- Die Verschwundenen Musiker: Jüdische Flüchtlinge in Australien by Albrecht Dümling
This extensive volume by renowned musicologist and music critic Albrecht Dümling provides a detailed and thorough history of Jewish refugees with an educational background or even with an established career in music, who were forced to flee the Nazis and landed in Australia. For the rediscovery of musicians persecuted by the Nazis, Dümling was awarded numerous prizes, among them the European Cultural Prize (KAIROS). In 2004, he received the Harold White Fellowship from the National Library of Australia.
The volume traces the difficult and—more often than not—reluctant journey of orchestral performers, virtuoso soloists, singers, and conductors as well as composers, to a continent whose geographical remoteness from Europe had shaped its sense of itself since the beginning of European settlement. To no small degree the complexity of the obstacles these artists were going to face in Australia can be attributed to its identity as a pioneer outpost for those who possessed the physical and psychological strength to overcome their position as outcasts, caused by poverty and deprivation, in Britain and Ireland and “made it” in Australia. The “tyranny of distance” that the Australian historian Geoffrey Blainey famously identified as being so strongly felt by these settlers must have been particularly dreaded by refugees whose identity as musicians was deeply connected to the culture of their home countries, Germany and Austria.
The feeling of unwillingness, as Dümling documents in his book, was mutual. In 1938, Australia was reluctant to take in Jewish refugees in the first place, but cultured and sensitive musicians from enemy territory were unattractive to Australia in more than one way. Not only were they seen as being unable to contribute to the material wealth of the continent, but they also threatened the country’s attempts to develop a cultural identity represented by Australian rather than European artists. Most of the refugees, [End Page 206] such as the musician Walter Dullo, or the violinist and teacher Ellen Cohn-Byk, were aware of this problem. Dullo’s visa application stated his occupation as masseur and pastry cook; Cohn-Byk arrived under the rubric “home duties.”
Dümling has accumulated an impressive amount of material and follows the lives of nearly a hundred displaced musicians in great detail. He provides meticulously researched facts on their life trajectories collected from primary sources such as personal files, correspondence, interviews with the refugees themselves or their descendants, shipping lists, travel documents, and visa applications, as well as the refugees’ history of employment. The archival task he has accomplished is more than impressive. The abundance of facts makes parts of the volume read like an encyclopedia. Dümling’s intention seems to be to cover the entirety of musicians of popular as well as classical music affected by persecution in their home countries and their subsequent displacement. The liveliness Dümling manages to transmit in his stories despite this makes the book a compelling read. This is due to the fact that he uncovers the musicians’ stories from their very beginnings in Germany and Austria, describing how they embarked on careers in music often against the will of their families, making their first steps in what could have become a respectable career only to be interrupted by the rise of National Socialism.
Especially interesting are stories such as that of the famous German jazz band The Weintraub Syncopators, who accompanied Marlene Dietrich in the famous 1930 Joseph Sternberg film Blue Angel. Like so many other refugees of similar background, Stefan Weintraub had to endure internment as enemy alien after the outbreak of the war. He was even being accused of being a spy, and along with others was held together with committed Nazis. His destiny after his release from the camp in 1941 is just one example of the numerous Jewish refugee musicians who continued to be victims of systematic exclusion by Australian state organizations such as the Musicians’ Union of Australia, which prevented nonunionists from performing while refusing noncitizens union membership. Weintraub...