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Sitzender Gustav Brecher
Gustav Brecher
© Zentralbibliothek Zürich

Gustav Brecher * 1879

Dammtorstraße 28 (Oper) (Hamburg-Mitte, Neustadt)

Flucht in den Tod Mai 1940 Ostende
1938 Flucht nach Belgien

    (Die Stolpersteine vor der Staatsoper wurden aus Anlass der Ausstellung 'Verstummte Stimmen' verlegt. Weitere Informationen finden Sie unter dem vorstehenden Link)

further stumbling stones in Dammtorstraße 28 (Oper):
Dr. Max Fraenkel, Hermann Frehse, Camilla Fuchs, Mauritz Kapper, Jacob Kaufmann, Ottilie Metzger-Lattermann, Kurt Abraham Salnik, Joseph Schmidt, Magda Spiegel, Viktor Ullmann, Bruno Wolf

Gustav Brecher, b. 2.5.1879 in Eichwald (Dubí) near Teplitz (Teplice), missing as of May 1940 at Ostend, Belgium

Dammtorstraße 28 (Opera House)

Gustav Brecher was born in Eichwald (Dubi) near Teplitz (Teplice) in northern Bohemia, at that time a part of the Austro-Hungarian Dual Monarchy. He grew up in a wealthy and musically inclined parental home and received piano lessons at an early age. His father, the physician Alois Brecher (b. 3.23.1831 in Prössnitz near Olmütz, Moravia) directed the hydropathic establishment in the Eichwald health spa near the German border. In 1889, the family, with the ten-year old Gustav moved to Saxony, where his father ran the Johanna-Spa (Blücherstrasse 18, at the corner of Uferstrasse) until 1900. His mother was Johanna Brecher, née Bernays (b. 5.12.1840 in Hamburg), daughter of the Orthodox chief rabbi of Hamburg, Isaac Bernays (1792-1849). Her brother, Prof. Jacob Bernays (1824-1881) was a classical philologist at the University of Bonn; another brother, Prof. Michael Bernays (1834-1897) was a literary historian at the University of Munich. The Brecher couple had three children: Sara (b. 2.28.1867 in Brünn), Dora (b. 8.13.1872 in Eichwald near Teplitz), and Gustav (b. 2.5.1879, also in Eichwald). Alois and Johanna Brecher died in 1913; they were buried in the Old Israelite Cemetery in Leipzig (Berliner Strasse 123).

Gustav Brecher attended the Nikolai Preparatory High School in Leipzig and received instruction from the composer, pianist, and music theoretician Salomon Jadassohn (1831-1902), who was the director of the Leipzig Conservatory. In 1896, Brecher’s early tone poem "Rosmersholm” (after Ibsen’s play) was performed at the Leipzig Liszt-Association, under the direction of Richard Strauss; at this point in time, Brecher was still a high school student. One year later he began his musical studies at the Leipzig Conservatory and, in the same year, debuted as conductor in Leipzig. Also in this year, his symphonic fantasy "Of Our Time” was premiered in Munich and Berlin by Richard Strauss.

From 1899, he appeared in the Leipzig directory with his own entry, although he continued living with his parents at "Czermaks Garten 14.” His profession was listed as "accompanist at the City Theater” (1899) and "accompanist” (1900). (He accompanied performers on the piano during the rehearsal phase; in other words, he replaced the orchestra until the actual performance took place.) In the Leipzig directory of 1901, he already had his own address, with a changed professional description: "Brecher, Gustav, composer and musicologist, Gust. Adolph-Str. 5 III.” In July 1900, shortly after reaching his majority, the Austrian Consulate in Leipzig issued him a passport.

Richard Strauss introduced him to Gustav Mahler (1860-1911) in Vienna, where from early summer 1900 until May 1902, he worked as accompanist and assistant conductor with the Vienna Court Opera. On the recommendation of Mahler, he took an engagement as first orchestral conductor for the 1902-1903 season at the Tri-partite [opera, ballet, plays] City Theater of Olmütz (Olomouc) in northern Moravia. It was owing to Mahler’s patronage that the Hamburg City Theater, where Mahler was chief conductor, contracted Brecher immediately afterwards. The heightened expectations of City Theater in the years preceding Brecher’s engagement had not been altogether fulfilled. Thus, it was hoped that the impulse of fresh talent would lead to an elevation in artistic quality.

During the musical season 1903-1904 to 1911-1912, Brecher was engaged as the conductor of the Hamburg City Theater Orchestra. The Hamburg registration card records his entry from Olmütz on 15 September 1903 and his living from that date in the newly opened pension on Hans Leppin (Holzdamm 8 III.) to his moving out on 3 June 1904. For the new season, he took lodgings on 25 August 1904 in the pension of the widow, Josephine Appel, at Neuer Jungfernstieg 16a, which he again left at the end of the season on 30 May 1905. From 1905 until 1907, he "descended” to the Hotel Hamburger Hof (Jungfernstieg 30). The accommodations were walking distance from the Hamburg City Theater. He then moved, on 5 September 1907, to an apartment at Jungfrauenthal 26, fourth floor (Harvestehude); from September 1906, on the same floor, and coming from Berlin, lived the important alto Edith Walker (b. 3.27.1870 in Hopewell, Pennsylvania). On Brecher’s residential registration card, the column for religious affiliation was left blank.

Early in his time in Hamburg, Gustav Brecher had himself photographed at the famous Atelier E. Bieber (Jungfernstieg 8-9, corner of Neuer Wall). The picture shows the young Hamburg conductor in a stiff collar and fashionable checkered vest assuming a self-consciously serious pose. He conducted, among others, the first performances in Hamburg of Richard Strauss’ "Salome” (11.6.1907) and "Elektra” (2.21.1909). In 1912, the business manager Max Bacur (1845-1920) did not renew Brecher’s contract, but instead hired the Leipzig theater director Hans Loewenfeld (1874-1921).

Gustav Brecher went to Cologne. His Hamburg residential registration card noted his departure as 22 August 1912; he had reserved a room at the Hotel Monopol. He also held four-year directorships in Cologne (1912-1913 to 1915-1916) and Frankfurt am Main (1916-1917 to 1919-1920). In July 1920, he moved to Berlin. There he worked at the Great National Opera of the Theater des Westens (1920-1921 and 1921-1922), gave a master’s class in direction at the Stern Conservatory, and from February 1921, he served as the guest director of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra. Here, too, he took no permanent lodgings and was entered as a bachelor in the Berlin directory of 1921.

Before the Berlin Registry Office, no. 3, on 30 October 1920, Gustav Brecher married Gertrud "Gerti” Deutsch (b. 9.27.1894 in Mannheim); she was the daughter of the Berlin AEG-director Felix Deutsch (1858-1928) and his wife Elisabeth, called Lili, Deutsch, née Kahn (b. 8.19.1869 in Mannheim). The marriage witnesses were the bride’s parents, with whom the newly-weds lived with at the time of their marriage. Gustav Brecher and Gertrud Deutsch met at a social occasion (possibly in the house of her parents). Since 1916, the Deutsch family owned a villa in the Berlin-Tiergarten at Rauchstrasse 16 (corner of Drakestrasse and Corneliusstrasse) in the vicinity of the Landwehr Canal, where the banker’s daughter Lili Deutsch conducted a great salon. Along with significant representatives of economic and political life, there were also artists and scientists among the guests. Lili Deutsch cultivated contacts with, among others, the composer Richard Strauss (1864-1949) and the journalist-commentator Maximilian Harden (1861-1927). Gertrud’s brother Georg Felix Deutsch (1901-1957) was the manager of operations with Tobis AG (the sound movie syndicate); he was fired in April 1934 because of his Jewish descent and emigrated via Switzerland to England. Felix Deutsch, a native of Breslau, died in 1928 in and was laid to rest in the great Lichterfelde Park Cemetery.

In the 1922-1923 season, Gustav Brecher went on a concert tour as guest conductor to Hamburg, Vienna, Rome, Amsterdam, Prague, and Moscow. In the spring of 1923, the artistic director of the Leipzig City Theater offered Brecher the leadership of the Leipzig Opera. Brecher made his engagement as general music director and executive opera director contingent upon the simultaneous hiring of Walter Brügmann (actor/director active between 1912 and 1917 in the Hamburg City Theater) as director of opera and Egon Bloch as senior director of theater performance, all of which was agreed to.

With the 1923-1924 season began Brecher’s extremely successful activity in Leipzig. In January 1925, when his wife joined him, Gustav moved out of his hotel room into an apartment at Kaiserin-Augusta-Strasse 23, 4th floor (since 1945, Richard-Lehmann-Strasse). Starting in 1926, his name appeared in the Leipzig directory under the address Leipzig S3, Kaiserin-Augusta-Strasse 23 (1926-1929) and Leipzig-Oetzsch, Parkstrasse 2 (1930-1933). The Brechers had acquired a house in 1928 at the Oetzsch villas (today, Markkleeberg-Mitte, Mitschwindstrasse). Among his circle of friends were the conductor and composer Otto Klemperer (1885-1973), whom he had known in Hamburg, as well as the conductor Bruno Walter (1876-1962), with whom he became acquainted in his time in Vienna. The Leipzig Jewish Congregation did not list Brecher as a member; he is said to have belonged to the Evangelical Lutheran Church.

In Leipzig, too, Brecher together with Walter Brügmann (1884-1945) continued the style that unified orchestra, singing, direction, and stage design. From 1923, Brecher’s opera house also offered special weekend matinees performances for the Leipzig Workers’ Educational Institute. In the spring of 1927, Brecher and Brügmann gave the first performance in Leipzig of Ernst Krenek’s jazz opera, "Jonny spielt auf” [Jonny plays]. On 9 March 1930, their world premiere performance of Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s "Aufstieg und Fall der Stadt Mahagonny” [Rise and Fall of the City of Mahagonny] unleashed an organized scandal. Present in the auditorium were disruptive uniformed Stormtroopers. Only with great effort could Brecher end the opera from the podium. Various newspapers reported the "Mahagonny scandal.” Two days later, the German National People’s Party city councilman Schmidt demanded the cancellation of the opera in the council’s theater committee. The performance scheduled for 14 March was canceled. Brecher took issue in the press with the hostile actions. By decision of the Leipzig City Council, overriding the votes of councilmen from the German National People’s Party and the Economy Party, the second performance took place on 16 March 1930.

From 1930, the effects of the world economic crisis sharply curtailed Leipzig’s cultural budget, also affecting Gustav Brecher’s house. Private donors assured further performances, but the orchestra’s personnel had be reduced. Because of the continuing cutbacks, Brecher stepped down from his post in 1932, but in the absence of a successor, he remained temporarily at his post. The world premiere of "Der Silbersee” [Silver Lake] by Georg Kaiser and Kurt Weill on 18 February 1933 was also accompanied by whistling and disturbances by the Nazis who were present. The Nazi Party demanded the immediate cancellation of the piece. In the "Völkischer Beobachter” [Racial Observer, organ of the Nazi Party] of 24 February 1923, F. A. Hauptmann threatened the artists responsible. A week later the Leipzig city councilman for cultural affairs issued an order for the immediate dismissal of Brecher by the end of February. In fact, Brecher conducted in Leipzig for the last time on 4 March 1933. On 11 March 1933, he was officially furloughed by Carl Goerdeler, the German National Lord Mayor of Leipzig. His successor was Hanns Schüler, who already possessed the Nazi Party membership book. The National Socialists labeled works of music, the visual arts, and literature as "degenerate” [entartet] if they did not conform esthetically, politically, or "racially” to Nazi ideology. In Nazi Germany, Jewish artists, jazz, and atonal music were now taboo. Under National Socialism, Richard Strauss held the office of president of the Reich Music Chamber from February 1933 until July 1935. The young Austrian conductor Herbert von Karajan (1908-1989) joined the Nazi Party as a precaution. Heinrich Creuzburg (b. 1907), an accompanist for Gustav Brecher from 1928 until 1932, later wrote in his memoirs: "Following his (Brecher’s) removal from the Leipzig Opera, he lived for a short time in his house in suburban Oetzsch, completely isolated. No one from the Leipzig Theater dared to visit him; even the so-called outer streetcars were already being surveilled.” The 54-year old Gustav Brecher sold his house to a Mrs. A. Hörig and left Leipzig with his wife.

Gustav Brecher was not an exception. Bruno Walter, the conductor of the Leipzig Gewandhaus Orchestra and, since 1 November 1921, the successor of Wilhelm Furtwängler, was driven out of Leipzig. Upon his return from a concert tour in the USA on 16 March 1933, the Nazis forbade him access to his workplace. The Reich Commissar for Saxony, Baron Manfred von Killinger (1886-1944, a Nazi delegate in the Saxon state parliament since 1928), demanded that Walter make a "voluntary” resignation and threatened otherwise to ban him from the stage if he refused. Bruno Walter emigrated to Austria, became the director of the Vienna State Opera, and, after the German occupation of Austria, emigrated by way of France to the USA in 1939.

The National Socialist "Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service" of 7 April 1933 required all employees of public institutions to provide a certificate of their "Aryan” descent. By "logical extension,” all musicians and singers also had to provide this documentation. Moreover, they had to register with the Reich Music Chamber, a division of the Reich Chamber of Culture, which was under the authority of the Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. In November 1935, a mimeographed list with107 names was circulated among the branches of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party: "To all district leaders and propaganda directors: The President of the Reich Chamber of Culture has sent us a list of undesirable, non-Aryan composers. I request that all offices of the Movement concerned with music, inform themselves that, in the future, the works of the following named composers no longer be performed.” The alphabetical listing contained, among others, the names Paul Abraham, Alban Berg, Gustav Brecher, Paul Dessau, Hanns Eisler, Oskar Fried, Ernst Krenek, Friedrich Holländer, Otto Klemperer, and Kurt Weill. With the nationwide prohibition of performances of these composers’ works, Brecher’s occupational ban in Nazi Germany was complete.

After almost a year of compulsory inactivity on the podium, Gustav Brecher received an offer from Leningrad, to lead the newly established Radio Orchestra. After four concerts in February 1934 with the Leningrad Philharmonic, he returned--disenchanted--from the Soviet Union to Germany; because he could not speak or understand the language, he did not see himself as being able to communicate his musical ideas to the orchestra. In February 1934, he received a commission from the Vienna State Opera for a new translation of Bizet’s Carmen (world premiere on 12.12.1937 by the VSO under the direction of Bruno Walter). According to his Leipzig resident registration card, Gustav Brecher was living in Berlin-Dahlem in October 1934 (at Hirschsprung 44, in a property owned by Lili Deutsch), where, until his emigration in April 1934, Georg Deutsch also lived. Gustav Brecher’s name did not appear in the Berlin directory from 1934 through 1939.

In September 1936, he led a revival or new production of Richard Strauss’ "Elektra” at the German Theater in Prague (today the Smetana Theater). At his last address in Berlin-Dahlem, (Am) Wildpfad 26, and according to financial and compensation documents, he was involved with a villa, which his mother-in-law, Lili Deutsch, had purchased (and which in early 1939, as a consequence of expropriation measures and her intention to emigrate, she had to sell at a value of RM 230,000).

In early 1939, Gustav Brecher applied for a new Czechoslovakian passport, which was issued to him on 14 March 1939 by the General Consulate in Berlin (No. 7.617/39). His wife had become a Czech citizen by virtue of her marriage and had already applied for a passport in 1936, receiving it in Berlin in December 1936 (No. 43.744/36). The couple moved from Berlin to Brno (Brünn) in southern Moravia, approximately 60 miles from Olmütz (Olomouc). With the German Armed Forces’ invasion of the Sudetenland (10.15.1938) and then Bohemia and Moravia (3.15.1939), these regions were robbed of their sovereignty, subordinated to the German Reich, and drawn into the system of antisemitic persecution. The abolition of the Czech Republic and the erection of the Reich Protectorate on 16 March 1939 was followed immediately by a Hitler decree: "The ethnic German inhabitants of the Protectorate, according to the Reich Citizenship Law of 15 September 1935,…will be citizens of the Reich….The rest of the inhabitants of Bohemia and Moravia will become subjects of the Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia.”

The Brechers, during or shortly after their move from Berlin, were confronted by a completely changed situation; occupied Czechoslovakia was now a dead end for their emigration. As of 14 March 1939, the "Reich Leader of the SS/Chief of the German Police in the Reich Ministry of the Interior” had already instructed police stations at the border: "As of 15 March 1939, crossing the border from the Czech zone that stands under the protection of the German Armed Forces is hereby forbidden until further notice….Border crossing is permitted only to those persons showing in addition…to a passport or passport substitute the required entrance visa with special marking.” This entrance visa was issued by military authorities and from 21 March 1939 by the responsible state police offices of the relevant locales, that is, the places of residence; for Gustav Brecher, this was the Gestapo office in Brünn.

Their stay in the occupied Czech areas meant the Brechers could not apply for German citizenship. On the grounds of their Jewish origins, they were prohibited from this. Their status as Jewish subjects of the Protectorate also meant a worsening of their emigration outlook. Gustav Brecher had not reported to the registration office during his four week stay in Brno; relatives or friends had probably taken them in. The pressure to find a safe place to emigrate to mounted with every new measure and each new wave of arrests by the Nazi occupiers. On 20 March 1939, the business manager of the German embassy in Prague, Andor Hencke, reported to the Foreign Office in Berlin: "The Chief of the Civil Administration estimates that until today 2000 arrests have taken place in Bohemia…of which 500 were released. The current status of the approximately 1500 arrestees is 150 emigrants, the rest Czech Communists, reportedly no foreigners….”

In early April 1939, Gustav Brecher and his wife left Brno for Belgium, whereby they had to traverse the territory of National Socialist Germany. Both carried their Czech passports. Because these passports had been issued before 16 March 1939, the German officials, acting in accordance with the declaration of the Reich Minister of the Interior, recognized that: "until further notice, until their expiration, they were permitted as substitute passports….The possessor of this substitute passport must, with each border crossing (coming or going) show an entrance visa of the responsible German visa authorities.”

However, with their departure from the Protectorate, the couple lost their internationally recognized state citizenship, thereby becoming stateless. The Legal Department of the Foreign Office concluded its position of 31 March 1939 regarding the "technicalities of passport handling” with the sentence that had been stated in cruder form by the Chief of the Security Service of the SS and Security Police, Reinhard Heydrich, put into circulation by express mail. It said: "Finally, it is to be especially emphasized that an extension of the period of validity of Czechoslovakian passports or a declaration that Czechoslovakian passports are recognized as German passports is in every case not allowed.” This was sent to all German representatives abroad.

Lili Deutsch as well as Gustav and Gertrud Brecher had decided to emigrate to Portugal. Between the sale of the Villa at Rauchstrasse 16 to the Portuguese State, as an embassy (sales contract of 10.11.1937 for over RM 412,000) and the aim of emigrating to Portugal, there seemed to have been a direct connection. The Portuguese ambassador in Berlin wrote them a letter of recommendation. However, in the wake of the Spanish Civil War (1936-1939), the conservative-authoritarian government of Portugal tightened up its conditions for entry. This also impacted Lili Deutsch and the Brechers, endlessly dragging out the formalities for meeting the entrance conditions. Thus, they decided to travel out from Belgium, expecting to get the necessary papers for Portugal by going outside the National Socialist sphere of domination (this is to be deduced retrospectively from the compensation documents).

From the German side as well, bureaucratic obstacles worked to delay their departure. With a freeze on her assets ("security order”) dating from 12.6.1938, Lili Deutsch’s entire fortune was blocked by the National Socialist State. Only after the conclusion of a massive financial depredation through special taxes, such as the "Capital Levy on the Wealth of Jews” (RM 211,000), the Reich Flight Tax (RM 142,000), and the Emigration Tax (RM 54,000) did she receive her passport to leave Germany on 25 March 1939 (valid until 3.25.1940). The "implementation of her emigration and liquidation of her economic affairs in Germany,” as it was euphemistically expressed in officialese, was completed on her side by the notary, Georg Eschstruth (Berlin) and the property manager, Eduard von Dellinghausen (Berlin). The attorney Bernhard Blau from Berlin-Charlottenburg (b. 12.14.1881 in Stolp), now compelled to serve only Jewish clients, and only as a "legal consultant,” handled the rest of the administrative requirements with state offices for her. On 12 April 1939, she departed, together with her housekeeper, Hermine Voigtmann, née Werner (b. 12.20.1887 in Vienna), by train via Düsseldorf to Belgium. Presumably, Lili Deutsch’s German passport, in accordance with the ordinance of 5 October 1938, was already stamped with a clearly visible "J”: "All German passports held by Jews…, who reside within the territory of the Reich, are invalid….The passports issued for travel abroad will again become valid, when they are equipped by the passport authorities with a distinguishing mark, determined by the Reich Minister of the Interior, that identifies the possessor as a Jew.”

The ship’s passage booked on the Hamburg Woermann Line’s S.S. Nyassa for 12 April 1939, sailing from Antwerp to Lisbon, could not be utilized by the Brechers, Lili Deutsch, and Hermine Voigtmann. The captain declared, while still in Antwerp, that despite the recommendation of the Portuguese ambassador in Berlin, the Portuguese authorities would not allow the four travelers to disembark. At the cost of the shipping company, they stayed temporarily in the Antwerp Century Hotel (De Kayserlei/Avenue De Kayser 60-62). Without their permission and despite their export permit, their luggage had been transshipped to Hamburg. Four days later, their friend D. Heineman, an engineer from Brussels, requested that Belgian officials issue them a temporary entry permit. Furthermore, he opened a telephone conversation with the Portuguese ambassador in Berlin. Yet the hoped for resumption of travel to Portugal by ship for 17 April 1939 also foundered. In June 1939, Lili Deutsch received an entrance visa for Portugal. At the same time, the Brechers, because of their Czech passports, were rejected. The rejection occurred, according to a 6 July 1939 letter from Lili Deutsch to the Chief of the Brussels Police, "because the official relations between the Czech Protectorate and Portugal had not yet been formalized.” On 4 June 1939, they left the Century Hotel in Antwerp for the Hotel Wellington in Ostend (Promenade Albert, nos. 58, 59, 60) near the spa hall.

Around three weeks after the Brechers’ arrival, on 9 May 1939, the Belgian police in Brussels sent a French-language printed form to the directorate of police in already occupied Prague, inquiring about Gustav Brecher’s previous convictions and about his reputation. Simultaneously, a German-language printed form sent to the "registry office of the Berlin police headquarters "most respectfully seeking any appropriate information concerning the rectitude of the above-named, his reputation, previous life, as well as any information about previous convictions.”

Four weeks later, the brief response on the backside of the form read: "The information concerning the above-named has been corrected according to documents here. B. has not been convicted here.” The Berlin officials had, among other things, changed the name of the town of his birth, from Dubi (Czech) to Eichwald (German). This thoroughly formal verification of foreigners entering Belgium without a visa and the dissolution of the Czechoslovak state presented prominent exiles like the Brechers, who had Czech citizenship, with a palpably threatening situation. The Czech embassy in Belgium was robbed of its functions following the occupation of the country by the German Armed Forces. Upon entry into Belgium, Brecher had given Portugal as his destination with Belgium only serving as a transitional stop. The plan was to travel by ship; after that fell through, taking the train was considered. But how could the fleeing citizens of the dissolved Czech state circumvent the countries on the land route between Belgium and the emigration goal of Portugal? Would they still accept the Czech passports? The French consulate in Ostend issued an entrance visa on 16 August 1939, valid until Christmas 1939. The invasion of German troops into Poland and the resulting treaty obligation of France to declare war on the German Reich (3 September 1939), led to a revocation of the visa. Lili Deutsch tried to petition the Brussels Chief of Police to restore the visa for France.

From May to October 1939, with great gaps in time, documents alternated between Prague and the Czech police stations in Brno, Kladno, and Bechyně, without the acquisition of the desired proof of Brecher’s place of residence and profession. In late September 1939, for the first time, a Czech-language document employed the classification of "israelské” for Gustav Brecher. Subsequent to 21 October 1939, no further correspondence between Belgium and the "Reich Protectorate of Bohemia and Moravia” is documented. For the last time, on this date, Belgian police officials in Brussels inquired of the "General Criminal Center” (Prague), in Czech, German, and French: "So that I may verify his identity, I ask you to let me know the place of his birth and also the governmental district to which it is assigned, and further, the place of residence and its governmental district.” Further communications are lacking. The beginning of the Second World War posed more pressing tasks for the Belgian police authorities.

In place of the existing three month visa, the local Belgian police issued a document for a stay of four weeks followed by an arrangement for departure ("Vrijgeleide" und "Reijswizer"), which would have to be extended several times. A form of early October 1939, from the Belgian Ministry of Justice stated: "because of the international situation, this process should be temporarily shelved.” First and foremost, this signified an open-ended toleration for the Brechers and Lili Deutsch. This easing of the situation was accomplished by a written submission from the Ostend hotel owner, Demouliére, who was housing the stranded emigrants.

In August 1939, eight large shipping crates (so-called hoists, labeled with the shipping abbreviation "E.F. & Co.,” i.e., Edmund Franzkowiak & Co.) were transported from Hamburg to Luxemburg, each weighing from 5500 to 6600 lbs. As mentioned above, the cargo chests were shipped back from Antwerp to Hamburg, despite existing export permits. For around four months they were illegally held on the Hamburg docks. Apparently, Lili Deutsch after tenacious negotiations achieved the release of the crates. In the crates were, among other things, Lili Deutsch’s valuable home furnishings (insurance valuation RM 50,000), such as antique furniture, Oriental carpets, as well as expensive porcelain and crystal. Two other large crates contained the Leipzig home furnishings of the Brechers. Because, as of August 1939, entrance visas for Portugal were not yet available to all of three, the goods meant for Lisbon were stored temporarily as "property in transit” in neutral Luxemburg. In Luxemburg, a former AEG co-worker, named Schmidt, would take care of the storage fees in a bonded warehouse and also the further expediting with the Luxemburg shipping firm J. A. Welter. However, in May 1940, Luxemburg, too, was occupied by the German Armed Forces; in December 1940, the shipping crates were still in the customs warehouse, and in November 1941, they were supposedly confiscated. In the later reparations documentation it was stated: "The property due for relocation remained in Luxemburg after emigration and was confiscated by the German Chief of the Luxemburg Civil Administration.”

The Brechers and Lili Deutsch lived in the beach resort at Ostend (West Flanders), at first in the Hotel Wellington and since at least October 1939 in the Grand Hotel du Littoral, one of the great, exclusive hotels on the seaside promenade, "Zeedijk,” near the health spa ("á côtè du Kursaal, face á la Mer, situation unique"). Ostend, with its 44,000 inhabitants, possessed a music academy, a theater, and a race track, as well as a railroad hub, a mail steamer connection to Dover, and an airport. Ostend, thought of only as a transit stop, became no longer affordable for Lili Deutsch, because of the German compulsory taxes (around RM 400,000) and also because of the money in blocked German accounts (confiscated in September 1940). This in truth quite wealthy woman got help in this situation from her well-off sister-in-law, Adelaide "Addie” Kahn, née Wolff (1875-1949), the wife of Lili’s brother, Otto Hermann Kahn (1867-1934), of New York; monthly money transfers were sent from the banking house Kuhn & Loeb (New York). Nevertheless, the emigration to Portugal was further delayed, exacerbated by the German occupations and the mass flights in Europe, as well as the expiration of Lili Deutsch’s passport at the end of March 1940.

A few days after the attack by the German Armed Forces on neutral Belgium (10 May 1940), the bombardment of Ostend began (15-27 May 1940), during which many homes, along with the town hall, housing the city archive, the main post office, port facilities, and diverse hotels were destroyed. Until 18 May, Liège, Brussels, and Antwerp, with its seaport, were occupied by German troops; on 28 May 1940, Leopold III, the Belgian king and commander in chief of the army, surrendered.

All the guests, apart from "wife of the privy councilor” Lili Deutsch, the "musical director” Gustav Brecher, and his wife Gertrud, had to leave the "Littoral Palace Hotel” in Ostend by a specific time to make room exclusively for German officers. The hotel owner, Monsieur J. Demouliére, who had already been called up in the French Army, but was nonetheless always on hand at the hotel to make sure things were in order, recounted in 1952: "I had urgently advised Mrs. Deutsch also to go but she could not decide, moreover she had no more money. I nevertheless had complete trust in Mrs. Deutsch and was determined and so ordered that she would have the best room and board so long as it was possible. I even made arrangements in case she could not remain in the hotel.” At the end of May 1940, the hotel owner, along with other French soldier, was evacuated from Dunkirk.

In various biographies of Gustav Brecher, there is talk of a planned, or undertaken, flight by boat, most of which is based on the information and utterances of Otto Klemperer. According to him, the 61-year old Gustav Brecher and his wife Gertrud had decided to flee in a boat. Otto Klemperer, who had emigrated to the USA in 1933, recalled in 1973: "A fisherman was supposedly to bring them to England by boat.” Certainly, Belgian research thus far has found no cases of flights by boat to England in connection to the German occupation of May 1940.

The hotelier Demouliére wrote in 1952: "I was told that Mrs. Deutsch had her dog put down and that she had decided to leave by motorboat or fishing vessel, but that seems quite unlikely; the last time I was in Ostend (late May 1940), every available transport possibility with which to escape had already been used. The rumor that Mrs. Deutsch had committed suicide in the hotel is certainly untrue. Actually, a Swiss citizen of German origins committed suicide. Possibly this fact gave rise to the rumor.”

Belgian immigration records note that the emigration of Gustav and Gertrud Brecher to England was delayed in April 1941, an assumption from the Register of Foreigners in Ostend ("naar England vertrokken”). This entry may have been made in connection to the creation of a "Jews’ Register,” at the instigation of the German occupation authorities to be used for their planned deportations. The information regarding Gustav Brecher’s date of death varies in various biographies; concrete sources concerning his death are lacking, however.

The fate of his wife, Gertrud Brecher, née Deutsch, is not at the present time clarified beyond doubt; in a few sources, a suicide pact is described, but friends of the Brechers dispute this. Gertrud Brecher’s death is indicated neither by the International Tracing Service (ITS) of the German Red Cross nor the Yad Vashem memorial sites in Israel.

Also unclarified is the death of her 70-year old mother, Lili Deutsch, who according to various sources is claimed to have died on 27 May 1940 in Ostend, or between 27 and 29 May 1940; as with her daughter, her death is not indicated in the relevant memorial books or in the documentation of the International Tracing Service. The responsible Belgian authorities concerned with foreigners’ matters filled out a form saying that Lili Deutsch moved to England, without giving a date for the relocation. Her German citizenship had been revoked on 26 November 1940. Up to 1945, Nazi officials did not know that she had already died. Also in regard to her stopping places, the German documents concerning her expropriation gave easily refutable information; in addition to Brussels and Ostend, England was also noted; as was the goal of her emigration, Lisbon. In 1955, the District Court of Berlin-Zehlendorf declared Lili Deutsch dead as of 31 December 1945.

In 1996, a partial collection of personal papers concerning Gustav Brecher was deposited in the Zurich Central Library by his grandnephew. Since 2007, a commemorative stone for Gustav Brecher has stood in front of the Hamburg State Opera. Where their villa stood in Berlin-Tiergarten before its destruction in the war, a commemorative stone has been place for Lili Deutsch and her daughter Gertrud Brecher.

In her youth, Gustav Brecher’s older sister Sara (1867-1953) had devoted herself to the intensive study of singing and the piano, however, she did not pursue an artistic career. Apparently, she sang after 1905 in a chorus under the direction of the conductor and composer Oskar Fried (1871-1941). In 1887, in Teplitz, she married her cousin, the Zurich businessman Jules (Julius) Bernays (1862-1916). She observed the Jewish holy days and kept kosher until the end of her life. Jules Bernays was, since 1893, the co-owner of the Berlin branch of the Louis Bernays Import Firm (bristles, hair, and ostrich feathers), which a few years later he operated as sole owner. Following his death in 1916, Sara Bernays lived until 1933 in Berlin, finally in the Wilmersdorf section of the city at Holsteinischen Strasse 38. Through her marriage with Jules Bernays, Sara had also been a citizen of the City of Zurich, where she moved with her two daughters in 1933. Her son Paul Bernays (1888-1977) left Göttingen in 1933, when his mathematics professorship at the university was withdrawn. Sara Bernays, née Brecher, died in Zurich in 1953. Her sister Dora Wolpert, née Brecher (1872-1959), also emigrated from Leipzig in 1939, where she lived at Humboldtsrasse 3, and joined her sister Sara in Zurich, living there until 1953.

Translator: Richard Levy
Kindly supported by the Hermann Reemtsma Stiftung, Hamburg.

Stand: May 2020
© Björn Eggert

Quellen: StaH 332-8 (Alte Einwohnermeldekartei 1892-1925), K 4288 (Gustav Brecher); StaH 332-8 (Alte Einwohnermeldekartei), K 4300 (Walter Brügmann); StaH 332-8 (Alte Einwohnermeldekartei), K 7125 (Edyth Walker); Brandenburgisches Landeshauptarchiv, Potsdam, Rep. 36 A II (Oberfinanzpräsident Berlin-Brandenburg II), Nr. 4369 (Gustav Brecher); dito Rep. 36 A II, 7191 (Elisabeth Deutsch); dito Rep. 36 A (Oberfinanzpräsident Berlin-Brandenburg), D 1308 (Elisabeth Deutsch geb. Kahn); dito Rep. 61 A (NSDAP-Ortsgruppe Altdöbern), 312 (Rundschreiben 1935–1936); Landesamt für Bürger- u. Ordnungsangelegenheiten, Entschädigungsbehörde Berlin (Labo), 79.254 (George Felix Ward, ehemals Georg Felix Deutsch), 150.940 (Gertrud Brecher geb. Deutsch), 150.941 (Elisabeth Deutsch geb. Kahn); Sächsisches Staatsarchiv Leipzig, 20031 (Polizeipräsidium Leipzig), PP-M 3172 (Meldeblatt Gustav Brecher); Politisches Archiv des Auswärtigen Amtes (Berlin), R 48909 Band 1 (Auswärtiges Amt, Rechtsabteilung, Polizei Passpolizei, Böhmen-Mähren), R 49004 Band 4 (Auswärtiges Amt, Rechtsabteilung, Polizei Passpolizei, Tschechoslowakei) (Recherche Annegret Wilke); Nationalarchiv (Národní archiv) Prag, Fond: Policejní ředitelství Praha II – všeobecná spisovna 1941–1950, Karton: 4923, Signatura: B 2781/25 Brecher Gustav (Recherche Magda Veselská); National Archiv of Belgium NAB (Algemeen Rijksarchief – Archives générales du Royaume) Brüssel, Ausländerakte A 350.989 (Gustav u. Gertrud Brecher) und 1.401.552 (Lili Kahn), mit Passbildern; Archief Oostende (Angaben zu Hotel u. Bombardierung); Israelitische Religionsgemeinde zu Leipzig (Informationen zu Familie Brecher, Grablage IV. Abt., Reihe 14 links, Grabnr. 550 u. 552); Jüdischer Friedhof Ohlsdorf, Gräberverzeichnis (Grablage A 10-727 Max Bachur); Adressbuch Berlin 1921 (Gustav Brecher); Adressbuch Berlin (Hirschsprung, Am) 1934; Adressbuch Berlin (Jul. Bernays) 1893, 1895, 1900, 1916; Adressbuch Berlin 1925, 1928, 1931, 1934 (Sara Bernays); Adressbuch Hamburg 1907, 1909, 1911 (Gustav Brecher); Adressbuch Leipzig 1890 (Dr. Alois Brecher, S. Jadassohn), 1891 (Dr. Alois Brecher), 1899–1901 (Dr. Alois Brecher, Gustav Brecher), 1916 (Dr. Alois Brecher), 1926–1927, 1929–1933 (Generalmusikdir. Gustav Brecher), 1935 (Parkstr. 2, A. Hörig); Ulrike Bajohr, Denkmalsturz – Carl Goerdelers Leipziger Akte (Radio-Feature), Deutschlandfunk 2011 (Wiederholung 7.10.2016); Benz: Geschichte, S. 58–71 (Kultur); Bertram: Leipziger Opfer (Gustav Brecher, Gertrud Brecher); Bruhns: Geflohen, S. 207–208 (Portugal), S. 235 (Tschechoslowakei); Grosch (Hrsg.): Aspekte, S. 2 (Gustav Brecher); Hardegen (Hrsg.): Hingesehen – Weggeschaut, S. 155 (Reisepässe); Heer/Kesting/Schmidt (Hrsg.): Stimmen, Ausstellungskatalog, S. 48; Jürgen Kesting: Auch ein Freitod kann Mord sein, Hamburger Abendblatt 23.11.2006; Kopitzsch/Brietzke: Biografie, Band 1, S. 44–45 (Isaak Bernays, 1792–1849); Kopitzsch/Brietzke: Biografie, Band 5, S. 47 (Jacob Bernays, 1824–1881); Meyers Lexikon, Band 2 (Leipzig 1925), S. 823 (Gustav Brecher), Band 9 (Leipzig 1928), S. 121/122 (Ostende); Jürgen Schebera: Gustav Brecher, S. 15, 27, 34–36, 38, 40, 41, 43, 47, 49, 80–83, 85, 88–91, 95–97, 101, 117; Schumann/Nestler (Hrsg.): Okkupationspolitik, S. 54 (Brünn), 96g (Dokument zu Verhaftungen), 103–106 (Erlass vom 16.3.1939); Uphoff: Oper, S. 170, 174; Vierhaus (Hrsg.): Enzyklopädie, Band 2, S. 29 (Gustav Brecher); Wulf: Musik, S. 21f. (Bruno Walter); Wulf: Künstler, S. 315; Berliner Bezirksamt Steglitz-Zehlendorf, Straßen- u. Grünflächenamt, Auskunft zum Parkfriedhof Lichterfelde 28.11.2016 (Familiengrab Deutsch, Im Walde Nr. 305, Beisetzung Felix Deutsch 4.7.1928); (Gustav Brecher); (Gustav Brecher); (Gustav Brecher), eingesehen 15.9.2016; (Felix Deutsch), eingesehen 28.10.2016; (Elisabeth Franziska "Lili" Deutsch), eingesehen 28.10.2016; (Gustav Brecher), eingesehen 23.11.2016;, eingesehen 28.11.2016 (Heiratsurkunde Berlin Nr. 1083/1920 Gustav Brecher u. Gertrud Deutsch; Geburtsurkunde Berlin Nr. 1847/1894 Martha Bernays); (Find a Grave, Otto Hermann Kahn, eingesehen 6.3.2017); (Volkszählung Mai 1939), Bernhard Blau; Auskunft von Dr. Anna Hájková (zu tschechoslowakischer Staatsbürgerschaft 1939), Februar 2017; Informationen von Dr. Ludwig Bernays (Schweiz), November 2016.

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