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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 16 : Between Adjustment and Self-Assertion: Refugee Contributions to Australian Musical Life


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Between Adjustment and Self-Assertion: Refugee Contributions to Australian Musical Life

Expulsion, flight and war triggered a setback in the careers of all refugee musicians, at least a break and in some cases sadly the end. Even if they succeeded in obtaining citizenship, Australia’s music industry was smaller and less developed than those of Germany or Austria, so it proved much more difficult to survive as a professional musician. Many artists were forced to accept music as a second job or a hobby, and earned their living in another profession. The clarinettist and saxophonist Hans Holzbauer (John Wood) had worked as a professional musician in Singapore and always given ‘musician’ as his occupation in Australia. ‘Sergeant Beethoven’, as he was known in the army, could not earn sufficient income performing in Melbourne cabarets and became a clerk of the court. The musical careers of Horst Graff and Stefan Weintraub essentially ended with their internment. Their colleague Manny Fisher also decided to change his occupation. Although he had no problems working or appearing as a musician, his experience was similar to that of Maurice Abravanel, who declared in December 1946: ‘It is impossible for a good musician really to earn a fine living in Australia today.’1


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