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The Vanished Musicians

Jewish Refugees in Australia


Albrecht Dümling

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.
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Chapter 1 : Australia: So Far, and Yet so Near


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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...

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