A VOICE SILENCED

Leonore Schwarz, ca. 1919, in costume as Fides in Meyerbeer's "The Prophet"

Commemorating the life of Leonore Schwarz Neumaier, opera singer, wife, mother, and victim of the Holocaust.

This web site is based on an exhibition created by Diane Leonore Neumaier, in collaboration with Dr. John Neumaier. 

 

For a copy of Dr. John Neumaier's essay about his mother and his life in Germany, click here.

Download a copy of the "A Voice Silenced" Study Guide for teachers (in pdf format).  This guide may be reproduced for educational use.

 

Click on any section in this schematic outline of the Frankfurt Opera House to continue the story.

Leonore Schwarz was born in 1889 in Vienna. This was at the height of the reign of Emperor Franz Joseph I (1848-1916). Although these were years when the Austro-Hungarian empire was in decline, wracked by the strain of competing nationalisms and growing class antagonisms, it was also a time also of tremendous cultural achievement. "It is almost miraculous," writes cultural historian George Marek, "how much was achieved in Vienna in music, drama, poetry, architecture, medicine, and a new science dealing with the psyche." This was the time of Strauss, the "waltz king," of Rilke, Bruckner, Mahler, Dvorak, and Freud. Leonore would be part of a cultural explosion that spread from Vienna to the rest of Europe and then across the globe.

Postcard of the original Opera House at Frankfurt on Main, which opened in 1880. Leonore Schwarz was the First Contralto (erste Altisin) in the Frankfurt Opera Company from 1917 to 1921. The Opera House was gutted by bombs in World War II, and left in ruins until it was rebuilt in the 1970s. It reopened in 1981. Photograph from the National Archives.

Leonore studied music and received voice training in Vienna, and began her career in 1912. She sang in many performances at the Vienna Opera House, including performances with the celebrated Leo Slezak. In 1917 she accepted an invitation to join the nationally recognized company at Frankfurt on Main. Among the many roles she performed in her operatic career were Amneris in Verdi's Aida, Count Orlofsky in Johann Strauss' Die Fledermaus, and the title role in Bizet's Carmen.
(The story of her career is told in the exhibition, A VOICE SILENCED, which includes studio portraits, concert programs and posters, and reviews of her performances. A recording of her voice also accompanies the exhibition and will be playing in the Gallery.)

Leonore married Otto Neumaier, a Frankfurt businessman, in 1921. With the birth of her son, she gave up opera and confined her performances to concert singing. These performances included appearances with Leo Slezak at the Vienna State Opera and with Frederic Schorr at the Metropolitan.

Under normal circumstances, the Neumaiers should have expected to live out normal lives in Germany. But the 1920s were anything but a traditional time. The Weimar Republic had emerged in 1918 following the collapse the Kaiser's reign. However, the allegiance of the German people to this new government was tenuous. There were many competing political undercurrents and rival parties in the new republic. Representative government was assailed from the left by Communists and from the right by those who wished a return of the monarchy. But as the 20s ended the political movement that was showing the greatest strength was the National Socialist German Workers Party (NSDAP) -- the Nazis. Nazism's success in the late 1920s was due more to economic conditions, careful organization, and extreme nationalism than to its anti-Semitic platform. But before they took power in 1933, the Nazis warned how they planned to treat Germany's Jews. "Europe will have its Jewish question solved only after the very last Jew has left the continent," warned Nazi ideologist Alfred Rosenberg.

Like most assimilated German Jews, Leonore and her family were German at heart, Jewish in ancestry. To the Nazis this meant that Leonore Schwarz was not a German, not a talented singer, not a young woman nor even a real person. She and her family were subject to an intense, irrational hatred, some thing to be ridiculed, mistreated, destroyed.

To read more of her story use the schematic above or simply move to the next screen.