[Marxism] The Jewish Trumpeter Who Entertained Nazis to Survive the Holocaust

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Thu Apr 25 09:12:03 MDT 2019


The New Yorker, April 22, 2019
The Jewish Trumpeter Who Entertained Nazis to Survive the Holocaust
By Amanda Petrusich

For a while during his captivity, jazz kept Eric Vogel, a Jewish Czech 
trumpeter, useful to the Nazis—and therefore alive.Photographs Courtesy 
Todd Allen
In 1961, sixteen years after Eric Vogel leaped from a transport train 
headed toward the Nazi concentration camp at Dachau, he recounted his 
escape for Downbeat, an American jazz magazine: “This is a story of 
horror, terror, and death but also of joy and pleasure, the history of a 
jazz band whose members were doomed to die.” English wasn’t Vogel’s 
first language—he was born in the Austro-Hungarian Empire, in 1896—but 
it’s hard to imagine a more gripping opening line. Downbeat ran his 
story in three parts, each with the title “Jazz in a Nazi Concentration 
Camp.”

While Vogel was imprisoned by the Nazis—first in the so-called model 
camp, Theresienstadt, and then later at the Auschwitz death camp—he and 
a dozen or so others played in a jazz band called the Ghetto Swingers. 
There were similar groups at many camps throughout Nazi-controlled 
Europe: musicians who were forced to perform, on command and under 
inconceivable duress, for the S.S. The particular cruelty of 
this—desecrating and corrupting the creative impulse that fuels and 
sustains art—remains wildly perverse, though Vogel was nonetheless 
grateful for any chance, however grim, to make the music that he loved.

The Nazis officially condemned jazz as “jungle music,” identifying it 
with blacks and Jews, but a hunger for it remained, both in the camps 
and elsewhere in Europe. A widely distributed Nazi poster denouncing 
entartete (or “decadent”) music featured a man with exaggerated features 
playing a saxophone and wearing a top hat, tails, and a six-pointed gold 
star. The journalist Mike Zwerin, a trombonist from Queens who covered 
jazz for the International Herald Tribune, later wrote about the 
Luftwaffe officer Dietrich Schulz-Köhn, who published a secret 
newsletter about jazz in occupied Europe, using the pen name Dr. Jazz. 
“If anybody who loved jazz could not be a Nazi, there seem to have been 
quite a few close calls,” Zwerin noted. For a while, jazz kept Vogel 
useful to the Nazis—and therefore alive. According to Vogel, the Ghetto 
Swingers did very good arrangements of George Gershwin’s “I Got Rhythm” 
(“I got rhythm / I got music / I got my man / who could ask for anything 
more?”) and, incredibly, Georges Boulanger’s “Avant de Mourir,” or 
“Before Dying.”

Still, by the time an emaciated Vogel jumped from the train, in 
1945—evading machine-gun fire, lunging toward a dark forest, his bones 
surely rattling against one another—many of his bandmates had been 
murdered. Vogel, who played trumpet, the pianist Martin Roman, and the 
guitarist Coco Schumann were the only survivors. “Being a member of The 
Ghetto Swingers was an iffy business,” Schumann wrote later. “It did not 
guarantee survival.”

When I first heard about the Ghetto Swingers, I had a difficult time 
processing the story. I’d received a letter from a man named Todd Allen, 
of Chatham, New Jersey; he had read a story I’d written about the lost 
Yiddish folk songs of the Second World War, and knew I had an ongoing 
interest in obscure musical artifacts. Allen had recently discovered a 
few boxes of Vogel’s things, languishing in a closet in Las Vegas. 
Felicita Danola, his wife’s grandmother, had been hired in Vogel’s old 
age as his live-in caretaker. When Vogel died, in 1980, Danola acquired 
some of his belongings. Vogel had thought to organize them, and Danola 
had thought to keep them, but the material had gone untouched for 
several decades. Allen had it now. Did I want to come see it? There were 
photos, letters, magazine articles. The improbability of the entire 
enterprise—musicians creating art under the most odious and debilitating 
conditions imaginable—made the fact of the Ghetto Swingers seem 
miraculous to me, if not incomprehensible. I went to New Jersey.

Allen and his wife, Ruth, received me warmly, and, over the next several 
months, they helped me piece together Vogel’s story. Vogel was an 
amateur musician, perhaps more of an aficionado than a savant. He was 
stout—before the war, he was about two hundred and ten pounds—and 
round-faced, with big, kind eyes. His eyebrows were pleasingly thick and 
arched into two little peaks. Vogel was the type of guy who could I.D. a 
horn solo mere seconds after the stylus hit the record, a serious and 
devoted student of the form, an instinctive critic. He was not above 
some light boasting about his record collection, which he described as 
“one of the largest collections of American jazz records in my country.”

On March 15, 1939—the same day that the Czech President, Emil Hácha, 
granted free passage to German soldiers, after Hitler had threatened to 
bomb Prague—the Gestapo pounded on the door of the apartment that Vogel 
shared with his parents, in Brno. The officer recognized Vogel from a 
jam session that they’d both attended a few weeks back. How odd that 
confrontation must have felt—meeting again under once unthinkable 
circumstances. The officer assured Vogel that he would be safe. “This 
was the first time that jazz was deeply involved in shaping my life. It 
was not to be the last,” Vogel wrote.

After the German occupation, Vogel lost his job. He was required to wear 
a yellow Star of David and forbidden to be outside after 8 p.m. His 
family now shared their two-bedroom apartment with two other Jewish 
families. Vogel clung to jazz as a sort of life preserver. “I still 
managed to play somewhat muted jazz in my apartment,” he writes, “and 
was in demand by bandleaders to write more arrangements.” Eventually, 
his short-wave radio was confiscated by the Gestapo. The Gestapo also 
took his trumpet, though he soaked the valves in sulfuric acid before 
surrendering it, “to prevent anyone from playing military marches on the 
horn used to playing jazz.” Vogel took a job with the local Jewish 
council, and was ordered to help organize umschulungskurse, or 
“retraining” courses. In theory, these were supposed to teach people 
practical skills that would allow them to emigrate, but Vogel was asked 
to lead a course on jazz. He had about forty applicants, and turned them 
into a band: the Kille Dillers. “I had found in one Down Beat an 
expression, ‘killer diller,’ that I liked very much, though I didn’t 
know the exact meaning of the words,” Vogel wrote. (A bit of lost 
mid-century American slang, “killer diller” refers, in a general way, to 
something sensational, though jazz musicians of the big-band era used it 
specifically to refer to a musician who could really play; Vogel also 
noted that “Kille” sounded a bit like the Hebrew word “kehilah,” or 
congregation.)

The Kille Dillers fell apart as the transport orders started coming in. 
Vogel’s notice arrived on March 25, 1942. He was sent west to 
Theresienstadt, a transit camp and sorting station in Terezín, a 
fortress town in the Nazi-occupied Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia. 
Theresienstadt had been picked, he wrote, “to be shown to a commission 
of the International Red Cross as proof that everything written in the 
enemy press about concentration camps, with gas chambers, forced labor, 
and killing, was a lie.” In January of 1943, Vogel wrote to the camp’s 
department of leisure activities to see about establishing a jazz 
orchestra; he was given permission to assemble it. A band shell was 
erected in the main square, and a coffee house opened. The Ghetto 
Swingers were forced to play there “every day for many hours,” Vogel 
recalled. “It was set up as a so-called paradise camp—a showcase for 
propaganda purposes,” Bret Werb, an ethnomusicologist at the U.S. 
Holocaust Memorial Museum, in Washington, D.C., told me. “A lot of 
extraordinary things happened there. Many talented people who were sent 
there were allowed to exercise their artistic bents.”

The Ghetto Swingers were being compelled to participate in what was, by 
all accounts, a hideous charade, but the music that they played was 
real—which means that, for the players, it still offered a brief, guilty 
kind of solace, a bit of “joy and pleasure,” as Vogel wrote. “People did 
it because they felt better doing it, because it helped them escape,” 
Werb said. “Songs were spontaneously created there, or remembered. 
People’s access to the outside world was largely frozen in 1939, so a 
lot of the camp songs created are based on pop songs that people heard 
at the end of 1939.”

Vogel was able to recruit some of the best European players of the 
interwar era, including the clarinetist Fritz Weiss, and he soon found 
himself a little out of his league, musically. “The band was augmented 
by three trumpets and one trombone, and I was politely asked by the 
other members of the band to take the third chair and not play too 
loudly,” he wrote. The German-Jewish pianist Martin Roman was recognized 
at one of the band’s early shows. “They had heard that I had played in 
Holland with Coleman Hawkins, who was the greatest saxophonist in the 
world,” he said in 1989, in an interview with the musicologist David 
Bloch. “I improvised, and they did not let me stop.”

Vogel, who had never been a professional musician, was happy to cede 
control of the group. A few days later, Roman was approached by the 
bassist Pavel Libensky. “Libensky requested me to take over the 
leadership of the Ghetto Swingers,” Roman said. “At first I was 
reluctant to be in charge of a basically Czech group, but Libensky 
insisted and said all the musicians wanted me as their leader, and told 
me how impressed they all were by my playing and knowledge.”

At Theresienstadt, the Ghetto Swingers were enlisted by the S.S. to 
perform in a propaganda film known as “The Führer Gives the Jews a 
City.” Schumann, the guitarist, also described the band as a haven 
offering deep, if temporary, relief from the panic of the camps. “When I 
played I forgot where I was. The world seemed in order, the suffering of 
people around me disappeared—life was beautiful,” he wrote in his 
autobiography. “We knew everything and forgot everything the moment we 
played a few bars.” Vogel described a similar experience: “We were so 
concerned and so happy to play our beloved jazz that we had tranquilized 
ourselves into the dream world produced by the Germans for reasons of 
propaganda.”

Though there’s little musical overlap, Vogel’s story reminded me, in a 
way, of the work songs that were recorded in Southern prisons in the 
mid-twentieth century. At that time, black prisoners were often leased 
from state penitentiaries to companies that collected resin from 
long-leaf pine forests. (The resin was distilled into turpentine, a 
volatile, toxic substance commonly used as a paint solvent.) “The men 
worked killing shifts in deep mud and thick underbrush,” David Oshinsky 
writes in his book “Worse Than Slavery.” “We go from can’t to can’t,” 
one prisoner explained. “Can’t see in the morning to can’t see at 
night.” As early as the nineteen-thirties, ethnomusicologists and 
folklorists such as Alan Lomax travelled to places such as Parchman 
Farm, Mississippi’s notorious state penitentiary, to make field 
recordings of prisoners working in the sweltering cotton fields there. 
They sang to pass the time, to give rhythm to their labor, and to keep 
their humanity from dissipating entirely.

On June 23, 1944, delegates from the International Committee of the Red 
Cross arrived to inspect Theresienstadt in person. The Ghetto Swingers 
set up and played in the band shell. Vogel recalls the camp commandant 
handing out sardine sandwiches to starving children, and ordering them 
to exclaim, “My, sardines again!” The Red Cross accepted the display, 
and, three months after its representatives left, on September 28th, the 
Nazis began emptying the camp. The Ghetto Swingers were sent to 
Auschwitz, every member aside from Vogel on the first transport train. 
Some of them, including Fritz Weiss, were marched from the train 
directly into a gas chamber. Vogel writes about his later arrival with 
extraordinary frankness: “The dense smoke coming from the chimney was 
the last of my friends.”

Vogel was eventually reunited with a few surviving members of the band. 
At Auschwitz, thirty or so musicians were selected to entertain the 
Nazis; they were assigned to a special barracks, and dressed in 
“sharp-looking” band uniforms. “We had to play from early in the morning 
until late in the evening for the German SS, who came in flocks to our 
barracks,” Vogel wrote. But, after four weeks, the Nazis disassembled 
the band and loaded its members onto a train. “People were lying one on 
the other. Some were crying, and a few were dying,” Vogel wrote. The 
Ghetto Swingers managed to joke with one another, and to sing some of 
their favorite band arrangements. For the next several months, Vogel was 
shuffled between camps.

When Vogel escaped, he weighed about seventy pounds. The first night, he 
hid in the woods. It rained. When he finally heard a car engine, he 
crawled from his hiding spot, and encountered two German Air Force 
officers. Miraculously, they gave him bread. Vogel walked to 
Petzenhausen, a nearby village. “I was given hot black coffee and 
potatoes and hidden by the villagers in a barn,” he wrote.

On April 30, 1945, an American jeep drove into the village with the 
words “boogie-woogie” painted on its side. Hitler died the same day; a 
week later, the Germans would sign an instrument of unconditional 
surrender. Vogel ran to a soldier, kissed his feet, and started asking 
him about jazz. Vogel was offered chocolate and cigarettes. The 
Americans brought Vogel to an officers’ club, where they blindfolded him 
and played him records, to see if he could identify the performer. 
“Despite the fact that I had been cut off from American jazz for more 
than four years, I recognized most recordings of bands and soloists that 
were played for me. I was the sensation of the club,” Vogel wrote.


Vogel, at left, wearing his uniform from the camps, in a photo taken in 
1945, shortly after he’d escaped.
In New Jersey, Allen showed me a glass negative for a photo of Vogel 
taken in 1945, shortly after he’d escaped. In it, he is standing 
alongside an older couple. It appears that he managed to put on about 
twenty pounds in his first two weeks free. He’s wearing his uniform from 
the camps—a dirty striped shirt and work pants. Werb told me that it was 
not especially unusual for Holocaust survivors to get back into their 
uniforms and pose for photographs with locals, just as returning 
soldiers might do. There’s another picture that shows Vogel in a group 
of eleven men and boys, all of them wearing their camp uniforms. Two 
women huddle in the front, one holding onto the other. Vogel is standing 
in the back, wearing a hat. His cheeks are sunken, and his eyes are 
blank. The photo was shot in black-and-white, but one gets the sense 
that, even if it had been taken with color film, it would still look 
impossibly gray.

Schumann was also put on a transport train to a subcamp of Dachau. A few 
months later, he was being marched toward Innsbruck, in Austria, when 
American tanks arrived; he was twenty years old, and terribly sick with 
angina and typhoid fever. Schumann briefly moved to Australia after the 
war, but eventually he returned to Berlin, where he performed with 
Marlene Dietrich, Ella Fitzgerald, and the violinist Helmut Zacharias, 
and later started his own band, the Coco Schumann Quartet. He died in 
Berlin, in 2018, at ninety-three. Martin Roman ultimately immigrated to 
the U.S., and settled in New Jersey. He kept playing, too—first at clubs 
in New York City and then at resorts upstate. He died in 1996, at 
eighty-six. Allen found a poster advertising a show in 1947, at the 
Hotel Astoria, in Prague, featuring what was most likely Vogel’s first 
band after the war: the E. T. Birds Blue White Rhythm Stars. Vogel’s 
first two initials were E.T., for Eric Theodore, and Vogel means “bird” 
in German.

In 1946, Vogel moved to New York with Gertrude Kleinová. Trudy, as she 
was known, was born on August 13, 1918, in Brno. She and Vogel had met 
before the war, at the local branch of the Maccabi sports club. As a 
teen-ager, Trudy exhibited an uncanny aptitude for table tennis, and 
Vogel became her coach; Trudy would be a table-tennis world champion 
three times before the age of twenty, helping win the women’s team world 
championship twice, in 1935 and 1936, and the world mixed doubles once, 
in 1936, with her playing partner, Miloslav Hamr.

In 1939, she married Jacob Schalinger, the chairman of her local 
table-tennis division. There’s a beguiling black-and-white photo of 
Trudy leaning on a table-tennis table, holding a paddle; she’s wearing 
high-waisted shorts, a tucked-in shirt, and little white sneakers, with 
neatly folded-down socks. Her dark hair is parted on the side and 
brushed back. Bohumil Váňa, one of her teammates, stands to her left, 
beaming. Trudy’s smile is wide and satisfied. There’s a ring on her left 
hand, which makes me think the photo must have been taken sometime 
between her wedding to Schalinger, in 1939, and December of 1941, when 
she and Schalinger were sent to Theresienstadt. Eventually, they, too, 
were brought to Auschwitz, where Schalinger was killed.

Nobody knows for sure how Trudy and Vogel found each other again, after 
the war ended. It’s possible that they saw each other at Theresienstadt, 
or at Auschwitz. Surely it was a relief to reunite in Brno—to find a 
person they knew and cared for before the camps, but who had seen the 
same things they’d seen, and understood how life was different now. They 
arranged for what looks like a small civil ceremony. Trudy wore an 
elegant, long-sleeved black suit and carried tulips. They exchanged 
rings that were handed to them on a silver platter, and posed for a 
photograph with friends and family on the street. In it, a man standing 
behind them holds a trumpet up like a talisman. Another waves drumsticks 
in the air.


Trudy and Eric Vogel, in the foreground, after their wedding.
It’s hard for me not to wonder now if Vogel had loved Trudy before, back 
when he was her coach, lecturing her on ball placement and spin, 
watching her play—and what it must have been like to see her marry a 
different man, a friend. They settled in Elmhurst, Queens, a 
predominantly Jewish and Italian neighborhood. Vogel took a job as a 
draftsman (he was later promoted to designer, then to design engineer) 
with Loewy-Hydropress, an engineering firm founded by a Czech refugee 
who had fled the Nazis. He also worked steadily as a jazz critic (his 
press pass declares that he’s “a bona fide representative of Down Beat 
Magazine”) and a radio host. In New York, Vogel palled around with guys 
like John Hammond—the record producer who introduced Benny Goodman to 
Fletcher Henderson, seeding the idea that jazz could “swing,” and who 
later signed Bob Dylan to Columbia Records. He was also a friend and 
booster of the extraordinary jazz pianist Jutta Hipp, who moved to the 
U.S. in 1955 and later lived near the Vogels, in Queens. Hipp, who 
stopped performing not long after, often drew caricatures of jazz 
performers. Vogel’s papers contain several.

Hammond’s archive, at Yale, contains dozens of letters between Vogel and 
Hammond. In them, Vogel mostly inquired after copies of Columbia records 
that he wanted to broadcast on the radio, but he also appointed himself 
as a kind of amateur A. & R. man, vigorously championing any promising 
young artists whom he came across. He recommended a twenty-year-old 
gospel singer, Rose Presley, who had come to New York from South 
Carolina and now worked at Loewy: “I feel a certain potential in her 
voice and I would ask you, dear John if you agree with me,” he wrote. 
“Her salary is small and she has to support her family.” In the sixties, 
after he travelled to Jamaica, Vogel suggested that Hammond look into a 
Jamaican singer, Keith Stewart, whom he had seen perform at a hotel. 
Vogel believed that Stewart could be “Columbias answer to Harry 
Belafonte,” and described him as having “perfect intonation.” Sometimes, 
Hammond politely demurred in his responses; at other times, he followed 
up on Vogel’s suggestions. (I eventually found a copy of Stewart’s début 
LP, “Yellow Bird,” in the dollar bin at my local record shop: it’s a 
sweet, breezy folk record, the kind of thing that sounds vast and 
flawless when the sun is shining.) This is the part of Vogel that I find 
the most consistently endearing. He loved music so thoroughly.

Allen also found a handful of vacation photos tucked among Vogel’s 
papers. Many are of the Vogels lounging lakeside in the Catskill 
Mountains, in upstate New York; in one, Trudy is holding a life 
preserver that reads “Breezy Hill.” When I reached out to the owner of 
the modern-day Breezy Hill Inn, in Fleischmanns, New York, to see if it 
might be the same place, I was told that there used to be a larger 
resort nearby called the Breezy Hill Hotel. Martin Roman played in the 
band there. I like to think that Vogel and Roman reunited happily in the 
mountains—that they had suffered together, and now might share pleasure. 
Maybe Vogel even brought his trumpet, and sat in with Roman’s band.

In 1952, Vogel wrote a three-page poem about Breezy Hill, in German. I 
asked the jazz guitarist Russ Spiegel—who was born in California but 
came of age in Germany—if he could translate the piece. He pointed out 
that it was written in rhyming verse, like a song. I wondered what it 
meant. The owner of the Breezy Hill Inn eventually referred me to a 
friend of hers, Peter Neumann, who had spent time at Breezy Hill in the 
nineteen-fifties, and whose mother, Suzanne Neumann, occasionally sang 
with the band. Neumann told me that the musicians often invented 
parodies about the guests—or whatever was going on at the resort that 
week—and sang them to the melody of a popular song. Vogel’s piece, which 
he titled “The Secret of Breezy Hill,” describes the management of the 
hotel training flies to spy on the resort’s guests—to curtail their 
mischief and, especially, to make sure that they didn’t miss breakfast.


Trudy lounging lakeside.
Trudy is smiling in the photos—never widely, but she looks content 
enough. Still, one gets the sinking sense that she hadn’t quite 
metabolized the trauma of the war. How could we expect her to? She 
worked in New York—she was a member of the United Optical Workers 
Union—but her health steadily worsened. Allen showed me a letter from 
her physician, Eric J. Nash, written in 1963. “Mrs. Vogel entered the 
camp in full physical and mental health, she was a known champion in 
many fields of sport,” Nash wrote. “When she left the camp she suffered 
from the usual starvation syndrome, avitaminosis and underweight. She 
had developed osteoarthritis of her dorsal spine, both knee joints and 
both feet. She showed marked restlessness with prolonged periods of 
depression, coupled with severe headaches and sleeplessness.” It ends 
with a grim summation: “In view of the long-standing sickness the 
prognosis as to complete recovery is poor.”

Allen now has what’s surely a pair of Trudy’s table-tennis paddles, 
though it’s hard to say whether she ever played with them again. In 
1948, shortly after they arrived in America, Vogel had written to the 
United States Table Tennis Association, perhaps to let it know that 
Trudy had arrived. “I certainly do remember your wife and her brilliant 
play in the 1937 World Championships,” Elmer F. Cinnater, then the 
association’s president, responded. He encouraged the Vogels to visit 
the Broadway Table Tennis Courts, near Carnegie Hall. “Just for the fun 
of it, don’t tell anyone about your wife,” he suggested. “Enter in the 
tournament and surprise the fellows up there.” I wonder if Trudy went—if 
she and Vogel pulled off the gag, and laughed about it on the train back 
to Queens. Trudy died in 1976, at the age of fifty-seven. Vogel’s 
correspondence suggests that she was sick for years before that.

In April of 1952, Vogel published an article in Metronome, another 
American jazz magazine. Because the piece is critical of the Soviet 
Union, and because his parents were still alive and living in 
Czechoslovakia, he thought it best to use a pseudonym—“K. Siva.” 
(Vogel’s parents, Ernst and Emma, were also sent to Terezín, and 
remained there until the spring of 1945, when they were liberated. “They 
were among those who eluded deportation and outlasted the Germans,” 
Werb, the musicologist, told me. “You might say they were lucky.” Emma 
died in 1954, and Ernst in 1961.) In the piece, Vogel argues that jazz 
represents the truest kind of liberation—a sort of spiritual and 
political emancipation. “The spirit of freedom in American Jazz has 
always been a hindrance and sore spot in the programs of totalitarian 
governments,” he writes. Jazz gave musicians a freedom “comparable only 
to the freedoms of the democratic way of life.” Vogel describes the 
desire for the music among young people in Prague as similar “to the cry 
for water of a thirsty man lost in the desert.” He implores radio 
programmers to play more jazz on the stations “being beamed toward the 
Iron Curtain”—it will be a balm and a thrill, he suggests, for listeners 
shrinking under uncompromising regimes. Vogel felt that he owed his life 
to jazz (“I truly and literally had made my living with jazz,” he writes 
at the end of his Downbeat story), and, for the rest of his years in New 
York, he wanted to celebrate it. It had kept him alive once; maybe it 
could do the same for others now.

Curiously, the response to his Downbeat story appears to have been 
underwhelming. In a February, 1962, issue, a month after the publication 
of the third installment, there’s a single letter to the editor from an 
irate twenty-nine-year-old German, who sarcastically thanks Vogel for 
how he “really helped to rip open old wounds.” Yet Vogel went on. He 
tried to sell a memoir, but couldn’t find an appropriate co-author. (At 
one point the jazz critic Leonard Feather was a candidate.) He 
programmed radio shows, helped to book jazz festivals, and played music 
with his friends whenever he could. Before he died, in 1980—his death 
certificate cites congestive heart failure and colon cancer, though he 
was also suffering from Parkinson’s disease—he had collected photos of 
almost every major American jazz musician performing live: Miles Davis, 
Sonny Rollins, Charlie Parker, John Coltrane, Thelonious Monk. There’s 
something so pure and glorious about that part of Vogel. Nobody could 
extinguish or soften his love of jazz, not even the Nazis.

A lot of us who write about music talk about how a song or album saved 
our lives at one point or another. I’ve done it. It’s a flashy way of 
saying, “I need this. It means something to me.” Vogel understood the 
idea literally, as a debt he’d spend the rest of his life repaying. One 
night, Allen sent me a couple of stanzas by the writer Gregory Orr, from 
“Concerning the Book That Is the Body of the Beloved.” It made him think 
of Vogel, he said, and why it was so important to remember his life.

Reading it, I wondered if this was what it felt like for Vogel and the 
rest of the Ghetto Swingers to raise their instruments. To find grace in 
a place of dying, to be reborn and reanimated, briefly, by song:

Who can measure the gratitude
Of the beloved?
To have lain so long in the dark,
Listening to the worms whisper.
The eyes closed, the nerves numb.
And then to be brought alive.

And all because of you.
Because you sang the song
That someone wrote—or
Hummed it, even, not remembering
The words, but feeling the feeling of it.



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