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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 11 : Interned and Defamed in Australia


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Interned and Defamed in Australia

The Hour of Denunciation

Britain’s declaration of war on Germany on 3 September 1939 triggered a similar statement by Prime Minister Robert Menzies that evening: Australia was now also at war with the German Empire, and police began to arrest suspicious persons the very next night.1 The Commonwealth Investigation Branch (CIB) had been preparing lists of relevant names since 1938 so, during the first weeks of the war, 343 Germans were apprehended as enemy aliens and taken to internment camps.2 One of them was a German engineer, Dr Mathias Schönzeler, an opponent of Hitler who had fled to Australia just one year earlier and was arrested at his home in Sydney’s Rose Bay on 4 September. To enable his musically gifted son Hans-Hubert to escape the influence of the Hitler Youth, he had sent him to the German school in Brussels in 1936. At the time of Schönzeler’s arrest, fourteen-year-old Hans-Hubert and his mother were on their way to Australia aboard the Remo; surprised by news of the outbreak of war, however, the Italian ship put all its British passengers ashore in Colombo. When mother and son arrived in Sydney on 29 September, they discovered to their horror that the head of the family had already been taken to a camp. As a rule, the victims’ homes were searched and all letters and documents confiscated.3 Separately, all foreigners had to undergo a...

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