… I. b. e. J. [Ich bin ein Jude/I am a Jew] That says a lot and is the proudest thing I can say about myself … In every being, the properties of his parents and ancestors flow together and that is why I begin my memoirs with this statement.
From the memoirs that Max Reinhardt began to write in his exile, but which he never finished, partial estate Vienna library
Max REINHARDT was born as Max Goldmann in the spa town of Baden Austria (near Vienna) on September 9, 1873. He was the oldest of seven children of the Jewish couple Rosa Wengraf and Wilhelm Goldmann who had been married in Brunn in 1872 and who were spa guests in Baden when Max was born.
Wilhelm was a corset maker and the family – officially REINHARDT after 1904 – lived in Vienna, the capital and residential city of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, where they belonged to the organized Jewish Community of Vienna and registered the births of all seven of their children – Max, Edmund, Jenny, Adele, Irene, Siegfried and Leo.
In accordance with the old Austrian Heimat (local citizenship) laws, despite their residence in Vienna and the fact that the children were all born there (or in Max’s case a few kilometers away) the whole family was registered in Stampfen [Stompa or Stomfa in Hungarian, Stupava in Slovak] where Wilhelm had been born in 1846.
Stampfen was near Pressburg [Pozsony in Hungarian, Bratislava in Slovak], and belonged to the Hungarian part of the Double Monarchy between 1867 and 1919, and then it became part of Czechoslovakia after the dissolution of Austria-Hungary. As a result, the members of the GOLDMANN-REINHARDT family were first counted as Hungarians and then as Czechoslovakian citizens, but that said nothing about where REINHARDT lived and worked or his own perception of his identity which was German and Jewish.
Max Goldmann had his debut as an actor under the stage name REINHARDT in Vienna in 1890 and a few years later he played at the opening of the newly built City Theater on the Makartplatz in Salzburg. It opened on October 1, 1893 with Mozart’s Titus-Overture and Ludwig Anton Salomon Fulda’s fairy tale drama The Talisman with Max REINHARDT on the stage.
REINHARDT played numerous roles in the City Theater’s 1893/94 season, playing in dramas, comedies, operettas, fairy tales, farces and folk dramas – for example Octavio Piccolomini in Wallenstein’s Death, the imperial bailiff Gessler in Wilhelm Tell, Iago in Othello, the Black slave »Zanga« in The dream, a Life, »Berengar« in The Talisman, »Colonel Ruperto Corticelli« in Gasparone, the health insurance treasurer »Pimeskern« in The Fops of Vienna and »Wurzelsepp« in The Pastor From Kirchfeld. In other words Max REINHARDT played almost all kinds of roles.
Salzburg. I was just 19 years old. As an actor I was just two years old. In these two years I had learned how to stand, go, and sit on the stage. I could already speak. At least so I imagined. Theoretically I learned it from my teacher Emil Bürde and – from the Burgtheater, that was a sort of university for young actors at the time … and so I traveled to Salzburg in September …
In this city, where 25 years later I would found the Salzburg] Festival, I began my real stage career … It was a wonderful time: rehearsals, roles, eating, learning, performing. After the performance the inn. Comrades, young people. The old director a gruff seasoned professional …
Max Reinhardt’s memoirs, partial estate: Vienna Library
With the experience developed in Salzburg REINHARDT went to Berlin where he achieved great success as an actor and director. A quarter century later, with the end of the First World War and the collapse of the Austria-Hungarian monarchy, Berlin’s prominent theater director acquired Salzburg’s Schloss Leopoldskron, formerly a summer palace of Salzburg’s rulers, the Prince-Archbishops.
The residential record books of the then independent community of Leopoldskron indicate that some of REINHARDT’s family members lived there at least part of the time:
• shortly before her death in 1924 REINHARDT’s widowed mother Rosa lived there along with her nurse,
• as did his first wife Else (née Heims) and her two Berlin born sons Wolfgang and Gottfried,
• his life partner and second wife Helene Kalbeck-Thimig,
• his sister Jenny Rosenberg with her family from Berlin,
• his brothers Edmund, Siegfried and Leo REINHARDT who worked in his theater company,
• and Leo’s wife Maria with their son Edmund and their daughter Vita Rose (who was born in Leopoldskron on June 28, 1919).
We know too that REINHARDT ‘s secretary Auguste »Gusti« Adler, a niece of the founder of Austria’s Social Democratic Party Victor Adler, lived and worked in Schloss Leopoldskron some of the time – though she lived with her parents in Vienna.
REINHARDT’s executive secretary and director Richard METZL, whose mother was buried in Salzburg’s Jewish cemetery, also worked in the palace at times: showplace for fashionable circles and for productions and performances like The Imaginary Invalid. Without Max REINHARDT’s Schloss Leopoldskron there wouldn’t have been a Festival in Salzburg and he was the founder of the Salzburg Festival which was first held in front of the cathedral in 1920.
Max REINHARDT had a great deal of respect for Archbishop Ignaz Rieder who favorably reviewed the Everyman production in front of the cathedral. The director showed his thorough familiarity with the Catholic liturgy.
Salzburg, the former capital of the Prince Archbishops with its central cathedral, is a small city marked by Catholicism and the Counter-Reformation and is located on major European railroad routes like the famous Orient Express. In the first peaceful years after the World War the artist-director turned it into a world stage: a high summer Festival as peace project specifically designed to appeal to the big city theater public accustomed to spending their summer vacations in the Salzkammergut lake district and the Gastein Valley – as they had done in the recently dissolved Double Monarchy. The Jewish family Sgalitzer from Prague and Vienna with their villa in St. Gilgen on the Wolfgangsee provides a well-known example of this public.
Less well known is that the Sgalitzer villa was confiscated under the Nazi regime and was never restored by liberated Austria. At least nine members of the Sgalitzer family were murdered in Auschwitz. A Shoah survivor, Dr. George W. Sgalitzer from Seattle (medical doctor, pianist, and member of the Salzburg Festival Society’s honorary board), remembered all his life Max REINHARDT’s first Everyman production with Alexander Moissi in the sparkling title role.
Moissi’s forced withdrawal a year before the Nazi seizure of power in Germany and six years before Austria’s forced annexation provided a prelude to the Shoah.
Moissi, loved by some and hated by others, played the role of Everyman in seven Festival summers – until his last performance on August 30, 1931. Although Moissi was in fact a Christian and had been baptized in Trieste’s San Nicolò dei Greci Church, his name struck Antisemites as Jewish and »Moissi the Jew« was subjected to a nasty campaign of character assassination by Salzburg Antisemites and Nazis who demanded that Festival president Baron Puthon refuse to involve the star of the REINHARDT ensembles in Berlin, Vienna and Salzburg in the 1932 season. When Moissi refused to play the role of Everyman if he was otherwise excluded, the Festival replaced him. Moissi commented:
I have more than a suspicion that it [the slander campaign] isn’t directed only at me, but that through me Max Reinhardt will also be hit. There are circles in Salzburg for whom Reinhardt’s activities have long been an eyesore, but who don’t dare attack him directly.
Max REINHARDT would probably never have been elected Festival president because he was Jewish, but despite angry protests by Antisemites on the 10th anniversary of the Salzburg Festival in 1930 the city of Salzburg named the square in front of the old Festival Playhouse after the Festival’s founder – the Max REINHARDT Platz. Both envy and hatred as well as worship and wooing accompanied the work of the theater magician who did not talk about politics or his Jewishness in public.
Max REINHARDT wanted to bring the Salzburg City Theater into his theatrical emporium, but he decided to opt for the theater in Vienna’s Josefstadt instead. There he worked as director, and developed some productions like Servant of Two Masters and The Difficult that he later brought to the Salzburg Festival – mainly in the Salzburg City Theater.
REINHARDT staged fourteen plays in the Festival city: Everyman, The Great World Theater of Salzburg, The Hypochondriac, Miracle, The Green Flute, Turandot, Servant of Two Masters, A Midsummer’s Night Dream, Love and Intrigue, The Thief, Victoria, The Difficult, Stella and finally Faust in 1933.
Kibitzers like Stefan Zweig were amazed as they sat in the roofless Felsenreitschule [the former riding school] where they watched the dress rehearsal of REINHARDT’s Faust, which Vienna’s liberal Neue Freie Presse described with awe:
A linguistic tower of Babel made up of French, German, English, and Italian conversation. Now the talk dies down and all the opera glasses are focused on Professor Max Reinhardt […] Faust and Mephisto join the group of revelers. Pallenberg doesn’t look at all devilish, he wears short pants and a Salzburg jacket. But from his first word the glory of hell blazes forth.
Mephisto was played by Max Pallenberg, a member of REINHARDT’s ensemble at the German Theater, who had to leave the place of his triumphs, Berlin, in 1933. He was aware of the dangerous situation in Salzburg because it was so near the closed German border, as was his son-in-law Bruno Frank, a writer who had been driven out of Munich. In Salzburg with his wife Liesl, the daughter of the operetta diva Fritzi Massary, Frank saw in Goethe’s tragedy the similarity to German scholars of his day who had also sold their souls to the devil. Like his colleague Thomas Mann who wrote from German exile he wrote:
The work has overwhelmed me. Such indescribably fine German – while a few meters to the west a herd of smelly footed rogues has made the language the subject of contemptuous disgust before the world.
In the following Festival summers the opera glasses focused mainly on the conductor Arturo Toscanini. This overshadowed some other concerts that seem extraordinary in retrospect: an orchestral concert with the left handed pianist Paul Wittgenstein on August 16, 1936 and a chamber concert of the Rosé-Quartet with the violinist Alma Rosé on August 30, 1936.
The 1936 Festival also celebrated the 100th Everyman performance. On this occasion, the two actresses Dagny Servaes and Helene Thimig and director Richard Metzl were awarded the Knight’s Cross of the Austrian Order of Merit by the Austrian Federal President.
Theatrical circles grieved over the early death of three members of the German Theater in Berlin, three members of Max REINHARDT’s ensemble and co-workers at the Salzburg Festival:
Fritz Richard (born Josef Löwit), who had appeared until 1932 in Everyman, The Hypochondriac, Turandot, A Midsummer’s Night Dream and Stella, died in Berlin on February 9, 1933 – presumably in the violence that accompanied the Nazi-Regime’s taking power. At that time his family lived in what is now the Parsch neighborhood of Salzburg. His older daughter Frieda Schablin fled to Paris in 1938, but was caught by the Nazis after they occupied France and she was shipped from the Drancy concentration camp to Auschwitz and murdered.
Max Pallenberg, whose Salzburg Festival roles included »The devil« in Everyman, »Argan« in The Hypochondriac »Truffaldino« in Turandot, and at last »Mephisto« in Faust in 1933, died in a plane crash at age 56 on June 26, 1934.
His first wife Betti (with whom he had a daughter), and his brother Isidor (a checker at Vienna’s Volkstheater) were murdered under the Nazi-Regime. Max Pallenberg’s second wife, the Jewish operetta diva Fritzi Massary (who once played »Adele« in Die Fledermaus to admiring Salzburg Festival audiences) fled to the US and died in Beverly Hills.
Alexander Moissi (who had played a beggar in The Salzburg Great World Theater, »Orestes« in Iphigenia in Tauris, »Franz« in The Thief, a valet in Love and Intrigue and the lead role in Everyman for seven Salzburg Festival seasons – the last in the summer of 1931 – and stayed in the Österreichischer Hof Hotel [now the Hotel Sacher]) was let go from the Salzburg Festival without thanks and had to leave Germany in 1933. On March 22, 1935 the 55 year old actor died in Vienna from the complications of a prolonged influenza infection.
In 1933 Max REINHARDT also had to leave Berlin, taking his first step into exile. Others followed. Over the course of the first half of 1934 several private and public buildings in Salzburg were targeted by Nazi terrorists for bomb attacks that caused serious damage, including the Archbishop’s palace, Ornstein’s department store, the Festival Playhouse, and REINHARDT’s home at Schloss Leopoldskron.
The bombing of the Festival Playhouse resulted in some severe injuries, but the press reported little or nothing about these terrorist attacks for fear of injuring the economy and tourism. After the June 5, 1934 attack on Schloss Leopoldskron five of REINHARDT’s neighbors were arrested as suspects, but the charges were dismissed and nobody in Schloss Leopoldskron felt safe after that.
At the end of August 1934 REINHARDT traveled to the US for the first time since the 1920s and on Mai 21, 1935 he began the process of gaining American citizenship in Los Angeles – where his two sons Wolfgang and Gottfried lived with their mother, his first wife Else. After many difficulties gaining divorces for the two of them, he was finally able to marry his long term lover and partner the actress Helene Thimig Reno Nevada in June 1935.
His later journeys to America in 1935/36 and 1936/37 concerned a piece commissioned by the Zionist Meyer W. Weisgal: Der Weg der Verheissung [The Way of the Covenant] with a Libretto by Franz Werfel and music by Kurt Weill – it was an Oratorio about the persecution of the Jews in history and by Nazi terror in Germany. The producer Meyer W. Weisgal wrote in his memoirs:
It was a strange document drawn up in a strange and ominous setting: three of the best-known un-Jewish Jewish artists, gathered in the former residence of the Archbishop of Salzburg [Schloss Leopoldskron], in actual physical view of Berchtesgaden, Hitler’s mountain chalet across the border in Bavaria, pledged themselves to give high dramatic expression to the significance of the people they had forgotten about till Hitler came to power.
The architect and set designer Oskar Strnad, who had designed Turandot, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, The Robbers and The Difficult Scenes for REINHARDT’s productions, was also to take care of the equipment for the drama Der Weg der Verheissung. When Oskar Strnad died suddenly in September 1935, his former seminar student Harry Horner was given the commission in his place.
Of course REINHARDT’s production of the Jewish oratorio Der Weg der Verheißung was not performed in Austria, but it was translated into English by Ludwig Lewisohn and it was performed at the Manhattan Opera House in New York on January 7, 1937 under the title The Eternal Road.
In REINHARDT’s last Summer Festival in Salzburg in 1937 there were no new productions. Although he was a founder of the Festival he felt that he had been pushed from the center to the periphery. On October 5, 1937 he had his last premiere in the Josefstadt theater in Vienna: Franz Werfel’s play In einer Nacht [In One Night]. Right after that REINHARDT left Vienna knowing that he would never go home again. He reached New York on October 14, 1937.
Egon Friedell, originally Friedmann, had belonged to REINHARDT’s ensemble at the German Theater in Berlin and the Josefstädt Theater in Vienna in the 1920s, and had played the doctor »Diaforius« in Molière’s The Hypochondriac – Laughter Over Death in Schloss Leopoldskron and the Salzburg City Theater in the Summer Festival of 1923. When he committed suicide in Nazi Vienna on March 16, 1938 there was neither a press release nor an obituary – it was as if Friedell had never existed.
On December 16, 1938 the 91 year old widow Elisabeth Seyfferth (née Denemy) died in Salzburg (her last residence was at 13 Ernest Thunstraße) – without any public notice because she was unknown, forgotten, and alone without any survivors in Salzburg.
At one time she had been an actress and singer at the Salzburg City Theater and she was the mother of the star tenor Richard Tauber who took part in the Salzburg Festival several times. Tauber appeared at the Salzburg City Theater for a last time in March 1937 in a charity event (a song and aria evening for the blind and the unemployed), combined with a farewell visit to his mother, before leaving for an exile in London.
Richard Tauber wasn’t Jewish, but was considered a Jew by Antisemites (his mother was a Christian and as an infant he had been baptized in the Roman Catholic »Holy Family« parish in Linz in 1891, but his father Anton Tauber was Jewish and that was enough to brand him as a Jew).
Some of Max REINHARDT’s other co-workers in the 1937 Summer Festival were also able to make it into exile: Auguste Adler, Herbert Berghof, Josef Danegger, Harry Horner, Richard Metzl (who died of unknown causes in occupied Paris in 1941), Hedwig Schaffgotsch, Ludwig Stössel, Helene Thimig, Marianne Walla and Margarete Wallmann.
Some were able to make success stories out of their exiles. One example was Herbert Berghof, a student of REINHARDT who had gotten little notice when he had played Death in the 1937 production of Everyman. But when he played Nathan the Wise on Broadway he attracted so much attention that he was able to establish an immensely successful acting studio in Greenwich Village. Among the alumni of his studio were Anne Bancroft, Faye Dunaway, Liza Minelli, Geraldine Page, Jack Lemmon, Robert DeNiro and Al Pacino.
This is a success story that is still savored by many Germans and Austrians as it seems to spare them the need to feel guilty, but some disturbing points have been consciously omitted – the success story loses some of its shine when we note that on March 5, 1941 Herbert Berghof’s parents Rebekka and Paul Berghof were deported from Vienna to Modliborzyce (near Lublin) where they were murdered.
Most of those driven into exile had relatives who had been unable to escape Nazi ruled Austria and who were either murdered or who had lived in danger of being murdered until the liberation. In addition, not all of those driven into exile reached safety in the free world.
Max REINHARDT, a US citizen since November 29, 1940, was very affected by the persecution of the Jews and the limited possibilities to help them. He noted that in Germany even death notices for them were prohibited:
My heart is heavy …
Max Reinhardt’s Memoirs: Vienna Library
REINHARDT was one of the publicly maligned Jews whose works were ceremonially burned on the Residenzplatz in front of the Salzburg Cathedral on April 30, 1938: among the burned books was also the monograph Max Reinhardt (published in Berlin in 1910) by Siegfried Jacobsohn, founder and publisher of the pacifist weekly Die Weltbühne.
Max REINHARDT was also one of the first whose property left behind was robbed by the Gestapo – his Schloss Leopoldskron, cradle of the Salzburg Festival: confiscation noted in the property registers on April 25, 1938 and since the beginning of 1940 »the property of the Reichsgaue Salzburg«. In New York REINHARDT responded angrily against Salzburg:
I renewed the reputation of this city with 18 annual Festivals and during these years I opened the Schloss to people from around the whole world and made it into a byword. The injustice of robbing me of this property without the slightest legal justification, without even any official notification, is obvious.
partial estate: Vienna Library
His heart was heavy, but mainly from grief over his distressed relatives who had been left behind in racist Europe: his brothers Leo and Siegfried REINHARDT poverty stricken with their families in Switzerland and in Holland; his sister Jenny Rosenberg with her family especially endangered in Berlin; as was his prenuptial daughter Jenny (Johanna Margarethe, his daughter with the singer Auguste Kornfeld who had been born in Berlin on September 12, 1899), who wrote to him from Berlin in 1938:
Terrible misery and greatest hardship. Help needed urgently.
His niece Eva Rosenberg who had managed to escape to the US in April 1939 also reminded him of his obligation:
The uncle is reminded of his sister … Mutti [Jenny Rosenberg] left completely alone in a hopeless situation. Trying desperately to get to Poland … Don’t forget Mutti.
partial estate: Vienna Library
Before the war started in the summer of 1939 Max REINHARDT’s sister Jenny went to Poland with her artist husband Hermann Rosenberg who was expelled from Berlin. She sent her last cry for help to her brother in the US on January 14, 1941 from Lwow (formerly Lemberg in Galicia):
Hermann is dead. Have mercy with me [Have mercy on me = Psalm Davids 51]. Make everything possible …
partial estate: Vienna Library
Max REINHARDT suffering from the uncertainty over the fate of his relatives and friends in in Europe, died at age 70 from the consequences of multiple strokes in New York City on October 31, 1943.
We now know that his sister Jenny, who had been born in Vienna on July 24, 1877, didn’t survive the terror years. But his brothers Leo and Siegfried did survive with their families – as did his niece Vita Rose who had been born in Leopoldskron and his prenuptial daughter Jenny (Johanna Margarethe Kleindienst, neé Kornfeld, who died in October 1972 in England).
Max REINHARDT’s grave can be found in the Westchester Hills Cemetery in Hastings-on-Hudson, New York – where famous cultural figures like George Gershwin are also buried.
Seventeen years after the liberation of Austria REINHARDT’s younger son Gottfried (who was also a director and who staged Everyman at the Salzburg Festsivals in 1961/62) was unable to get any support from the Festival president when he proposed that his father’s 90th birthday should be the occasion to have his father’s ashes ceremonially buried in the Festival city with the participation of prominent honorary guests and co-workers brought back from exile.
He was told that the Festival had no money for such a ceremony – to which Die Gemeinde, the official Organ of the Vienna Jewish Community, pungently commented:
The Salzburg Antisemites, who didn’t like the live Reinhardt, don’t want the dead Reinhardt either. Their hatred of Jews knows no bounds and doesn’t even give way in the face of death.
- Israelitische Kultusgemeinde/Jewish Community of Vienna
- Vienna Library
- City and State Archives of Salzburg, Vienna, and Baden by Vienna
- Sibylle Zehle: Max Reinhardt. Ein Leben als Festspiel, Vienna, 2020
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 19.04.2013 at Salzburg, Schloss Leopoldskron, Leopoldskronstraße 56-58