1948 - Paul Misraki: Soundtrack for a new Germany

By Andrew Stallybrass

04/02/2021
Paul Misraki

 

Germany was in ruins. Europe was in ruins. Millions had been killed; millions more wounded and displaced. There were also ruins of the mind, deep collective trauma in desperate need of healing. In the summer of 1948, a musical revue was created in Caux, along with a travelling photo exhibition and a booklet, "Es Muss Alles Anders Werden" (Everything must be different). A Swedish paper-maker who was at Caux provided the stock to print one and half million copies.

In October 1948, Frank Buchman and a team of 260 left Caux by bus for Germany. In the words of Irène Laure, a Frenchwoman who’d fought in the resistance to the Nazi occupation of her country, ‘We ploughed our way back and forth across Germany as you plough a field.’ It was described as the largest non-military operation in Germany since the war.

 

A travelling photo exhibition is prepared in Caux 1948
A travelling photo exhibition is prepared in Caux 1948

 

One of the remarkable talents enlisted in this innovative and challenging project was Paul Misraki, a major French composer of popular music and film scores. Over more than 60 years, he wrote the music to 130 films, for directors like Jean Renoir, Claude Chabrol, Jean-Luc Godard and Orson Welles.

Born in Constantinople, into a French Jewish family of Italian descent, by the 1930s he had become an established jazz pianist, arranger, and writer of popular songs. He fled France during the World War II German occupation, and ended up in Hollywood. In Caux, Misraki composed a number of songs for the revue, including the music for the title song, to words by Alan Thornhill, an English church minister turned playwright. (Listen to the song "The Good Road" here.)

The photo shows Paul Misraki conducting the Orchestre de la Suisse Romande in the Victoria Hall in Geneva (the major concert hall and the major orchestra) as they recorded the soundtrack for the show – necessary because they couldn’t take a full symphony orchestra ‘on the road’ with them in Germany.

 

Paul Misraki
Paul Misraki rehearsing for the show

 

The German Peter Petersen (see 1947) was one of the stage crew. In the chorus was 19-year-old Jacqueline Piguet-Koechlin. She and her family had been forced to leave Alsace in 1940. In a booklet of letters home to her parents, she describes in vivid detail the buses winding through the ruins of city after city in Germany. She wrote, ‘This is what I’d wanted. Under the occupation, I’d wanted the Germans to have their share of suffering. When I joined this venture and postponed my university studies for a year, I felt proud of myself for caring for the defeated enemy. But I didn’t know, I couldn’t imagine suffering like this. And I wept.’ 

The team held 200 public meetings and shows in 11 weeks, including in 10 of the 11 state parliaments. In the party were two French Jews, one of whom had lost 15, the other 22, relatives in Nazi concentration camps.

The London News Chronicle quoted a Military Government official as saying, ‘You [Initiatives of Change*] have done more in two days to interpret democracy to the German people than we have been able to do in three years.’

 

Click here and listen to a recording of the song  "Es muss alles anders werden" (1947/48).

 

Image
The cast of The Good Road meet the audience backstage after the show in Germany 1948
The cast of "The Good Road" meet the audience backstage after a show in Germany 1948

 

 

This story is part of our series 75 Years of Stories about individuals who found new direction and inspiration through Caux, one for each year from 1946 to 2021. If you know a story appropriate for this series, please do pass on your ideas by email to John Bond or Yara Zhgeib. If you would like to know more about the early years of Initiatives of Change and the conference centre in Caux please click here and visit the platform For A New World.

 

  • * then known as Moral Re-Armament
  • Photos: Initiatives of Change 
  • Recordings: Initiatives of Change

 

Featured Story
Off

related stories

Hope in the Cities - Dr Robert Taylor (left, John Smith and Audrey Burton at Caux 1992

1992: Hope in the Cities – 'Where healing can take place'

In July 1992, 80 Americans arrived at the Initiatives of Change Switzerland conference centre in Caux with an urgent question: how to address racism, poverty and alienation in US cities. Three months ...

Anna Abdallah

1991: Anna Abdallah Msekwa – Creators of Peace

The 680 women – and some men – who packed the Main Hall of the Caux Palace for the launch of Creators of Peace 30 years ago came from 62 countries and a mind-boggling variety of backgrounds: a Mohawk ...

King Michael of Romania, Queen Anne and young Romanians in Caux 1990

1990: King Michael of Romania – ‘Evil cannot last indefinitely’

In the summer of 1990, six months after the overthrow of Communism in their country, 30 young Romanians came to Caux. It was their first time outside the Eastern bloc, and they had been hesitant about...

Michel Orphelin acting in Caux

1989: Michel Orphelin – Theatre of the heart

In spring 1946, when the first small group of Swiss visited the derelict hotel in Caux which was to become the Initiatives of Change (IofC) conference centre, they realized its ballroom could become a...

1988 square.

1988: Joe Hakim and Marie Chaftari - ‘I am not a victim’

The Caux summer of 1988 at the Initiatives of Change conference centre began with a Mediterranean Dialogue, attended by people from all over the region, followed by a 10-day ‘youth training session’. ...

Mother Park

1987: Mother Park Chung Soo – ‘A new door began to open’

Mother Park Chung Soo, a Won Buddhist nun, has been called the ‘Mother Teresa of South Korea’. She was already involved in humanitarian work in Korea when she came to the Initiatives of Change confere...

Benches Work Week 1986

1986 - Work Week: A facelift for the Caux Palace

As plans for celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Initiatives of Change conference centre in Caux got underway, Eliane Stallybrass began to dream. In 1946 the pioneers of Caux had volunteered their...

Renée Pan photo David Channer

1985: Renée Pan – Dropping the burden of revenge

Renée Pan, a Cambodian refugee living in the US, came to Caux in 1985 on a mission – to learn how to forgive....

Amie Zysset in Caux

1984 - Amie Zysset: The great adventure

Amie Zysset from Switzerland was the heart and soul of the international family conferences which took place in Caux from 1978 through the 1980s. She died – aged only 60 – after many months in hospita...

Folker and Monica Mittag wedding

1983: Folker and Monica Mittag – Found in translation

The wedding of Folker and Monica Mittag in April 1983 resulted from an encounter in Caux ‘which changed our lives for ever’. Folker was a German businessman; Monica a Swiss interpreter. Discvoer how t...

Paul Tournier 1982 in Caux (credit: Paul Gardner)

1982: Paul Tournier – Medicine of the person

One of my most powerful memories of well over 50 years of Caux conferences comes from 1982: sitting in a translation cabin, looking down on the Great Hall, and interpreting from French into English fo...

Agnes Hofmeyr Stanley Kinga

1981: Stanley Kinga and Agnes Hofmeyr – ‘It came into my heart that I must tell her’

When Agnes Hofmeyr sat down to dinner in Caux with her compatriot, Stanley Kinga, in 1981, she had no idea of the bombshell he was about to drop....