The Lahr von Leitis Academy & Archive
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The Lahr von Leitis Archive
Collecting – Preserving – Remembering
Already as an adolescent, Gregorij H. von Leitis was inspired by his family’s passion for collecting to continue this tradition. He complemented the already existing collection of documents, letters and photographs with new exhibits.
For many years now one core area of the collection has been to document the rich heritage of writers, composers and intellectuals who were banned and persecuted by the Nazis and had to leave their native countries.
In addition the archive contains important documents on people who have been associated with Gregorij H. von Leitis’ work in the theatre and the arts since the early 1960s.
In the past years the materials in the Lahr von Leitis Archive regularly served as an inspiration for performances at the Elysium Festival Bernried and for programs conceived by Elysium – between two continents. The inventory of the archive continues to be used as a source and foundation for artistic presentations, academic lectures and exhibitions.
Additional materials are constantly being added to the existing collections.
The archive includes materials on the following people:
Frank Arnau Frank Arnau 1894 – 1976, Swiss-born writer, became a German citizen in 1920. As an opponent of Hitler, he emigrated in 1933 via Holland and France to Spain, and in 1939 to Brazil, where he worked as a journalist. After the war he returned to Germany. There he wrote numerous detective stories and worked as an investigative journalist.
Paul Aron Paul Aron 1886 – 1955, German composer, he initiated many world premieres of contemporary composers, such as Ernst Krenek and Paul Hindemith. In 1938, he emigrated, first to Prague, then to Cuba, and eventually to New York. In exile he set a number of poems by Hermann Hesse, Christian Morgenstern, Garcia Lorca and William Butler Yeats to music and composed several piano solo pieces.
Leon Askin Leon Askin 1907 – 2005, Austrian actor, emigrated to the United States, where he closely collaborated with Erwin and Maria Piscator. After World War II he had a successful career in Hollywood, in the early 1990s he returned to Vienna; from 2002 until his death he was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium – between two continents.
Hugo Basch Hugo Basch 1888 – 1957, Austrian engineer and librettist, emigrated to the United States of America. He was a close friend of composer Egon Lustgarten and wrote the libretto for Lustgarten’s first opera Dante in Exile.   ... more
Max Brand

Max Brand 1896 – 1980, Austrian composer and pioneer of electronic music; he emigrated via Prague, Switzerland and Brazil to New York. In 1975 he returned to Austria.

Photo: © Max-Brand-Archive

Valentino Casal, Skulptur Valentino Casal 1867 – 1951, Italian-born sculptor, lived and worked in Berlin, he created several monumental sculptures for the so-called Siegesallee (Avenue of Victory) commissioned by Wilhelm II and also designed a number of important tomb monuments.

Photo: The font, Sculpture by Valentino Casal

Viktor Frankl Viktor Frankl 1905 – 1997, Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist, founder of logotherapy, in numerous books he wrote down his experiences from the concentration camp, among them Man’s Search for Meaning. Frankl celebrated his 85th birthday at the Elysium Theater Company in New York. To celebrate this occasion, Gregorij von Leitis premiered Frankl’s play A Metaphysical Conference.

Drawing: Viktor Frankl, entry in Elysium’s guestbook 1990
  Ruth Gay 1922 – 2006, American author, wrote extensively on Jewish life and culture
Leo Glückselig Leo Glückselig 1914 – 2003, Austrian illustrator, graphic designer and writer
Oskar Maria Graf Oskar Maria Graf 1894 – 1967, German writer, opposed Hitler and emigrated to Czechoslovakia and later to New York. There he founded the Oskar Maria Graf Stammtisch in the 1940s which soon became an institution for émigré artists. To this day a group of regulars, some old emigrants and their younger friends, gather weekly to discuss politics and the arts.
Photo: Georg Bretting
Mimi Grossberg Mimi Grossberg 1905 – 1997, Austrian poet and writer who emigrated to New York.
Dolly Haas Dolly Haas 1910 – 1994, German actress and singer, emigrated to the United States. Until her death she was married to the cartoonist Al Hirschfeld.
Fey von Hassell Fey von Hassell 1918 – 2010, daughter of the diplomat Ulrich von Hassell, who was executed by the Nazis. In 1944, she, too, was imprisoned by the Nazis. She wrote down her adventurous experiences in the captivating book A Mother’s War.
Alice Herz-Sommer Alice Herz-Sommer born in Prague in 1903, pianist and the world’s oldest Holocaust survivor. At the age of six she started taking piano lessons, at age seven she sat on the lap of Franz Kafka, a close friend of her family, and listened to his fantastic tales. After intensive studies she gave her first piano recitals in Warsaw, Vienna, Belgium and Copenhagen. In 1943, she, her husband Leopold and her son Rafael were deported to Terezin. There music saved her life. Her husband died shortly before the end of the war in Dachau. She and her son survived. After the liberation of Terezin, Alice Herz-Sommer emigrated to Palestine, where she worked as a pianist and music teacher. Today she is living in London.
Ruth Heilgendorff Ruth Heilgendorff 1894 – 1965, German photographer
Al und Louise Hirschfeld

Al Hirschfeld 1903 – 2003, American caricaturist, portrayed famous artists and Broadway stars

Photo: Al und Louise Hirschfeld by Hank Oneal, late 90s

Walter Hirschberg Walther Hirschberg 1889 – 1960, German composer in exile, worked in several German theatres and as a music critic and editor-in-chief for the journal Signale für die musikalische Welt (Signals for the Musical World). In 1939 he emigrated to France, where he was hidden by the sculptor Georges Salendre outside of Lyon. In 1958 he returned to his native city Berlin.
Franz Hirt Franz Hirt 1811 – 1882, founder and first president of the Royal Court in the principality of Reuss-Gera. In addition to his judicial activities, he also wrote poetry and crime novels.   … more
Georg Hirt Georg Hirt 1840 – 1913, eldest son of Franz Hirt, painter, taught at the Academy of Arts in Leipzig. Many of his water colors of flowers were used as artwork for greeting cards.
Georg Jokl Georg Jokl 1898 – 1954, pianist and composer, emigrated from Vienna to New York
Erich Itor Kahn Erich Itor Kahn 1905 – 1956, German composer
Ernst Krenek Ernst Krenek 1900 – 1991, Austrian composer, left an extensive Œuvre, encompassing late romanticism, twelve-tone-music and serial compositions. In 1938 he emigrated from Austria to the United States.
Egon Lustgarten Egon Lustgarten 1887 – 1961, Austrian composer, composed numerous operas. In 1938 he emigrated from Vienna to New York. In the 1930s he composed his first opera Dante im Exil (Dante in Exile). Joseph Krips and Bruno Walter were so enthusiastic about this opera, that they considered producing the work at the Vienna State Opera in 1938. But because of the Anschluß their plans didn’t come to fruition. Almost the entire estate of Egon Lustgarten is in the Lahr von Leitis Archive.   … more
Franz Mittler Franz Mittler 1893 – 1970, Austrian exiled composer
Anna Moffo Anna Moffo 1932 – 2006, world-famous American soprano, sang in numerous film adaptations of operas. From 1986 until her death, she was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium   … more
Maria Ley Piscator Maria Ley Piscator 1898 – 1999, dancer, choreographer, director, writer. Collaborated with Gregorij H. von Leitis, was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium – between two continents from 1985 until her death.  … more
Erwin Piscator Erwin Piscator 1893 – 1966, German director, who revolutionized theatre; founded the political and epic theatre, fled Nazi Germany and went to Paris, and then to New York, where he founded the Dramatic Workshop at the New School for Social Research. In 1951 he returned to Germany, in 1962 he was appointed Artistic Director of the Freie Volksbühne (Free People’s Stage) Berlin. With his productions, technical innovations and writings he tremendously influenced European and American theatre.  more
Luise Rainer Luise Rainer born in Germany in 1910, actress and two time Oscar-winner, emigrated to the United States of America, lives in London today. Is a member of the Advisory Board of the Lahr von Leitis Academy & Archive and Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium.
Tony Randall Tony Randall 1920 – 2004, American actor, student of Erwin Piscator, founder of the National Actors Theatre, was an Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium from 1999 until his death.
Karol Rathaus Karol Rathaus 1895 – 1954, American composer of Polish origin
Max Reinhardt Max Reinhardt 1873 – 1943, influential Austrian director and impresario, founded the Salzburg Festival along with Richard Strauss and Hugo von Hofmannsthal, later emigrated to the United States of America.
Joseph Roth Joseph Roth 1894 – 1939, Austrian writer, in his novels he portrayed the lost grandeur of life in the Austro-Hungarian Empire. In 1920 he moved to Berlin and worked there as a liberal journalist. After Hitler’s rise to power he emigrated to Paris, where he died from alcohol abuse.
Hans Sahl Hans Sahl 1902 – 1993, film critic, writer translator, prominent exponent of German-language exile literature. In 1933 he fled via Prague and Zurich to Paris, in 1940 he started to work with Varian Fry in Marseille to rescue persecuted intellectuals and help them leave France. With one of the last boats he himself fled to New York. In exile he wrote radio and theatre plays, poems and novels, and translated Thornton Wilder, Tennessee Williams and Arthur Miller into German. One of his most famous books is Memoiren eines Moralisten (Memories of a Moralist). From 1985 until his death he was an advisor of Elysium.
Photo: Bertrand de Geofroy
Paul Aron Sandfort Paul Aron Sandfort 1930 – 2007, musicologist and literary historian. At the age of 13, when he tried to flee from Copenhagen to Sweden, he was captured by the Gestapo and deported to Terezin. As a trumpeter he played in the Terezin “city orchestra”, which was founded by order of the Nazis. When the International Red Cross visited Terezin, he played the trombone solo from Verdi’s Requiem and also was forced to participate in the infamous propaganda film The Führer gives a city to the Jews. After his liberation from Terezin, he studied musicology and German literature in Copenhagen and Italian literature and opera directing in Rome. He then taught at conservatories and colleges and was working as a director in Aaarhus, Copenhagen and other European cities.
Decades later, he started talking about the Holocaust in lectures, books and plays. His theatre play The Visit deals with an accidental encounter of a Holocaust survivor with a former Swiss delegate of the Red Cross Commission. 2007 this play had its German premiere at the Elysium Festival Bernried. Paul Aron Sandfort, Honorary Artistic Director of Elysium, died a few months after this premiere in Denmark.
Libertas Schulze-Boysen Libertas Schulze-Boysen 1913 – 1942, member of the resistance group Red Orchestra. She was arrested by the Gestapo in 1942 and executed a few months later    … more
Mischa Spoliansky Mischa Spoliansky 1898 – 1985, composer of Russian descent, left his imprint on musical life in Berlin during the Weimar Republic: He worked as music director of the cabaret Schall und Rauch (Sound and Smoke), and collaborated with Max Reinhardt and Marcellus Schiffer. He put his name on the map with the revue Es liegt in der Luft (Something is in the Air) and the play Zwei Krawatten (Two Ties) with Marlene Dietrich. In 1933 he emigrated to London.
Mischa Spoliansky Robert Stolz 1880 – 1975, Austrian composer of numerous operettas, film music and songs. His music for the first German talkie Zwei Herzen im Dreivierteltakt (Two Hearts in Three-Quarter Time) became immensely popular. After Hitler’s rise to power he helped a number of Jewish friends and colleagues to escape Nazi Germany. Finally he himself emigrated to the United States, where he conducted many benefit concerts with Viennese waltzes during the war. In 1946 he returned to Vienna.
Viktor Ullmann

Viktor Ullmann 1898 – 1944, Austrian composer and conductor; in 1942 he was deported to the ghetto and concentration camp Terezin. There he composed many songs, three piano sonatas, one string quartet, a melodrama based on Rainer Maria Rilke’s poem Die Weise von Liebe und Tod des Cornets Christoph Rilke (The Lay of Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke) and the opera Der Kaiser von Atlantis (The Emperor of Atlantis). In 1944 he was murdered in Auschwitz.

photo: Arnold Schoenberg Institute, Los Angeles

Dr. Werner Vogel Dr. Werner Vogel 1892 – 1936, expert on China, Managing Director of the German Chamber of Commerce in Shanghai   … more
Karl Wiener Karl Wiener 1891 – 1942, Austrian composer, worked as the official in charge of music at the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Association). In 1942 he was murdered in the concentration camp Sachsenhausen. While he was kept by the Gestapo at the Alexanderplatz prison, he composed the Alexander-Idyll, which he finished on April 19, 1942.
Simon Wiesenthal Simon Wiesenthal 1908 – 2005, Austrian engineer. As a Holocaust survivor he dedicated his entire life to the persecution of fugitive Nazis, so that they would be held accountable in a just court trial.
Dr. Volkmar Zühlsdorff Dr. Volkmar Zühlsdorff 1912 – 2006, resistance fighter, diplomat and journalist.    … more


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