Karl Robert Kreiten was born in June of 1916 to a musical family. His parents, Theo and Emmy
Kreiten, were both professional concert musicians, and Karl learned to play piano and the violin
very early in his life. By the age of twelve, he was enrolled in the college of music in Cologne. He
was urged by one of his music teachers, Hedwig Rosenthal Kanner, to leave Germany and go to the
United States, but Karl decided that he would prefer to stay in his homeland and add to Germany's
musical culture and growth.
That is exactly what he did. Kreiten was widely acclaimed as one of the best young German
pianists in a lifetime, and his reputation continued to grow.
However, Karl expressed his dissaproval of Adolf Hitler, who he thought was a madman who would
lose the war, subsequently causing Germany's cultural decline and eventual fall. Word got around
of Kreiten's statements, and they eventually landed on the wrong ears. On May 3, 1943, under an
hour before he was to perform a concert, Kreiten was arrested by the Nazis for the comments that
he had made. He was tried and given the death sentence on September 3rd. The German government was going to make an example of him.
Kreiten was moved to the Berlin prison Ploetzensee after his appeals and the pleas from his family
bore no fruit. There he stayed, keeping in contact with his parents through letters. His
parents promised to continue the fight for his release.
Due to Allied bombing runs, the German Ministry of Justice and prison officials decided that it
would be better to execute their prisoners ahead of schedule, rather than allow one of the enemy
bombs to carry out the sentences. There was also additional pressure from higher ranking Nazi officials that the executions were not being carried out quickly enough, so a decision was made. From September 7th to the 9th,
prisoners were led continuously in small groups to the prison's execution shed, only breaking in the early morning to change shifts. When the slaughter ended, a total of 360 prisoners were executed.
Meanwhile, on September 8th, Karl's mother had advanced far enough through the legal system to be
granted a suspension of Karl's execution sentence. She was unaware that they were one full day
into the massacre at the prison, and by the time word arrived there, it was too late. Karl Robert
Kreiten, 27, was already dead.
After Karl's death, his parents fled Dusseldorf for the rest of the war, afraid of the possiblity
that they could be the Nazi's next targets. Theo wrote the book, "Whom the Gods Love" about his
son in 1945.
The opening of van Dijk's Kreiten's Passion in Dusseldorf this September was a great tribute to this young fallen pianist. Sadly, it was to be van Dijk's last work, as he passed away this past Saturday, just two months after the world premiere performances.