Refugee Brought Rieu Success
Maastricht March 20th: From the "Limburger" By Casper Cillekens and Ruud Maas - What is happening to Maastricht? Marjorie Rieu-Kochmann (69) cannot comprehend it. Why is the PVV (Freedom Party) the largest political party in her birthplace? Why are the largest part of the Limburg citizens so against refugees? To this newspaper she writes: "Thanks to a refugee, for the last thirty years André Rieu can now make millions of people worldwide happy with his music." The refugee she is referring to is her father Edgar, who in 1936 fled from Berlin to Maastricht, because he was a German Jew. The only thing he could carry with him was his collection of records, which inspired André Rieu many years later. Marjorie is telling her story in the castle "House of little Towers" where she and André reside. She thought long and hard about the following statement: "I am not climbing on the barricades and kick someone in the shins. I only want to plead for the refugees. I do not like people who say that refugees are bad people. For the past two years I have had the feeling that I need to do something. I can become quite angry the way refugees are being thought of."
Maybe Marjorie started writing again since she read the letter her father wrote while he was in hiding. He wanted to mail this letter to his also refugee friends after the liberation. "In a typed fourteen page letter he wrote about amongst others, how valiant Maastricht citizens risked their lives by helping them and providing them with addresses where they could hide. " Marjorie wrote that the letter was typed between August 1942 and the liberation of Maastricht in September of 1944, and because she is thinking about publicizing this "time document". He writes about his family and friends, and knew they would not be coming back.
Edgar Kochmann first hid in Arnhem and Nijmegen, and later in Maastricht. He was lucky to have been tipped off by two cousins, telephone operators, of his friend Nelly who would later become Marjorie's mother. Edgar's parents, who had already fled to Maastricht in 1933 and had started a small factory in hat liners, also went into hiding. His father passed away while in hiding due to pneumonia. Horst, one of Edgar's brothers and his wife Friedel did report to the gathering place in Maastricht from which Jews were transported to the transit camp Westerbrok. Friedel died three days later in the gas chambers is Auschwitz, and Horst passed away in a work camp Blechhammer.
She feels she needs to make a statement.
Marjorie Rieu-Kochmann is annoyed about the way refugees are being treated in this country. Her Jewish father had to flee from Germany but was afforded a chance to build a new life here in Limburg.
Marjorie heard little from her father about the war. "He only spoke about funny things. I never heard about the bad ones. Those were thrilling stories. How he, in the attic walked in his stocking feet - balancing himself with his hands on the wall - over the skirting as not to make noise." Her father consciously did not speak much about that time. "That's just the way he was. He said: "That is past, period!"
Her father was born in 1907 in Berlin. As a young man he experienced the 'golden 20's' in that city. He was a branch manager of a shoe store on Alexander square. He loved dancing, in particular the Charleston. He also liked light music and operettas. "Tauber, Caruso and the Comedian Harmonists. He owned a few hundred records. Those were the only things he could take with him from Berlin. Much later I realized how big the transition must have been for him from a world metropolis of Berlin to a small provincial town like Maastricht. He was amazed that mixed swimming was not allowed here." In Maastricht Edgar made his living as a wholesaler in lady's hats. He met his future wife at a dance in 1936. Laughingly he said: "They did too do mixed swimming. In Visé (Belgium) just across the border."
"For two years now I feel I need to do something. It makes me so angry the way people think about refugees".
Her father continued to treasure everything German. He did not mind, contrary to some in his environment, that his daughter studied German. "My father said that he did not suffer under the German people, but through the Nazi's. We continued to shop across the border and continuously visited family in Berlin. A very special note: I was there when the wall was built, August 13, 1961."
Father was very interested in the politics. "I had to be quiet when on Sundays he would listen to G.B.J. Hiltermann who would give his views of the world on the radio. I loathed that. That might be the reason why I do not care much for politics." After her German studies in Nijmegen, Marjorie taught for seven years. "I did not really care too much for that at all." When she and André became parents she stopped teaching. She was by then already, very much involved with the newly organized Maastricht Salon Orchestra. "André was still searching for his own distinctive repertoire. I let him listen to several of my father's records. He did not know that kind of music, but was immediately sold."
She knows for certain that without that inspiration, born from those records, Rieu would never have become so successful worldwide. Even at times when doubt struck Rieu, it was Marjorie's father who helped André persist. "My father was raised with the Prussian discipline of never giving up." Edgar passed away in 2000, at 92 years of age. "Luckily he was able to enjoy Andrés break through."
Because of this family history there is a lot of understanding for the refugees in the Rieu house."When it became known that an asylum center would be established here on this street, André spontaneously said that - whenever it would be established - he would organize a barbeque for those people."
(Pictures are from the Rieu-Kochmann Family)
Thank you to John for the article and Translation of it.