Inviting East Germany’s Gewandhaus Orchestra from Leipzig to U.S.

New York, N.Y. In 1968, when I became Impresario, I was staring at the world map on the wall. I thought I would  like to go somewhere new. Where is the country that everyone does not know yet and has culture of very high level ??  And I pinned up a white arrow in East Germany. Country which produced Bach, Brahms, Beethoven, etc, Dresden Opera Company, Leipzig’s Gewandhaus Orchestra etc etc, which was a country of the world admiration.

At that time, I thought that I would like to go to a place where nobody has ever visited.  I took the subway from West Berlin, It took some courage to an unknown country where nobody knows anything, To go to East Berlin, I decided to see.all by myself. Around this time I had to go by air to get to West Berlin, but from West Berlin to East Berlin I took the subway or the road as well. I took advantage of this situation.

Story of East Germany (Part 1)

Direct consultation with the Minister of Culture of East Germany to invite the Gevanthause Orchestra from Leipzig.

Countries with high cultures who do not know


Berlin’s circumstances at the time

Here I would like to explain the political situation of Berlin to young readers.

At the end of World War II in 1949, Germany was divided into two countries. It is DDR (German Democratic Republic = Known East Germany) who was supported by the Soviet Union (now Russia), and FRG (German Federal Republic = common name and West Germany) which the United States, Britain and France supported. And we also had a border to separate the two countries. At that time the big city Berlin geographically was within the East German territory. However, as Berlin was such a very important city, it was divided into four areas and treated separately from the rest of East Germany. Surrounded by the territory of East Germany, it became isolated, like isolated island. That is, although Berlin is in the East Germany, four countries (Soviets, the United States, Britain, France) have come to controlled and governed . East Berlin was under the jurisdiction of the Soviet Union and West Berlin became a  to be the jurisdiction of the United States, Britain and France.

The United States, Britain and France established an embassy in the new city of Bonn, Berlin became the capital of East Germany, the Soviet Union placed an embassy in Berlin.Berlin was very unnaturaly situated.

However, as the number of people who escaped from East Berlin to West Berlin increased year by year, East Gates suddenly blocked all passage between East and West Berlin, all around the West Berlin was isolated with barbed wire and later  made very high wall of concrete Anyone attempted to cross this wall was immediately shot to death.. That is “Berlin Wall”. Since “Berlin Wall” has been a symbol of German division for many years since then it was a symbol of the East-West Cold War.

In the confusion of the East German revolution following the Eastern European revolution in the fall of 1989, many east Berlin citizens pushed forward in front of the wall on the evening of 9 November the same year, the gate of the border checkpoint opened and tens of thousands of citizens west I entered Berlin. I think that this news remembers everyone.

Call from Hotel of East Berlin

Return the story.

When I went out,  up from the first station in East Berlin (Friedrich Strasse) up, I saw there was a place called Checkpoint Charlie, the border between West Germany and East Germany. After completing the visa procedure which can enter and leave in  24 hours. Immediately after entering the East German territory, there was a hotel named “unten den linden” (under the tree of Linden) in front of me.. To the front desk, without thinking anything, I said, “I came from New York but I would like to meet the Minister of Culture of the East German”, and then front desk lady made a phone call  I was so surprised that the lady minister really came on the phone . When I started talking, the minister was so angry and said; “America is a terrible, cruel, hateful country, Vietnam war is outrageous”. I quickly said “I’d like to invite the Gewanthaus Orchestra”, but I have been hung up with “Gachan”.

 I will not give it up. After a while I called  again, with a flash of mind, I said “I am Japanese,”  she said, “What are Japanese people doing” I want to do cultural exchange between Japan and East Germany” When I said this,  “Please come and see me right away!” I was told.

“We do not talk about America absolutely, but my country really want to go to Japan,  there is no exchange of any sort after the war has ended.” I thought suddenly recalling, remembering that there was an Osaka World Expo in Japan in 1975, “I think that I can invite some cultural group, I will fulfill your ountry’s dream of going to Japan” . Although this was a serious statement,  I thought that it was a wonderful thing, I made up my mind to do my best at the risk of my life. (Following the next issue)

Originally published as Vol. 16 in Weekly Biz, February 10, 2018; translated by Jim Luce.

See: Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura Column in Japan’s Weekly Biz



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About Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura

View all posts by Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko Hillyer Tatsumura
Dr. Kazuko was born into a distinguished old family in Kyoto, Japan, and graduated from Toho conservatory of Music in Tokyo. In 1961 she came to U.S. as a pianist sponsored by the Boston Symphony. She studied at Boston University, New York University, and received her Ph.D. in Oriental Medicine from New York State University and the International Academy of Education in Tokyo. From 1968 to 1992, she promoted cultural exchanges from East to West and vice versa, and became a world famous impresario, producing 2,000 events each year all over the world encompassing over 140 countries. In this connection, in 1972, she went to Dharamsala to find the lost Tibetan Folk Opera, and met His Holiness the Dalai Lama, with whom she remains a lifelong friend. In 1973 and 1991 she arranged and funded personally the tours of the Folk Opera of Tibet to the West. She has received many medals and honors from different countries. Her tireless life long work in Philanthropic field is vast and well known ranging from Save the Beacon Theater, Save the Boat People, Help the Homeless, natural disasters of earthquakes and tsunamis, as well as relief to AIDS and HIV positive children in Africa. She has been a dedicated Board Member to both the J. Luce Foundation and Orphans International for years. Her work focuses on the Tibetan people; Tibetan children remain especially strong in her heart. She raised fund for the new academic building for Manjushree Orphanage in Tawang, India and supported many aspects of the school. See HuffPo pieces entitled Japanese Holistic Healer in NYC to Build School for Tibetan Orphans in India, A Japanese Dinner with Raul Castro’s Daughter, and NYC Gala in Support of Tibetan Orphans Set for January.

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