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Betty Francken (née Schwabe) * 1875

Isestraße 37 (Eimsbüttel, Harvestehude)

JG. 1875


further stumbling stones in Isestraße 37:
Rosa Dallmann, Walter Labowsky, Margarethe Labowsky, Alice Labowsky, Artur Toczek, Noemi Nora Toczek, Reha Toczek, Nelly Toczek

Betty Francken, née Schwabe, born 27 Feb. 1875 in Aachen, deported 13 July 1943 from Westerbork to Sobibor, murdered there 16 July 1943

Betty was born in Aachen to Heino Schwabe and his wife Fanny, née Prenslau. She began taking violin lessons at the age of seven, and two years later was accepted at the Cologne Conservatory. There she studied the violin with Gustav Holländer (1855-1915), concertmaster at the Cologne Opera. In 1888 she moved to Berlin to continue her studies at the Royal Academy with Johann Kruse and Joseph Joachim. She remained there until 1893. In 1891 she won honorable mention in the competition for the coveted Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy scholarship.

One year before she finished her studies, on 18 February 1892, she debuted with the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, under the conductorship of Joseph Joachim, with an extensive repertoire, including the Violin Concerto No. 3 in G major by Joseph Joachim, Ballade et polonaise de concert, Op. 38 by Henri Vieuxtemps, and the Violon Concerto in E minor, Op. 64 by Felix Mendelssohn Bartholdy. The concert was so impressive that the piano teacher and publicist Anna Morsch wrote about it one year later in her book Germany’s Female Musicians. Biographical Sketches of the Present-Day. Of Betty Schwabe she wrote:
"Especially in light of her youth, the fullness of her tone, the freedom and warmth of her performance, which retained the sound’s power and beauty despite all of the technical difficulties, was surprising.”

Betty Schwabe performed regularly from 1992 to 1897 in Berlin, Frankfurt am Main, and Leipzig, in England, France, Italy, Belgium, Holland, Russia, and Switzerland. She performed together with Johannes Brahms, Hans von Bülow, Felix Weingartner and Karl Muck. On 8 November 1893, for example, she played Ludwig van Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in D major, Op. 61 and Niels Gade’s Capricio for Violin and Orchestra with the Orchestre Municipal de Strasbourg under the conductorship of Franz von Stockhausen. The concert program stated that she was playing a Stradivarius valued at 28,000 Marks. Her last solo concert took place in October 1897. She performed Beethoven’s Violin Concerto in the concert hall at the Berlin Philharmonic under the conductorship of Arthur Nikisch.

In September 1898 Betty Schwabe married Alfred Francken in Aachen. She took his name and, for a time, withdrew from public life. She and her husband settled in Aachen and had three children. Their daughters Ellen and Margot were born in 1899 and 1901, their son Joachim Phillip in 1906. In the course of restitution proceedings, her daughter Margot Nilsson-Francken reported that after her mother married, she played, in general, only at charity events. She performed for war widows and orphans after the First World War, for example, or for the Red Cross. At the same time she maintained her connection to the musical culture of the time. Prominent musicians like Eugène d’Albert, Franz Schreker, Fritz Busch, Peter Raabe and Max Reger were frequent guests in her home, and they often played together.

The family found itself in financial difficulties after the period of hyper-inflation in 1923 and the long-lasting illness of her husband. Alfred Francken died in 1928, and Betty had to sell the house and her Stradivarius, but was able to keep a Guarnerius. She gave private music lessons, and in 1930 began teaching at Paul Schnitzler’s newly-founded private conservatory in Aachen. She and Schnitzler had performed all ten of Ludwig van Beethoven’s violin sonatas together at the Aachener Kurhaus in 1929. At the conservatory she taught the master class for violin for a salary of 300 to 400 Reichsmarks per month.

In the spring of 1933, immediately after the National Socialists came to power, Betty Francken lost her job. As a Jew she was required to belong to the Reich Music Chamber if she wanted to continue to work in her profession. She applied for membership on 19 October 1934 and submitted the completed questionnaire. At this point she still had a "certificate of permission to teach.” She listed her religion as "Jewish, non-Aryan heritage.” On 19 August 1935 Peter Raabe, who had once been a welcome guest in her house and was now the president of the Reich Music Chamber, denied her application on the grounds of her heritage: "You are not eligible for membership according to the requirements of the Reich Cultural Chamber by-laws as defined by the National Socialist government.” This refusal of acceptance was tantamount to an occupational ban: "With this denial you lose the right to continue working in your profession in any area under the authority of the Reich Music Chamber, effective immediately.” The refusal was confirmed on 12 March 1936.

Although the correspondence with the Reich Music Chamber was sent to an address in Aachen (Horst-Wessel-Straße 87), and although the Nazi lexicon, "Lexicon of Jews in Music,” from 1940 gives her residence as Aachen, documents show that Betty Francken had lived in Hamburg since 1934 and gave private violin lessons there. She lived at Isestraße 7 from 1934 until early 1937, in rooms in Margot Frey’s home. It is possible that she and her landlady, who was the same age as her son, knew each other personally.

Margot Frey emigrated to Brazil in May 1937, and Betty Francken moved in with the family of Dr. Otto Friedburg, a judge with whose family she was acquainted. Margot Francken saw her mother here for the last time. In 1937 Betty fled to Holland. She lived in Amsterdam at Beethovenstraat 48. She earned a living giving music lessons.

One of her pupils testified during the restitution proceedings: "I was her pupil and I remember her valuable Guarneri violin, from which she would not be separated. She took the violin with her to the Westerbork Concentration Camp, when those Jews who were still in Amsterdam were deported there in 1943. I saw Frau Francken-Schwabe frequently in the Westerbork camp, and repeatedly heard her playing her Guarneri violin. She was deported from Westerbork to Poland and had to leave the violin behind.”

Betty Francken was murdered in the Sobibor Extermination Camp on 16 July 1943.

Translator: Amy Lee

Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

© Christa Fladhammer/Silke Wenzel

Quellen: 1; 4; 5; AfW 020801; Universität der Künste Berlin, Universitätsarchiv (UdK-Archiv), Best. 1, Nr. 5145 (Felix-Mendelssohn-Bartholdy-Stiftung, Specialia [1891]); Bundesarchiv Berlin ehem. BDC, RKN 10, Bild-Nr. 2034ff. Betty Francken (Akte der Reichsmusikkammer); In Memoriam – Nederlandse oorlogsslachtoffers, Nederlandse Oorlogsgravenstichting (Dutch War Victims Authority), ’s-Gravenhage courtesy of the Association of Yad Vashem Friends in Netherlands Amsterdam o. D.; Literatur: Judentum und Musik mit dem ABC jüdischer und nichtarischer Musikbeflissener, 3. Aufl., bearb. und erw. von Hans Brückner, München 1938 (einschlägiges Nazilexikon mit dem Ziel der Denunziation); Kohut, Adolph, Berühmte israelitische Män­ner und Frauen in der Kulturgeschichte der Menschheit. Lebens- und Charakterbilder aus Ver­gangenheit und Gegenwart, Bd. 1–2, Leipzig, [1900–1901]; Morsch, Anna. Deutschlands Tonkünstlerinnen. Biographische Skizzen aus der Gegenwart. Berlin 1893, S. 197; Prante, Inka, Die Schülerinnen Joseph Joachims. Wissenschaftliche Hausarbeit zur Ersten Staatsprüfung für das Amt des Lehrers, Berlin, Unveröffentlichtes Typoskript, 1999; Stengel, Theo, Gerigk, Herbert, Lexikon der Juden in der Musik. Mit einem Titelverzeichnis jüdischer Werke, zusammengest. und bearb. v. Theo Stengel und Herbert Gerigk, Berlin 1940 (einschlägiges Nazilexikon mit dem Ziel der Denunziation); Neue Zeitschrift für Musik vom 22.12.1897.
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