The Vanished Musicians

Jewish Refugees in Australia

by Albrecht Dümling (Author)
©2016 Monographs XXVIII, 576 Pages
Series: Exile Studies, Volume 14


About 9,000 Jewish refugees from Nazi Germany settled in Australia between 1933 and 1945, a small fraction of the hundreds of thousands who fled. Although initially greeted with a mixed reception as «enemy aliens», some of these refugees remained and made a significant impact on multicultural Australia. This book traces the difficult journey of the orchestral performers, virtuoso soloists, singers, conductors and composers who sought refuge on a distant continent. A few were famous artists who toured Australia and stayed, most notably the piano virtuoso Jascha Spivakovsky and the members of the Weintraubs Syncopators, one of the most successful jazz bands of the Weimar Republic. Drawing on extensive primary sources – including correspondence, travel documents and interviews with the refugees themselves or their descendants – the author depicts in vivid detail the lives of nearly a hundred displaced musicians. Available for the first time in English, this volume brings to light a wealth of Jewish, exilic and musical history that was hitherto unknown.

Table Of Contents

  • Cover
  • Title
  • Copyright
  • About the author(s)/editor(s)
  • About the book
  • This eBook can be cited
  • Contents
  • List of Figures
  • Acknowledgements
  • List of Abbreviations
  • Chapter 1 : Australia: So Far, and Yet so Near
  • Chapter 2 : ‘Oh sacred Art’: On the Status of Music
  • The Jewish Bourgeoisie and the Music Profession
  • More German than the Germans: Jews in Berlin
  • Women in the Music Profession
  • Acculturation through Music
  • The Blue Danube: Jews in Vienna
  • Women Musicians
  • Vocation or Hobby?
  • ‘In the Prater, Trees are Blooming again’: The Leopoldstadt District
  • Chapter 3 : Failed Integration: Getting out of Germany, 1933–1937
  • The ‘Cleansing’ of Musical Life
  • Jazz: Object of Hate
  • Race and Religion
  • ‘Flying like foam …’: From Kulturbund Deutscher Juden to Jüdischer Kulturbund
  • Early Escape
  • Chapter 4 : On the Other Side of the World
  • Spirit of Adventure? Off to Australia as Musicians
  • Celebrities on Tour: Jascha and Tossy Spivakovsky
  • No Opportunities in Germany, even as a ‘Half Jew’
  • Refuge Britain
  • Arrival with the Royal Grand Opera Company
  • Chapter 5 : Mixed Feelings: Australian Reactions to German Racial Politics
  • Chapter 6 : ‘Muss i denn, muss i denn zum Städtele hinaus?’: Persecution and Flight
  • Berlin 1938
  • The Ghettoisation of Musicians
  • ‘My nature is not to join in hate but to join in love’
  • ‘An infinitely tougher regime’: Vienna after the Anschluss
  • Political Refugees
  • ‘Musicians Unsuitable’: Immigration Policy in Britain and Australia
  • ‘There’s a ship, the black freighter’: Ways of Escape, 1938
  • Direct Travellers to Australia
  • Via Britain
  • Via France
  • Via Luxembourg
  • Further Detours (India, Singapore)
  • Chapter 7 : After Kristallnacht
  • Detour via Sachsenhausen
  • Bach Fugues and the Volga Boat Song: Organist in Singapore
  • ‘Protective Custody’ in Dachau
  • Ultimate Destination Australia
  • Transit via Britain
  • Urgently Sought: Guarantors for Australia
  • ‘Larino, safe haven’: The Kindertransports
  • ‘Where everybody goes’: New Attractions in Singapore
  • ‘Song of the Moldau’: Escape from Prague and Budapest
  • Chapter 8 : The Refugee Problem from an Australian Perspective
  • Thorold Waters and the Australian Musical News
  • ‘I’m absolutely plagued by refugees’: Bernard Heinze and the ABC
  • ‘The fickle nature of the Australian musical public’: Handling the Immigrants
  • Final Negotiations: Official Immigration Policy
  • ‘You will be all right’: Arrival in Australia
  • Chapter 9 : Under Union Scrutiny: The Weintraubs Syncopators
  • The Fight for Jobs
  • ‘Somewhere in the World’: Jazz Stars on Tour
  • From Concert Tour to Immigration
  • ‘My Melancholy Baby’: Prince’s Restaurant
  • Waiting for Residence Permits
  • Chapter 10 : ‘Down with the fifth column!’: Britain during the War
  • ‘Collar the lot!’ The Internment of ‘Enemy Aliens’
  • ‘My luggage went into the ocean’: The Arandora Star and Dunera
  • Chapter 11 : Interned and Defamed in Australia
  • The Hour of Denunciation
  • Ousted by Competitors: The Fate of the Weintraubs
  • Chapter 12 : ‘In corrugated iron huts’: Deported to Hay and Tatura
  • ‘I came here a stranger’: Arrival at the Camp
  • ‘Hay Days’: Music behind Barbed Wire
  • ‘It is hope that keeps us going’: Meeting Place Tatura
  • New Perspectives
  • Chapter 13 : Snow White in Uniform: The Music Revue Sergeant Snow White
  • ‘A funny looking crowd’: The Eighth Australian Employment Company
  • ‘Some Day My Prince Will Come’: Walt Disney’s Snow White Film
  • Jew-ropeans in Australia: The Revue Text
  • Blue Danube, Brown Spree: Viennese Melodies instead of German Music
  • ‘Sounds of Europe’
  • Chapter 14 : The Year 1945: Lost and Found
  • Remigration or Naturalisation?
  • ‘Deported to Poland’: Bad News from Europe
  • Stages of Integration
  • Ironing or Music? Deciding on a Vocation
  • Chapter 15 : ‘The cultivated enthusiasm of a handful of missionaries’: The Genesis of Musica Viva Australia
  • Richard Goldner’s Sydney Musica Viva
  • The Rebirth
  • Chapter 16 : Between Adjustment and Self-Assertion: Refugee Contributions to Australian Musical Life
  • Conductors
  • Orchestral Musicians
  • Choirs
  • Soloists
  • Opera
  • Synagogues
  • Ballet and Dance Theatre
  • Popular Music
  • Music Education
  • Music Critics
  • Chapter 17 : ‘Land of Mine’: New Compositions for a New Australia
  • ‘The Back of Beyond’: Film Music Pioneers
  • ‘Vereinsamt’[‘Loneliness’]: Composing in Secret
  • ‘Dear land we love’: New Beginnings
  • Moses Mendelssohn’s Legacy: Felix Werder
  • The Art of Adaptation: George Dreyfus
  • Two Diametrically Opposed Concepts of Music
  • Chapter 18 : ‘Happily ever after’: Hidden Contributions to Cultural Diversity
  • Notes
  • Short Biographies
  • Ship Arrivals
  • Sources and Bibliography
  • Glossary
  • Index
  • About the Translator
  • Series index

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Figure 1: Portrait of Walter Andreas Dullo, Berlin 1932. (Author’s Archive)
Figure 2: The Weintraubs Syncopators around 1930, photographed by Lili Baruch, Berlin. (Evelyn Klopfer, Sydney)
Figure 3: The Spivakovsky-Kurtz Trio with Tossy Spivakovsky, violin, Jascha Spivakowsky, piano, and Edmund Kurtz, violoncello. (Michael Spivakovsky, Melbourne)
Figure 4: Last entries from the diary written by Walter Andreas Dullo’s mother for her son and his young wife Annemarie, before their departure to Australia. (Author’s Archive)
Figure 5: ‘Personal Statement and Declaration’ of Walter Dullo, completed on 11 September 1937. (NAA: A12508, 21/963)
Figure 6: The Reichsmusikkammer refuses Werner Baer’s application for membership. (Bundesarchiv, former BDC, RK R 1, Picture 2754)
Figure 7: Questionnaire of the Emigration Department of the Welfare Centre of the Viennese Kultusgemeinde, completed by Kapellmeister and pianist Adolf Brenner on 20 May 1938. (CAHJP, A/W 2590, 28)
Figure 8: Questionnaire of the Emigration Department of the Welfare Centre of the Viennese Kultusgemeinde for Richard Goldner. (CAHJP, A/W 2590, 74) ← xvii | xviii →
Figure 9: German Passport of Alphons Silbermann, issued on 23 May 1938 at the German General Consulate Amsterdam. (NAA: A435, 1947/4/4169)
Figure 10: German Passport of Werner Baer, issued in Berlin on 29 November 1938. (NAA: A435, 1945/4/1221)
Figure 11: ‘Personal Statement and Declaration’ for the violinist Ellen Byk-Cohn. (NAA: A12508, 21/741)
Figure 12: Programme for a Celebrity Concert of the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra on 23 May 1936 at the Melbourne Town Hall. (Michael Spivakovsky, Melbourne)
Figure 13: On 17 April 1940, as Business Manager of the ‘Winetraubs Comedy Melodians’ Horst Graff applied for permission to travel to Canberra for a charity concert. (NAA: C123, 1213)
Figure 14: From the Peruvian Passport of John Kurt Kaiser, issued on 28 March 1934 in Zurich. (NAA: A435, 1946/4/1792)
Figure 15: Handwritten programme for a concert with light classical tunes on 12 December 1940 at the Hay internment camp. (Tanya Makin, Melbourne)
Figure 16: Handwritten programme for Christmas concerts of the Stadlen Choir on 25 and 26 December 1940 at the Hay internment camp. (Felix Edelmann, Vienna)
Figure 17: Invitation to the programme Tatura Melody 1940, presented by Hans Blau on 3 November 1940. (Ilse Blair, Melbourne)
Figure 18: The concert pianist Peter Stadlen applied for registration in Tatura on 16 September 1941. (NAA: B6531, AUSTRIAN/STADLEN PETER)
Figure 19: Like many other refugees the conductor Henry Krips joined the Australian army. (NAA: B884, N319603) ← xviii | xix →
Figure 20: Programme for the Christmas Concert on 26 December 1943 at the Masonic Hall in Tocumwal (Victoria). (Felix Edelmann, Vienna)
Figure 21: All members of the ‘Viennese Orchestra’ that played in July 1945 in the small town of Albury belonged to the 8th Australian Employment Company. (Charles Reither, Jr, Melbourne)
Figure 22: For the programme of the revue Erwin Fabian depicted Snow White as a combination of man and woman, soldier and dancer. (Ilse Blair, Melbourne)
Figure 23: Invitation to the ‘Sergeant Snowwhite’ revue with a woodcarving by Erwin Fabian. (Ilse Blair, Melbourne)
Figure 24: Men and ‘women’, led by Hans Blau as Maurice Chevalier, join for the Can-Can. (Ilse Blair, Melbourne)
Figure 25: Günter Hirschberg was forced by National Security Regulations to register in September 1941. (NAA: ST1233/1, N32842)
Figure 26: The Kapellmeister, pianist and arranger Hans Bader. (Lisa Vinnic, Melbourne)
Figure 27: Application Form for Membership for the Musicians’ Union of Australia, completed by John K. Kay on 16 March 1944. (Noel Butlin Archives Centre, Australian National University: Musicians’ Union of Australia, E156-2-3)
Figure 28: Certificate of Naturalization for Majer Pietruschka. (Tanya Makin, Melbourne)
Figure 29: The conductor Kurt Herweg prepares a recording for the animated cartoon ‘Christmas Bells’. (NAA: SP1426/4, 1) ← xix | xx →
Figure 30: The conductor Hermann Schildberger with his Camberwell Philharmonic Society. In uniform, the tenor soloist Hans Edelmann. (Felix Edelmann, Vienna)
Figure 31: The conductor Henry Krips with his family on the cover of the Australian Musical News, 1950. (Author’s Archive)
Figure 32: The violinist Charles Reither, here with his saxophone. (Charles Reither, Jr, Melbourne)
Figure 33: Programme for a concert for the military on 1 December 1944. (Michael Spivakovsky, Melbourne)
Figure 34: Jascha Spivakovsky with his powerful hands at the concert grand. (Michael Spivakovsky, Melbourne)
Figure 35: The pianist Robert Kolben, publicity picture for the ABC. (NAA, SP1011/1, 2810)
Figure 36: The cellist Otti Veit. (Kurt R. Eisner, Melbourne)
Figure 37: The singer Lily Kolos, photographed by Margaret Michaelis. (Karla Sperling, Sydney)
Figure 38: A versatile radio-man: Werner Baer composing in his office. (NAA: SP1011/1, 952)
Figure 39: The composer George Dreyfus in October 2009 with the author in Berlin. (Author’s Archive)
Figure 40: The composer Felix Werder in 2008 in his apartment in Camberwell/Melbourne. (Author’s Archive)
Figure 41: Sydney John Kay around 1960 with his tape-recorder in London. (Anthony Kay, Sydney)
Figure 42: The second generation of the Weintraubs Syncopators: Tony Kay, son of Sydney John Kay, and Michael Fisher, son of Manny Fisher, in December 2007 on the occasion of the Weintraubs Revue in Berlin. (Author’s Archive) ← xx | xxi →

Musical Examples

| xxiii →


This book could not have appeared without the generous help of a great number of people who contributed in many different ways. I should like to thank Mary-Clare Adam-Murwitz, Tel Aviv; Elizabeth Allum, Sydney; Shirley Apthorp, Berlin; Henri Aram, Sydney; Suzanne Baker, Sydney; Sybil Baer (d.), Sydney; Anthony Berg, Sydney; Ilse Blair, Melbourne; Fred Blanks (d.), Sydney; Bern Brent, Canberra; John Burgan, Berlin; John Carmody, Sydney; Heinrich Blömeke, Singapore; Nicholas Chlumecky (d.), USA; Isabella, Eva and Fiona Colin, Melbourne; Kurt Collinet, Cologne; Carolyn Connor, National Archives Canberra; Susan Course, Melbourne; Roger Covell, Sydney; Ronald Cragg, Sydney; Marianne Dacy, Archive of Australian Judaica, Sydney; George Dreyfus, Melbourne; Kay Dreyfus, Melbourne; Catherine Duncan-Copillet (d.), Paris; Eric Eckstein (d.), Melbourne; Felix Edelmann, Vienna; Susie Ehrmann, Melbourne; Kurt R. Eisner, Melbourne; Andy Factor, Melbourne; June Factor, Melbourne; Susan Faine, Jewish Museum Melbourne; Denis Farrington, Melbourne; Sophie Fetthauer, Hamburg; Kurt Fichman, Melbourne; Addy and Emanuel Fisher (d.), Sydney; Michael Fisher, Zurich; Louis Fouvy and Jeanette McArthur, Kew Philharmonic Society; Erwin (d.) and Ellen Frenkel, Melbourne; Charmian Gadd, Sydney; Susanne Gabor (d.), Melbourne; Peter Goldner, Sydney; Brigitte Goldstein, Albuquerque, New Mexico; Dorothy Graff, Melbourne; Eric Gross (d.), Sydney; Primavera Gruber, Orpheus Trust, Vienna; Werner Grünzweig, Academy of Arts, Berlin; Hans-Heinrich Gurland (d.), Hildesheim; Sandra Hacker, Sydney; Werner Hanak, Jewish Museum Vienna; Ellen Harnisch, Kassenärztliche Vereinigung Berlin; Eddy Helfgott, Sydney; Lynne Heller, University of Music and Performing Arts, Vienna; Robyn Holmes, National Library of Australia; Anthony Kay, Sydney; Bernard Keeffe, London; Julie Kerner (d.), Sydney; Evelyn Klopfer, Sydney; Arthur and Lurline Knee, Tatura; Robert Kolben (d.), Munich; Michael Karbaum, GEMA, Munich; Manuel Krönung, Heidelberg; Gerald Krug, Sydney; Sylvia Krutsch, Melbourne; Rudi Laqueur (d.), Melbourne; ← xxiii | xxiv → Klaus (d.) and Uyen Loewald, Canberra; Andrew McCredie (d.), Adelaide–Melbourne; Tanya Makin, Melbourne; Celia Male, London; Marlene Norst (d.), Sydney; Klaus Neumann, Melbourne; Rosemary Pattenden, Cambridge; David Pear, Brisbane–Canberra–London; Jutta Raab Hansen, Hamburg; Leonard and Therese Radic, Melbourne; Uwe Radok (d.), Coffs Harbour, Australia; Charles and Derrick Reither, Melbourne; Harry Rich, Sydney; Karl Rössel, Cologne; Leo Rosner, Melbourne; Leo Roth (d.), Berlin; Suzanne Rutland, Sydney; Dietmar Schenk, Berlin University of the Arts; Michael Schildberger (d.), Melbourne; Rainer Schildberger, Berlin; Robert Schindel, Vienna; Annie Schlebaum, Sydney; Wilhelmina Schoenzeler, London; Beate Schröder-Nauenburg (d.), Dresden; Benjamin Segaloff, Melbourne; Mike Sondheim (d.), Melbourne; Karla and Tamara Sperling, Sydney; Michael Spivakovsky, Melbourne; Joseph Toltz, Sydney; Peter Tregear, Melbourne; Walter Veit, Melbourne; Lisa Vinnic, Melbourne; Ruth Voorhis, Canada; Eva Wagner (d.), Sydney; Harry Weiss, Sydney; Heidrun Weiss, Vienna Israelite Community; Felix Werder (d.), Melbourne; Frank Werther, Cottles Bridge, Australia; Klaus Wilczynski, Berlin; Hannah and Madeleine Wurzburger, London; Kenneth R. Ward, Britain; and Ivor Zetler, Sydney.

I am especially grateful to Wolfgang Benz, former Director of the Center for Research on Antisemitism of the Technical University of Berlin, who was the driving force behind a multi-year project of the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft on German-speaking musical exiles in Australia. A Harold White Fellowship of the National Library of Australia enabled me to work in Canberra for four months. From the start, George Dreyfus accompanied the project with a keen interest and tireless support. Last but not least, I express my thanks to the Alfred Toepfer Foundation, Hamburg, whose award of the KAIROS Prize and a grant for the printing costs made it possible to complete this book.

When I presented the original German edition in several Australian cities in November 2011, many people expressed the wish for an English translation. Barry Humphries wrote: ‘Is there any chance that this book will be translated into English? It should be.’ Diana Weekes, a former senior lecturer in keyboard at the University of Adelaide, who personally knew many of the musicians portrayed in the book, took the initiative ← xxiv | xxv → and started translating in late 2011, completing the work in 2015. For her commitment and accommodation I thank her very sincerely. To Franziska Meyer (University of Nottingham) I owe a special debt of gratitude for her exceptional diligence in preparing the English edition. I am grateful to John Richardson for his judicious language editing. Sally Phillips’ contribution was crucial at a late stage, and Karen Adler made helpful suggestions throughout. I also thank the publishers, in particular Laurel Plapp, for the excellent collaboration.

This book is an abbreviated and amended version of the German edition. I wish to express my gratitude to Michael Fisher, Zurich; Dieter Rosenkranz, Berlin; and Eva Rieger, Vaduz, for their significant contribution to the realisation of this edition and especially to the Henkell Family Fund (Hans Henkell, Melbourne) and the Council of Christians and Jews, Victoria (Albert Isaacs, Melbourne) for their generous financial support.

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| 1 →


Australia: So Far, and Yet so Near

For a long time, Australia was for me just a distant continent on the other side of the globe; the exotic homeland of Antipodeans as well as koalas, emus and kangaroos. But all that changed when, in April 1992, the telephone rang in Berlin and a powerful voice roared through the receiver: ‘This is George Dreyfus, a composer from Australia!’ He was in the city, had read my book on Brecht and music with interest, and now wanted to talk to me about it. Good heavens, I thought, they even know my book in Australia! Surprisingly, when we met the next day near the Philharmonie, it turned out that, apart from our similar musical and literary interests, we had something else in common: George Dreyfus also came from Wuppertal. Born in 1928, he had moved to Berlin before a Kindertransport took him to Australia, thereby saving him from Nazi persecution. I heard at first-hand the story of his flight and integration into a foreign culture. A little later, the Melbourne composer sent me his autobiography, which gave me a better picture. There I learnt not only about the discrimination against his family under the Nazis, but also about his difficult start in a new environment.

He explained how hard it had been for his father to accept Australia as his new homeland: at his age, he had been too deeply rooted in German culture to readjust. An enthusiastic Wagnerian, his close connection to the fatherland was typical of many German Jews, including the former Minister for Foreign Affairs, Walter Rathenau, to whom George Dreyfus had just dedicated an opera. Whereas up to now the composer’s music theatre had met with little response in Australia, a company in Germany was interested in staging his new work. It goes without saying that I attended the premiere in Kassel in June 1993. The first Australian opera to be launched in Europe, Rathenau caused a sensation. After this performance, I found the composer’s wittily written biography even more gripping. In order to introduce more friends to the life and work of George Dreyfus, our society, ← 1 | 2 → musica reanimata, arranged a lecture-recital by the German-Australian in the Konzerthaus on the Gendarmenmarkt in Berlin in November 1993. This was probably the very first event in Germany to focus on the distant ‘Down Under’ as a place of refuge for German-speaking musicians. Thus, chance presented me with a topic which, until then, had hardly been explored.

For Jewish musicians who fled from Germany after 1933, Australia was no dream destination: many of them just landed or were stranded there. Dreyfus mentioned his composer colleague Felix Werder, a born Berliner who also lived in Melbourne. Encouraged by the German scholar Walter Veit at Monash University, I raised the topic with the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (DFG) [German Research Foundation] and the suggestion fell on fertile ground. In the European summer of 1995, with the support of the DFG and the musicologist Andrew McCredie, I was able to undertake a lecture tour on ‘Brecht and Music’, as well as on the musical politics of the Nazi regime, at the Universities of Adelaide, Melbourne, Canberra, Sydney, Brisbane and Townsville. In the Barossa Valley near Adelaide, I found traces of Prussian Lutherans who had settled in this fertile region as early as 1838. In Canberra I came across the historian Klaus Loewald, who fled from Hitler to Britain and was deported from there to Australia in 1940 on the ship Dunera. Over lunch in the modern High Court building, overlooking the artificial Lake Burley Griffin, he told me of the terrible voyage followed by his internment in the desert camp at Hay. Here, in spite of the heat and sandstorms, the imprisoned men had made music and even given concerts of a very high standard. He had been particularly impressed by the pianist Peter Stadlen. This name stopped me in my tracks, because in 1988 I had met Stadlen in Vienna, where he was lecturing about exiled musicians from Austria; at the time, he had only briefly mentioned his own fate.1 A chapter of music history that had been forgotten both in Germany and Australia was opening up.

After my return, I reported my discoveries and meetings in various newspaper and journal articles. My perspective changed: instead of shaking their heads over this exotic subject, it suddenly seemed as though almost the whole world was thinking about Australia. I met Jörg Süßenbach, who was preparing a film about the Weintraubs Syncopators.2 This Berlin jazz band had been just as famous in the 1920s as their singing colleagues, the ← 2 | 3 → Comedy Harmonists; in the 1930 cult film The Blue Angel, they accompanied Marlene Dietrich in songs like ‘Falling in Love Again’. As a result of the Nazi racial persecution, these musicians had to leave Germany. In 1937, they landed in Australia, where they were suspected of being spies and defamed. Internment followed, and finally the sad end of the band.

The Berlin Philharmonic was also interested in Australia, as several of their musicians had strong ties with this continent.3 In September 1995, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra (SSO) performed in Berlin. I kept discovering Australians living in Germany’s capital, for example the critic and colleague Shirley Apthorp, who lived just a few streets away from me. In October 1995, the composer Felix Werder, whom I had visited shortly before in his small house in the Melbourne suburb of Hawthorn, came to visit his home city. Professor McCredie, too, travelled to Berlin. Our discussions gave rise to the idea of organising an Australia conference in Germany. I also invited Klaus Loewald, who accepted immediately because, at the same time as he received my invitation, he learnt of Peter Stadlen’s death in London.

The conference on the theme ‘Exiled Musicians in Australia’ took place in May 1996 in the Dresden Centre for Contemporary Music. George Dreyfus was also in Germany, as his new opera Marx Sisters had premiered in Bielefeld the previous month. The Australian experts Andrew McCredie, Wolfgang Benz, Johannes H. Voigt and Gerhard Stilz took the tram from Dresden’s main station to the exclusive suburb that subsequently became the subject matter of Uwe Tellkamp’s novel, Der Turm (2008) [The Tower]. This smart residential area where the conference was to take place had nothing to do with Australia, or at least so I thought – until we got out of the tram at the Mordgrundbrücke station. This rang a bell, for I had just been reading about the opera Mordgrundbruck by the Australian immigrant Carl Püttmann.4 Were there secret ties between Dresden and the Antipodes? The music sociologist Alphons Silbermann spoke critically at the conference about the years he had spent as a refugee in Australia. Felix Werder also expressed scepticism about the musical culture in his new country. On the other hand, Klaus Loewald’s lecture, dedicated to Peter Stadlen, was much more positive. In two concerts, we were also able to experience the very different styles of the German-Australian composers George Dreyfus and Felix Werder. ← 3 | 4 →

This Dresden conference became the nucleus of a research project that began in 2000 at the Center for Research on Antisemitism. In July and August of that year, the project took me to Australia, where the Olympics were underway. But I was more interested in the past than in the enthusiastic sporting present; for example, in the fate of the German-Russian pianist Jascha Spivakovsky who, once a star, had fled to Australia and been forgotten. His son still lives in the huge mansion high above the Yarra River in the prestigious Melbourne suburb of Toorak, its enormous music room housing the concert grands that Spivakovsky brought from Germany. In a little house in St Kilda I visited Ilse Blair, a lively old lady who spoke in fluent German of her two former husbands, Werner Baer and Hans Blau, two very different musicians. She showed me concert programmes and newspaper cuttings with the names of other refugee musicians. In his study, Rabbi John Levi talked about the old vinyl records of Jewish music that Hermann Schildberger, a former organist at his synagogue, had brought from Berlin to Melbourne. Needless to say, I also visited George Dreyfus and Felix Werder again. In the beach paradise of Noosa in Queensland, I met Brett Dean, who had given up a permanent position as a violist with the Berlin Philharmonic to work as a composer in his homeland. In a hotel near Sydney Harbour Bridge, the conductor Markus Stenz told me of his plans for the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra (MSO). Shortly before my return home, a gala concert was given at Government House in Sydney (not far from the famous Opera House) by Musica Viva, that great chamber music organisation founded by German-speaking refugees in 1945. My research topic was gradually taking shape.

Australia used the interest generated by the Olympics to strengthen its own economic and tourism ties with Europe. In January 2001, to mark the Centenary of Federation in Australia, the German President, Johannes Rau, spoke of the close partnership and friendship between Germany and Australia. In February 2001, the Potsdam Australia Centre – founded in 1995 as a joint initiative of the Australian Prime Minister Paul Keating and the Brandenburg Prime Minister Manfred Stolpe – held a symposium, ‘Movements and Harmonies: Musical Bridges between Australia and Germany’. The speakers included the Australian conductor Simone Young, who at that time was working regularly with Daniel Barenboim at the Berlin State Opera. At this event, I presented the recently published proceedings of the Dresden conference.5 ← 4 | 5 →

As more and more gaps were filled, the picture became more detailed and colourful. When I travelled to Australia again in March 2003, the Berlin emigrant violinist ‘Max’ Pietruschka’s daughter took me by car to the little town of Tatura, north of Melbourne, where many refugees were interned during the war; today it houses a lovingly created museum. Loewald had already referred me to the National Archives in Canberra, which proved to be an inexhaustible source. Here I examined immigration and military documents, and discovered references to the accusations of espionage that were brought against the Weintraubs Syncopators. Research on the vanished musicians was not easy, however, because on their arrival they often took up other occupations. To avoid rejection, they concealed their true identities. There were doubles with the same name, or people changed their names, which further covered their tracks. Often I had to follow several false leads before I found one of ‘my’ musicians.

My archival research was supplemented by personal meetings and discussions, during which new names would emerge that were not entered in any register. In Sydney, the ever helpful Sybil Baer gave a vivid description of her husband Werner Baer, a passionate musician to the last, who switched effortlessly between classical and light music. Julie Kerner, still lively at the age of ninety-three, remembered her mother, the Viennese singer Leonie Feigl. The physician Harry Rich, also from Vienna, talked about his piano teacher, Marcel Lorber, whose studio was barely heated even in winter, while Fred Blanks, who fled to Australia as Friedrich Mayer, described his development as a music critic.


ISBN (Softcover)
Publication date
2016 (April)
Jewish musicians Migration to Australia Racial Politic Travel Documents: Correspondence Interview with refugees
Oxford, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, New York, Wien, 2016. XXVIII, 572 pp., 56 b/w ill.

Biographical notes

Albrecht Dümling (Author)

Albrecht Dümling is a musicologist and music critic. After completing his doctorate on Arnold Schoenberg and Stefan George, he published the first comprehensive book on Bertolt Brecht’s collaboration with composers. For several years he was a music critic for Der Tagesspiegel and Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung. His exhibition on Nazi music policies, Degenerate Music: A Critical Reconstruction, travelled to venues all over the world, including London, Amsterdam, Los Angeles, Seville and Tel Aviv. Dümling was also Project Consultant for the DECCA CD series Entartete Musik. He is the chair of the society musica reanimata, and was the first recipient of the European Cultural Prize KAIROS. Diana K. Weekes is the translator of the volume.


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