became more familiar to me. I myself am the proud new owner of an Amazon Kindle, a device that holds 1,500 digital E-books which can be downloaded from the air to the device in 60 seconds or less. I then decided, with Alfred's permission, to self-publish his memoir as an E-book and add it to my website as a limited time offer. Since my website had received almost 20,000 hits since the redesign in 2007, I hoped to get Alfred's book more exposure than it might have had only in print form. But I also hoped that as a consequence of the E-book, a hard copy publisher would pursue the release of a traditional version of the book in addition. I am grateful that the E-book did in fact lead to this first paperback copy through the generous facilitation of Gene Berger and Kristen Brown as mentioned in the acknowledgements. Whether you have discovered this book in either electronic or print form, thank you for purchasing a copy. This is an amazing story of the highest triumph, perseverance and love in the face of impossible circumstances and I believe it should be read by many. Thank you.
Kelly Hall-Tompkins, violinist
July 15, 2009 New York, NY
Updated revisions January 23 and October 28, 2011