Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Entertainment

December 20, 2012

Renowned opera singer in Vienna going strong at 95

(Continued)

With even Viennese Nazi sympathizers charmed by that first performance, Zadek was unstoppable. By the time she stopped singing and turned to teaching in 1971, the spunky soprano was one of the world's leading divas, with 60 roles under her belt and thousands of appearances at the world's greatest opera houses. She still teaches today, equating voice coaching with a personal mission to pass on what she knows to a new generation.

"If I had to give an accounting of myself up above and were asked 'what have you achieved,' then I would say, 'I have trained good voice teachers,'" she says.

The way to Vienna and operatic stardom was perilous.

It began in 1934, in Poznan. Now Polish, the city was then part of Germany, and like other German communities it was gripped by growing anti-Semitism that made life more and more intolerable for Jews.

"I was told often enough what a Jew is, including that they had deformed brains," she said. Kids were taken on school outings to see the Fuehrer and on one such occasion "I had the 'privilege' of seeing Herr Hitler, the 'joy' of breathing in his aura — an ugly little gnome who did nothing else but scream with a face contorted by hate!"

One day, it all came to a head: "I knocked out a few front teeth of a school-mate after she said 'it stinks like Jews here,'" she said. "From that second on I had to leave Germany or I would have been jailed."

Zadek initially fled to Berlin; then a year later, at age 17, to what was then Palestine. She worked first in an orphanage, living in a small room with 16 of her charges before training as a pediatric nurse at a hospital. Life was hard, but safe — unlike at home, where the Nazi vise was tightening around the Jews who remained.

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