Coco Schumann, Holocaust survivor and jazz guitarist, dies at 93 | Music | DW | 29.01.2018
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Coco Schumann, Holocaust survivor and jazz guitarist, dies at 93

Coco Schumann, a legendary jazz guitarist and one of the last remaining survivors of the Holocaust, has died in Berlin. As part of the band the Ghetto Swingers, he was forced to perform for the SS at Auschwitz.

Coco Schumann, a Jewish swing musician who made a name for himself in Berlin's underground jazz and swing scene in the 1930s and was later forced to entertain guards at the concentration camps where he was held, died Sunday at the age of 93, his record label Trikont has announced.

Schumann, whose real name was Heinz Jakob Schumann, was arrested in 1943 after authorities learned his mother was Jewish. He was deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in German-occupied Czechoslovakia, where he played in the band known as the Ghetto Swingers.

He was transferred to Auschwitz in 1944, where he was made to play music to entertain guards and welcome new arrivals to the concentration camp.

Read more: Jazz in Auschwitz - Coco Schumann looks back

Deutschland Der Ghetto Swinger im Renaissance Theater Berlin (picture alliance/POP-EYE/Heinrich)

Schumann's life story was turned into a musical in 2012. Here, he is played by Konstantin Moreth (right)

Electric guitar pioneer

Born in 1924, Schumann got an early start by teaching himself to play the guitar and drums. As a minor, he was already performing with swing bands in Berlin bars and dance clubs. He once credited jazz great Ella Fitzgerald for his decision to become a musician.

After the war, Schumann left Europe for Australia before returning to Berlin in the mid-1950s to relaunch his music career. He was one of the first German musicians to play the electric guitar, and he performed with jazz violinist Helmut Zacharias and singer Bully Buhlan.

In 2012, Schumann's autobiography "The Ghetto Swinger" was adapted into a musical in Hamburg.

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DW interview with Coco Schumann from 2014

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