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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 9 : Under Union Scrutiny: The Weintraubs Syncopators


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Under Union Scrutiny: The Weintraubs Syncopators

The Fight for Jobs

In Australia, there was strong resentment against German refugee musicians. Antisemitic and anti-German feelings were mixed with the anxiety that the new arrivals might take away jobs. In view of the economic crisis, the fear of even greater unemployment was prevalent among other professionals, including lawyers, doctors and dentists. The view was widespread that all unemployed Australians should have a job before allowing more foreigners into the country. The Labor Party warned that the influx of refugees would cause economic and social standards to fall. The Musicians’ Union of Australia was particularly sensitive. It went beyond its traditional role of defending the workers’ jobs by supporting the xenophobic and racist White Australia Policy, and by rejecting musicians from enemy countries; in April 1918, all Germans had been excluded from membership.1 In 1929, the union’s articles of association included the following aims:

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