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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 18 : ‘Happily ever after’: Hidden Contributions to Cultural Diversity


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‘Happily ever after’: Hidden Contributions to Cultural Diversity

It is widely recognised and appreciated that composers, critics, musicologists and performers fleeing Central Europe as refugees contributed significantly to musical life and standards in the United States. The British, too, have for some years now acknowledged the contributions of ‘Continental Britons’ such as Hans Gál, Berthold Goldschmidt, Hans Keller, Karl Rankl, Franz Reizenstein, Mátyás Seiber, Peter Stadlen and Egon Wellesz.1 As Daniel Snowman has observed, ‘Britain’s musical life was possibly the greatest single beneficiary of the Hitler exiles who settled there’.2 Of the German-speaking refugees who arrived in Australia between 1933 and 1945, the ‘Dunera Boys’ became the most widely known, although so far, music has received little attention. When the music sociologist Alphons Silbermann spoke on this topic in Dresden in 1996, he expressed the sceptical view that Australian musical life had followed the English model too closely to admit any German influence at all. He felt that only in the area of chamber music had Musica Viva brought about a noticeable improvement.3 Silbermann had voiced similar disappointment in Sydney as early as 1953. He and other German Jewish refugees had learnt the bitter lesson ‘that we were only allowed to participate in a non-creative way, as onlookers, as paying guests’. Only a few persons in this group had obtained minor university appointments here and there. ‘But never were they called upon to participate in a way commensurate...

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