The Info List - Michael Wieck

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Michael Wieck (born 19 July 1928) is a German violinist and author. Wieck's memoir, Zeugnis vom Untergang Königsbergs ("Witness to the fall of Königsberg"), was published in 1989. In it he relates his and his partly Jewish family's sufferings under the Nazis and, after the German defeat, under the Soviets. This moving story was translated into English in 2003 under the title A Childhood Under Hitler and Stalin: Memoirs of a "Certified Jew,", and in 2004 into Russian as Закат Кёнигсберга ("Sunset of Königsberg"). A revised Russian edition was published in 2015.


1 Biography 2 Awards 3 Bibliography 4 References

Biography[edit] Wieck was born in Königsberg, the capital of East Prussia
East Prussia
(now Kaliningrad, Russia). He is the son of two Königsberg
musicians who were widely known before the Nazi era, Kurt Wieck and Hedwig Wieck-Hulisch. They were founders of the popular Königsberger Streichquartett ( Königsberg
String Quartet). After consultation with a local rabbi, his Jewish mother and his nominally Protestant, but in religious matters indifferent, father decided to bring up their children, Michael and his sister, Miriam (born 1925), as Jews and enrolled them with the Jewish congregation in Königsberg. According to Jewish religious law a person born from a Jewish mother is Jewish by birth. This differs from the Nazi racist categories of half-, quarter- or smaller fractions of Jewishness. Following promulgation of the 1935 anti-Jewish Nuremberg Laws, Wieck and his sister were categorized, not as Mischlinge (mixed race), but as Geltungsjuden ("persons considered to be Jewish"), who in some cases were spared from the Holocaust. After Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
came to power in January 1933 the Wiecks experienced the gradual ramping-up of anti-Semitic discrimination and oppression. First they were ejected from public schools and sent to Jewish schools. Later they were later forbidden to attend classes at all. In 1938 Miriam was sent to a boarding school in Scotland in a Kindertransporte, taking the place of another German-Jewish girl who had gone to the United States. Thus, she survived the war. Shortly thereafter, young Michael Wieck was compelled to work in factories. In mid-1941 Wieck celebrated his Bar Mitzva
Bar Mitzva
in the small Orthodox synagogue Adass Jisroel, as the main Jewish synogogue of Königsberg
had been destroyed in the Nazi "Kristallnacht" pogrom of November 1938.[1] During the pogrom perpetrators vandalized the interior of the Orthodox synagogue hall, but spared it from arson because it was housed in a residential building. Later the congregation restored a prayer hall in the building and used it until the few remaining Königsberg
synagogues were banned.[2] The Wiecks experienced the pain of parting with emigrating Jewish relatives and friends – most acutely when the Nazi regime in October 1941 began systematic deportations of German Jews to ghettos and concentration camps. However, because Wieck's parents were a mixed marriage – Kurt Wieck had no known recent Jewish ancestors – they were spared deportation and ultimately genocide, unlike most members of Königsberg's Jewish community, which dated back four centuries. Although the Wiecks experienced isolated acts of kindness from a few non-Jewish neighbors, they were tormented by others, and life became more and more difficult for them as the war dragged on. In late August 1944, Königsberg
was repeatedly fire-bombed by the British Royal Air Force, and much of the city's center, including the medieval castle and the 14th century Königsberg
Cathedral, was destroyed, gutted or heavily damaged. "The people of Königsberg
shall never expunge these nights of terror from their memory," Wieck wrote. When the Red Army, after a bitterly fought siege lasting nearly three months, conquered Königsberg
on April 9, 1945 – one month before the end of World War II – the city had become a vast graveyard of rubble. Of the 316,000 people who had lived there before the war, perhaps 100,000 remained, and Wieck estimated that about half of these were to die of hunger, disease, or maltreatment before the last Germans were allowed (or forced) to leave in 1949-50. The Soviet authorities declined to recognize the few surviving German Jews in Königsberg
as victims of the Nazis, and initially treated all German-speakers as enemies. Wieck's incarceration in a Soviet prison camp near Königsberg-Rothenstein, and the story of how he and his parents barely managed to eke out an existence thereafter in Kaliningrad
– as the city was renamed on in July 1946 – occupy the second half of his book. In 1949, the Wiecks finally were allowed to go to the Soviet Zone of occupation in truncated and divided Germany. Wieck left the Soviet zone as soon as possible and lived first in West Berlin, where "Gentile" paternal relatives had survived. Thereafter he lived for seven years in New Zealand, before returning to Germany
and settling in Stuttgart. After his return, Wieck, an accomplished violinist, became first concert master of the Stuttgart
Chamber Orchestra, and in 1974-93 was also first violinist in the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Stuttgart. In his memoir, Wieck muses on human nature and speculates on ultimate causes and the nature of the deity. Although he retains a strong emotional attachment to Judaism, he ultimately espouses a kind of deism, alluding to "a definite feeling of something 'lying behind it all' that always resists being put into words." Regarding human nature and humankind’s potential for good and evil, he says:

“ All people, be they musicians or politicians, Germans or New Zealanders, Jews or Christians, the persecutors or the persecuted, are frighteningly the same irrespective of different temperaments, ideals and conventions. In all of us resides the potential for every possible action... ”

Awards[edit] In 2005, Wieck was awarded the Otto Hirsch
Otto Hirsch
Medaille – an annual honor given to persons who have served the cause of German-Jewish reconciliation. The award is named after Otto Hirsch
Otto Hirsch
(1885-1941), a German-Jewish lawyer and politician from Stuttgart
who was imprisoned by the Nazis and ultimately tortured to death at Mauthausen Concentration Camp in German-annexed Austria. On Nov. 17, 2016, Wieck was awarded Germany's prestigious Order of Merit. In presenting the award on behalf of German President Joachim Gauck, Stuttgart
Mayor Fritz Kuhn
Fritz Kuhn
said that, in his life and work, "Wieck combines cultural, social, political and musical commitment. His commitment to an open, tolerant and equitable society is impressive."[3] Bibliography[edit]

Michael Wieck: Zeugnis vom Untergang Königsbergs: Ein "Geltungsjude" berichtet, Heidelberger Verlaganstalt, 1990, 1993, ISBN 3-89426-059-9. Michael Wieck: A Childhood Under Hitler and Stalin: Memoirs of a "Certified Jew," University of Wisconsin Press, 2003, ISBN 0-299-18544-3.


^ Michael Wieck, Zeugnis vom Untergang Königsbergs: Ein «Geltungsjude» berichtet (11990), Munich: Beck, 82005, (Beck'sche Reihe; vol. 1608), pp. 84seqq. ISBN 3-406-51115-5. ^ Michael Wieck, Zeugnis vom Untergang Königsbergs: Ein «Geltungsjude» berichtet (11990), Munich: Beck, 82005, (Beck'sche Reihe; vol. 1608), p. 81. ISBN 3-406-51115-5. ^ "OB Kuhn überreicht Bundesverdienstkreuz an Michael Wieck". Landeshauptstadt Stuttgart. Retrieved March 7, 2018. 

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WorldCat Identities VIAF: 61678582 LCCN: n89663846 ISNI: 0000 0001 0907 6915 GND: 118961888 SUDOC: 080184375 BNF: