Resistance & Exile

Composers in Exile

Schönberg was one of many composers (including Ernst Toch and Igor Stravinsky) who ended up in the warm climate of California, and like many others he found it difficult to adjust at first to a life outside Europe.

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Partisans

During World War II, many Jews defied their Nazi oppressors by actively taking part in an underground war of resistance. This partisan warfare, carried out by clandestine forces operating inside enemy territory, was widespread in the forests and marshlands of Eastern Europe.

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Beethoven's 5th Symphony

The opening motif of Beethoven's 5th Symphony became a powerful symbol for the Allied forces. Corresponding in Morse code to the letter 'V' for Victory, it was most famously made by Winston Churchill forming a 'V' with his fingers.

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Berlin Cabaret in Exile

The 1920s heralded a ‘Golden-Age’ of German cabaret (Kabarett), with clubs such as Max Reinhardt’s Schall und Rauch (Sound and Smoke) and Trude Hesterberg’s Wilde Bühne (Wild Stage) in Berlin, and Die Elf Scharfrichter (Eleven Executioners) in Munich offering hedonistic, avant-garde, risqué entertainment.

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Varian Fry and Alma Mahler-Werfel

Sometimes known as the American Schindler, Varian Fry rescued more than 1,000 people from Nazi persecution in France and Germany during 1940-41.                                                                                          

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The Holocaust's systematic persecution of Jews and other targeted groups left its mark on global culture, with the silencing of countless musicians and composers. This section explores their two main responses under Nazi oppression: Resistance and Exile.

Here, you'll discover how musicians defied the regime through covert performances, coded compositions, and cultural preservation efforts. Additionally, you'll learn about the experiences of those forced into exile, their struggles to adapt and rebuild their careers abroad, and the lasting influence they had on music worldwide.

This section sheds light on the tragic loss of artistic potential and its profound impact on both German and international cultural development.

Arnold Schoenberg

Emigré
Composer

Composer Arnold Schönberg (1874-1951) together with Berg and Webern, are known as the Second Viennese School. His revolutionary musical technique of dodecaphony (twelve tones) was his signature creation.

Berthold Goldschmidt

Emigré
Composer

Emigre composer Berthold Goldschmidt (1903-1996) died in London at the age of 93. He had lived at the same ground floor flat since leaving Germany to flee the Nazis in October 1935.

Hanns Eisler

Emigré
Composer

Marxist composer Hanns Eisler (1898-1962) was in Vienna in January 1933 when Hitler became German Chancellor. Eisler stayed true to his Communist ideals, fleeing Nazi Germany in the 1930s and America in the 1940s.

Joseph Schmidt

Emigré
Singer
Actor
Cantor

When the war broke out Joseph Schmidt (1904-1942) fled to France then retreated to Switzerland. Although in possession of an American visa and well known, he was interned and, owing to a lack of medical attention, he died on 16 November 1942.

British Internment and Music

Emigré
Composer

Hans Gál (1890-1987) enjoyed professional success prior to 1933. When the Nazis came to power, he served as director of the Mainz Conservatory but was dismissed and his work was banned from both performance and publication.

Paul Arma

Composer
Emigré

Paul Arma (1905-1987) is a crucial figure in the history of French Resistance music, both because of the songs he composed and because of his efforts to preserve the enormous body of music created during the war. Arma saw Resistance songs not just as sources of hope and acts of wartime courage, but also as important artefacts to be saved.

Leopold Spinner

Emigré
Composer

Ukrainian composer, musicologist and editor Leopold Spinner (1906-1980) escaped Nazi persecution in 1938. In England he worked in a train factory before joining Boosey & Hawkes in 1947, eventually as chief editor, focusing on Stravinsky.

Varian Fry and Alma Mahler-Werfel

Emigré
Composer

Varian Fry (1907-1967) was an American journalist who ran a rescue network in Vichy France that helped approximately 2,000 to 4,000 anti-Nazi and Jewish refugees to escape Nazi Germany and the Holocaust.

Hans Keller

Emigré
Musicologist

Austrian-born British musicologist and music critic Hans Keller (1919-1985), who made significant contributions to musicology and music criticism, was arrested by the Nazis and forced to leave Austria following the Anschluss in 1938.

Bela Bartok

Emigré
Composer

Béla Bartók (1881-1945) was a Hungarian composer, pianist, and ethnomusicologist. He is considered one of the most important composers of the 20th century. He refused to perform in Germany after 1933.

Alexander Zemlinsky

Emigré
Composer
Conductor

Alexander Zemlinsky (1871-1942) was an Austrian composer, conductor and teacher. He fled Germany in 1933 reaching the US in 1938, but he did not flourish and he was almost forgotten.

Jan van Gilse

Emigré
Composer

Jan van Gilse (1881-1944) a Dutch composer and conductor, began serving as director of the Utrecht Conservatory in 1933, a post he accepted upon leaving Berlin after the rise of the Nazi regime.

Partisans

Partisan

During World War II, many European Jews defied their Nazi oppressors by actively resisting. This partisan warfare, carried out by clandestine, irregular forces operating inside enemy territory, was particularly widespread in the dense forests and marshlands of Eastern Europe.

Shmerke Kaczerginski

Musician
Partisan
Poet

Poet and partisan fighter Shmerke Kaczerginski (1908-1954) was a collector of Yiddish Shoah song. He was sent to the Vilna ghetto in early 1942 where he crafted songs to console prisoners and encourage resistance.

The Troubadours of the French Resistance

Partisan

Songs of the French resistance were collected by Paul Arma with his wife Edmée to rescue from obscurity the numerous songs that were written as acts of resistance during World War II, and to recognise the efforts made and dangers faced by their creators.

Resistance & Exile

Anthems for France

Political regimes use hymns as symbols of their values and aspirations. While France was divided by the war, it adopted three anthems between north and south.

Resistance & Exile

British Internment and Music

In September 1939, the British government established tribunals to evaluate the potential security risk of all UK resident German and Austrian nationals.

Resistance & Exile

Composers in Exile

For many Jewish composers, the rise of Nazism presented a stark choice: stay and submit to an unknown future in an increasingly hostile regime or go into exile.

Resistance & Exile

György Ligeti

The music education of Hungarian-Austrian composer György Ligeti (1923-2006) was interrupted when he was sent to a forced labour brigade by the Horthy regime.

Resistance & Exile

Kurt Huber

Kurt Huber (1893-1943) was a member of the Munich-based resistance group, die Weiße Rose. His execution in 1943 sent shock-waves throughout Europe.

Resistance & Exile

Paul Arma

Paul Arma (1905-1987) saw Resistance songs not just as sources of hope and acts of wartime courage, but also as important artefacts to be saved.