The following pages offer interpretation but never invention. No incidents, scenes, or quotations stem from the imagination or attempts to improve the narrative through fictional polishing; all are based on documentary evidence and the testimony of witnesses. Even firsthand testimony, however -- particularly on a subject so fraught with emotion -- is sometimes baffling in its contradictions. Where facts cannot be established due to meager evidence or conflicting positions taken, we have reported on what is likely. Such speculation is clearly labeled.
Throughout we have made a scrupulous effort to give precise source information. In some cases, press clippings preserved in the family archive were unidentified, letters undated, memories vague. Although occasional gaps remain, this reconstruction of the life of Alma Rosé represents the best knowledge to be had in our time.
Alma's life story divides naturally into two parts: before and after Adolf Hitler's rise to power, when because of her Jewish ancestry Alma became a hunted person. Her own voice animates the early chapters. But after her arrest by the Nazis she is silent, and we rely on the testimony of those who remember her, including some two dozen of her Auschwitz-Birkenau "orchestra girls." Richard Newman has made a determined effort to record the orchestra survivors' memories while they are vivid; many of the camp musicians have died or become infirm since his first round of interviews in the 1980s. Insofar as this book is their testament as well as Alma's, its publication has been a race against time.
Some facts and figures related to Auschwitz and the Holocaust are disputed by reliable authorities. In supplying background information we have made considered choices; for the sake of brevity we do not recapitulate scholarly debates.