A cultural melding pot

Daniel Snowman explores the cultural legacy of the refugees from Nazism.

DESPITE my strange surname, I am not a German “Schneemann”; my forebears came from various parts of the “Pale of Jewish settlement”, the borderlands of imperial Russia in which Jews were permitted to live in Tsarist times.

But I was raised in north-west London and, gradually learning about the horrors of the Holocaust and of the refugees lucky enough to avoid it, I learned to respect, almost revere, all who had Germanic-sounding names and accents. When my parents took me to a concert the conductor might be a jolly good all-English chap with a name like Boult, Beecham or Sargent; but I knew it would be something special if he was called Klemperer, Goehr, Susskind or Schwarz.

All migrations bring “culture” with them, as much of British history testifies; consider the legacy of the Roman occupation, the Angles and Saxons, the Normans or the Huguenots. In many ways people like Nikolaus Pevsner, George Weidenfeld or the Freuds were simply part of the latest wave.

"Daniel Snowman has brought zest and boundless curiosity to every aspect of his very wide and always impressive professional life. These pages reflect all that in joyful abundance."


"Daniel says somewhere that he doesn’t want to judge people. And he doesn’t. He writes candidly about his orthodox Jewish background, the benefits brought by German refugees, the evils of McCarthyism, the racism of the American South. He has been everywhere. As a musician and broadcaster, he has interviewed politicians like Crossman, luminaries like Barbirolli, and befriended singers like Domingo. He has even calmly discussed ‘the bomb’ with Harry Truman. He is a writer, producer, performer, historian and human being all in one and this book deserves to be read widely."

11th Earl of Sandwich and former President of the Pepys Club

"Daniel Snowman’s well-lived life – as broadcaster, historian, singer, lecturer, opera-buff – has taken him around the world and brought him in contact with many of the cultural and  political greats of the modern world. His warmly empathetic, intelligent and open-minded personality informs every page of this insightful and civilised memoir."

Editor of History Today, 1997–2008

"I have known Daniel over 70 years, but had no idea what a rich and full life he has led. I found it so impressive how he has managed to combine his two loves, history and music, largely through his world-wide travels and research, and his fascinating interviews (about some of which I would have liked to have learned more!). The book is beautifully presented, easy to read and well illustrated. I particularly appreciated the shortish chapters.

I would happily award Daniel the alpha star he apparently always wanted!"

Historian, Educationalist - and Daniel's first history teacher 70 years ago

"A masterpiece by a profound thinker: wonder and wisdom, grace and beauty, sprinkled with the human condition, dazzle the senses."