The beginning of the end of German Jewry


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26 November 1933

Program for a concert at the Jewish House of Learning and the Nassau Lodge in Wiesbaden

Bach, Handel and Beethoven—illustrious names such as these were used to attract audiences in Wiesbaden to a concert at the posh Hotel Kaiserhof. The concert was organized by the Jewish House of Learning and the Nassau Lodge of the B‘nai Brith Order. The music lovers in attendance would certainly have been acquainted with the performers. The two pianists Alice Goldschmidt-Metzger and her daughter Heida Hermanns came from Wiesbaden themselves and accompanied the renowned alto Ruth Kisch-Arndt.

The evening was indeed a great success and presents us with what at first glance seems to be a harmonious picture of cultural life. Its central elements are an excellent pianist who, as a teacher, had paved the way for her daughter‘s career and was now contributing to her success and a celebrated singer giving a virtuoso concert at the height of her career.

However, this image is deceptive. Ruth Kisch-Arndt (1898–1975) was indeed a popular concert and oratorio singer who was a member of the Cologne chapter of the GEDOK artists‘ association, founded in 1929 to promote equality for women in the arts. However, the rise of National Socialism not only put an end to her involvement in cultural politics but marked a turning point in her singing career as well. Soon she was only able to perform at the events of the Jewish Cultural League. Her husband, the cardiologist Professor Bruno Kisch, faced increasing restrictions in his professional life and was left with no alternative but to emigrate. In December 1938 the Kisches went to the United States with their three children.

Alice Goldschmidt-Metzger (1876–1959) was a promising pianist who was initially prevented from developing her skills by her marriage to the businessman Moritz Goldschmidt. When the hardship of the First World War made it necessary for her to earn additional income, she refused to change her Jewish name for a concert tour even though she was well aware that this would mean the end of her performing career. Nevertheless, she still managed to make a name for herself as a piano teacher. Among her many pupils, her daughter Heida was particularly talented.

However, the antisemitic policies implemented by Nazis from 1933 on shut both women out of musical life in Germany. Like Ruth Kisch-Arndt, they left the country for the United States. All three women faced considerable initial difficulties but eventually managed to gain a foothold as music teachers and perform in public once again. Their concert programs featured the composers whose works they had performed at the Wiesbaden concert.

Ulrike Neuwirth

Categorie(s): artists and writers | associations | occupational ban
Program for a concert at the Hotel Kaiserhof in Wiesbaden, organized by the Jewish House of Learning and the Nassau Lodge in Wiesbaden, 26 November 1933
Leo Baeck Institute, Heida Hermanns Collection, AR 10183

Heida Hermanns

Heida Goldschmidt (1906–1995), the daughter of Alice Goldschmidt-Metzger, made her debut at the age of fourteen and began giving regular concerts after completing her studies at the Academy of Music in Berlin. In contrast to her mother, when faced with antisemitic discrimination in the late 1920s, she felt compelled to change her name. As Heida Hermanns she continued to give guest performances and worked as a teacher at Dr. Hoch‘s Conservatory in Frankfurt am Main. In April 1933 she was forced to give up teaching and from then on performed only at concerts hosted by the Jewish Cultural League. Together with her husband, the music critic Artur Holde, she traveled to the United States on a tourist visa in 1936 and never returned to Germany. Alice Goldschmidt-Metzger joined her daughter there in 1938.

Today Heida Hermanns‘ name is associated with the renowned international competition for young artists that she founded in her new home in Westport, Connecticut, in the early 1970s.

A young woman with short dark hair sitting at a piano smiling at the camera.
Heida Hermanns, née Goldschmidt, at the piano, ca. 1925
Leo Baeck Institute, Heida Hermanns Collection, AR 10183