In the spring of 1940, Eric Koch was a law student in London. Four months
later, he was a prisoner in Quebec, arrested as an enemy alien by the British
government and sent to a prison camp in Canada.
Chapter 9 : The Camp Experience
Camp B alone had nineteen pianists, including John Newmark, Wolfgang Gerson, Harry Coleman and Len Bergé. Willi Amtmann played the violin, and Carl Amberg the cello. There were flautists and accordion players. The Canadian Red Cross and the Y.M.C.A. generously donated a good supply of instruments and sheet music.
In Sherbrooke we had Gerhard Kander, a promising young violin virtuoso with an amazing technique, who all day could be found practicing in the boiler room. Since all the musicians were excused from routine duties, he spent the time when he was not praticing reading detective stories and studying law books.
Anothere violinist of remarkable talent was Hans Kaufman, an admirable exponent of Mozart and Beethoven. He could also play lilting Viennese airs, which delighted even the most dour Prussians.
A genius by the name of Paul Huber has such a remarkable musical memory that he scored the orchestral parts for the D-Minor piano concerto by Mozart from the piano solo part alone. He wrote it for two violins, two flutes, a viola and cello as no other instruments were available in the camp. John Newmark, whose memory in contrast to Huber's was so bad that he has to sight-read "God Save The King", then performed the concerto with Huber conducting.
Another outstanding contributor to the musical life was Walter Stiasny. He
had been conductor an coach of the Vienna State Opera, and professor at the
Many of us had a richer musical life behind the barbed wire than we had before or after internment. I cannot ever here the Wandererfantasie by Schubert or the F-Minor Ballade by Chopin
without thinking of Helmut Blume practicing these pieces in the
little lean-to shed A in Sherbrooke. We had, in Camp L, heard him play the D-Minor Toccata and Fugue by Bach-Taussig on an upright with two keys missing.
Once John Newmark had arrived in Sherbrooke there were two great pianists under one roof - Blume, the romantic virtuoso, and Newmark, the elegant, polished chamber-musician. We, the audiance, endlessly discussed their respective styles. Whenever the two played together the event was comparable to a Stanley Cup play-off game.
Our officers often attended our concerts and were so impressed by the variety and quality of music they heard that they frequently commandeered the musicians to play during Sunday dinner at the mess. These performances were in addition to the sergeant-major's requests to provide music for his Saturday night entertainments. Shortly after Newmark was released, he gave a concert in Sherbrooke together with Adolf Busch and Rudolf Serkin; Sergeant-major Macintosh appeared bakstage afterwards, slapped Newmark on the back, beaming with pride that one of his "prisoners" has risen so high! I am afraid Newmark acknowledged the salute with minimal grace.
On December 7, 1941, Newmark and his friends were listening to a broadcast of Arthur Rubinstein playing the Emperor Concerto in Carngie Hall. Someone burst into the hut; shouting, "The Japanese have bombed Pearl Harbor! Now the Americans will be in the war!" Newmark hushed him and whispered "Quiet please. The war will go on for a long time, but Rubinstein is an old man. Who knows how long we'll be able to listen to him!"