The Shoah Databank of Yad Vashem includes a memorial from the well known US attorney Eric Randol SCHOENBERG, grandson of the composer Arnold SCHÖNBERG, for Arnold’s younger brother Heinrich SCHÖNBERG: age 59, married to Bertel OTT, residence and place of death Salzburg, died in 1941.
A lot has been written about Arnold SCHÖNBERG and the anti-Jewish town of Mattsee, but little about Heinrich SCHÖNBERG who remains in the shadow of his famous brother. He was born in Vienna on April 29, 1882, was a bass opera singer in Prague where his maternal grandfather Gabriel NACHOD was a synagogue Cantor. The grandsons converted to Christianity, first Arnold and then Heinrich.
On January 6, 1917 Heinrich married a Catholic Salzburger named Berta or »Bertel« OTT (who was the daughter of Salzburg mayor Max OTT) in the Protestant Evangelical Church of Vienna. Max OTT was a greater Germany nationalist, but was a liberal and not a racist or he wouldn’t have allowed his son-in-law to live in the mayor’s house at number 6 Chiemseegasse, 1st floor (near the Chiemseehof, the provincial government headquarters) for two decades – a rare example of the survival in private life of a German national liberal symbiosis that had broken down with the shift in power in the Chiemseehof.
We don’t know anything about family conflicts in the mayor’s house, just that Heinrich SCHÖNBERG had to move away from the Nazi occupied government center in May 1938. Despite the fact that his wife was half owner of the house at number 6 Chiemseegasse, the couple and their then 20 year old daughter Margit were forced to move to the Parsch district of Salzburg.
The marriage and family remained intact. On March 10, 1941 Heinrich SCHÖNBERG was arrested by the Gestapo. According to a September 1, 1950 document from the Salzburg police it was
on suspicion of possessing false documents …
The real grounds for the arrest cannot be determined as the relevant files of the Salzburg police were burned and destroyed in 1945.
No notice was taken of the fact that Heinrich SCHÖNBERG’s Jewish origins were no secret from the Nazi regime and that the Gestapo needed the pretense of criminal suspicion to arrest Heinrich »Israel« SCHÖNBERG, a convert living in a mixed marriage and son-in-law of an honored Salzburg mayor, in order to ship him off to an extermination center.
On April 23, 1941 the 85 year old former mayor Max OTT – who already had a square in Salzburg named in his honor – died. The next day his son-in-law was brought into the jail infirmary with an infection acquired in the Salzburg jail (without any external cause according to the official report).
There his infection was neglected until it was too late for the amputation of his arm in the provincial hospital to save him, and the 59 year old Heinrich SCHÖNBERG died from blood poisoning on June 1, 1941.
Salzburg, June 17, 1941
Dear Aunt Trude!
… Today I have to share with you and Uncle Arnold the sad news of the death of my poor father. Dad had to go through so much. After a second surgery his poisoned arm was finally removed and a few days later, on June 1st, Pentecost Sunday, my dad left us forever. I ask you to let Uncle Arnold know. Understandably the news will disturb him, that’s why I have not addressed the letter directly to him. I hope you will not be angry that we didn’t write sooner. We were so upset that we were in no condition to do so and sending a telegram isn’t possible for us. Dear Aunt Trude, you can certainly imagine what a blow this is for us – especially for my mama. Perhaps you know how happy my parents were despite the disappointments and hardships that Papa experienced recently. He suffered a lot psychologically as well as physically … This is the second beloved person we have lost in a short time …
Again, all my love, yours Gitti
Of course given the wartime censorship, Margit couldn’t write anything about the source of Heinrich’s injuries and the blood poisoning – that is his mistreatment by the Gestapo.
Margit SCHÖNBERG was born in Salzburg on Mai 3, 1918. She was baptized as a Catholic, but under the Nazi racial laws she was categorized as a »half-Jew« and as a very sensitive young woman she suffered greatly from her isolation and mistreatment and had a nervous break down.
She was liberated by the arrival of the US army on May 4, 1945, but she was beyond healing. She died in the Salzburg provincial mental hospital in her 58th year and was buried alongside her father in section 113 of the municipal cemetery – two years after her mother, the 93 year old widow Berta SCHÖNBERG.
Translation: Stan Nadel
Laid 22.08.2007 at Salzburg, Chiemseegasse 6