- Herman Leopoldi (in German) ⇒
- Löhner-Beda, Fritz
- Morgan, Paul
- Moskovits, Benzion
- Nadel, Arno
- Buchenwaldlied ♫
- Yeder geshikhte hot ire ende ♫
They had gotten everything in order when, on 26 April, the police arrived at his door to take him in for questioning. He was thrown in jail, and soon after sent to Dachau, where other greats of the Austrian cabaret, including Grünbaum and Löhner-Beda, were also interned. Later he and many others were transferred to Buchenwald, and it was here that he had the greatest impact on camp cultural life. He performed his own songs for other prisoners, and most famously, in response to a contest initiated by the camp commander, composed the 'Buchenwaldlied' (Buchenwald song) together with Löhner-Beda. Entered by a non-Jewish Kapo, the song was selected as the winner, although the promised prize was never distributed. Despite its optimistic mood and text, the song was popular with the camp personnel as well as with the prisoners. Years later Leopoldi remembered that the song
pleased the camp commander intensely; in his stupidity he did not see how revolutionary the song actually was. From this day on we had to sing the march morning, noon and night …. Rödl [the camp commander] liked to dance to the melody, while the camp music played on one side, and on the other side people were being whipped … Through our work colony the song was brought to surrounding villages, and soon it was known throughout the land.
While Leopoldi was suffering in Buchenwald, his wife and parents-in-law were trying frantically to get him a visa to the United States, where they had already arrived. After a large bribe and a great deal of luck, on 11 April 1939 Leopoldi received a visa and was released. He immediately boarded a ship to New York, and was greeted at the dock by family and New York reporters. Their positive articles about his arrival in the Big Apple greatly simplified his entrance into American cultural life. Rare among cabaret artist émigrés, Leopoldi quickly established a successful career in New York.
Leopoldi successfully performed both German and English language versions of his ‘Wiener Lieder’, and even ran a musical café called Viennese Lantern. This café, popular with Americans, but especially catering to the community of artists who had fled the Nazi regime, was according to Einzi Stoltz “an oasis of authentic Vienna in the middle of New York, where for a few hours you could dream of a Vienna that was so far away and unattainable, yet lived on in your heart”. This love for his homeland, unabated by his internment and the destruction wreaked by the war, led Leopoldi and his wife to return to Vienna in 1949. Here he went on to help rebuild the cultural richness that the city had enjoyed twenty years before. Resuming the career cut short in 1938, he performed and toured all over post-war Germany, Austria and Switzerland. In a powerful sign of the transformative impact he had on the reconstruction of Austria, in 1958 Leopoldi was awarded the Golden Medal of Honour for service to the Republic of Austria. He died in Vienna of a heart attack in June 1959, at the age of 71.
Kuna, M., 1993. Musik an der Grenze des Lebens: Musikerinnen und Musiker aus Böhmischen Ländern in Nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslagern und Gefängnissen, Frankfurt/M.: Zweitausendeins.
Silverman, J., 2002. The Undying Flame: Ballads and Songs of the Holocaust, Syracuse University Press.
Stompor, S., 2001. Judisches Musik- und Theaterleben unter dem NS-Staat, Hannover: Europaisches Zentrum fur Judische Musik.