THE VANISHED MUSICIANS, Jewish refugees in Australia by Albrecht Dumling.


Bern 2016, 571 pp,
ISBN 978-3-30343-1951-5


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.

In 18 chapters this magnum opus traces the extremely 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. Chapter 16 specifically deals with opera and singers.

Albrecht Dumling is familiar to operanostalgia readers as the excellent biographer of operetta composer Léon Jessel. (Click here for our review). The same expertise of research he has also applied to this volume and I can’t recommend the book enough to people interested in this tragic part of European and Australian history.

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.  Several rare and revealing photos are included. There’s also an appendix with numerous  very detailed biographies and an index is included as well.

Available for the first time in English, this volume brings to light a wealth of Jewish, exilic and musical history that was hitherto unknown.