Mendelssohn is on the Roof – Jiri Weil
Mendelssohn is on the Roof written by the Czech author Jiri Weil is an intruguing masterpiece and compulsory reading for fans of Czech literarure. Weil’s novel describes the how ordinary people’s lives changed during Nazi occupation of Prague. Weil tells the story of the struggle to survive in a regime, where humour and courage are needed to keep hope and retain humanity.
Jiri Weil (1900-1959), Jew and Czech, worked as a journalist in Moscow in the early thirties after joining the Communists. The same communists arrested and banished him for alleged involvement in the murder of a protégé of Stalin. Back in Prague he pretended suicide but in actual fact he went into hiding thus preventing deportation during World War II.
The book opens with a scene in which Reichsprotektor Reinhard Heydrich orders to immediately remove the bust of the Jew Mendelssohn from the roof of the Rudolfinum concert hall in Prague. It is unclear which of the statues should be removed. Finally, it is decided to remove the statue with the largest nose. This happens to be Wagner, Hitler’s favourite composer. This comical scene makes the horrors that follow each other seamlessly even more cruel.