Monica Lowenberg initially trained as a professional singer and actor in the theatre at ALRA but later chose the life of an academic and teacher. Qualifying from Sunderland University with a First in Modern Foreign Language Education she later received the Rolf Schild Scholarship to complete an MA in German 20th Century History at the Centre for German Jewish Studies, Sussex University. As a teacher, Monica’s work has been extensive including work as an Edexcel examiner, researcher for NFER and education officer for third-generation Holocaust survivors at the Wiener Library. Monica has been widely published in English and German regarding Theatre Studies, Exile Studies and Holocaust Obfuscation in the Baltics. Publishers have included: Rodopi Press, Campus Verlag, Routledge, Bar Ilan University, the Holocaust Educational Trust, AJR, HOPE Not Hate, Defendinghistory.com, Second Generation Network Voices, VVN, The New Statesman, The Algemeiner, Kitchenercamp.co.uk and most recently Peter Laing in The Journey Home- Emerging out of the Shadow of the Past, edited by David Clark and Teresa von Sommaruga, to which she contributed the chapter ‘Black Milk and Word Light- To Latvia, Siberia and back.’ These views are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the views of The Wiener Holocaust Library.
It was October 1999, fifty-four years had passed since the Second World War and with the dawn of the internet, the archives opening and more survivors speaking, suddenly and without warning, so did my father. Up until that point I had learned to interpret silence as well as the French and German languages, but silence I had a masters in.
My paternal grandmother Marianne Loewenberg née Peiser had been, by all accounts, a gifted budding violinist and opera singer. She had studied at the Leipzig Conservatorium, had auditioned for and had references from Dr Ernst Lert and Otto Lohse and had sung in the Leipzig synagogue under Barnet Licht. But she gave her violin to me and on acquiring it I stopped playing too. The strings were broken.
My grandmother had a photo, indeed it is the only photo I can remember as a child that she kept on her mantelpiece. On her death in 1986 my father gave it to me. It is a black and white photo of a man in his 70’s wearing a smart dark double-breasted suit and accompanying waistcoat with a silk tie and white handkerchief poking out of the top pocket. The man looks at the camera calmly and assuredly, there is an attempt of a smile; the lips are slightly open. He is bald with a neat trim silver-grey goatee and moustache. The black feathery Sütterlin script makes it difficult to read what the bespectacled man with kind sad eyes has written, ‘To my dear friend Marianne Löwenberg Leipzig 27 January 1939 Henri Hinrichsen.’
“Warum ist er traurig Granny?” [“Why is he, sad Granny?”] I remember asking my grandmother.
However, one cold autumn evening as if an opera singer had with the wind hit one octave above middle C my father spoke, “He was Henri Hinrichsen, and he saved your grandmother’s life. Your grandmother got out a few months after he had given her this photo. She got out in March 1939. The Hinrichsen’s and Peiser’s were old family friends going back to your great grandfather Karl Peiser, who was a music scholar and music shop owner. He was close friends with Dr Max Abraham who had turned the music publishing firm, CF Peters, into the world-renowned publishers it is today. Your great grandfather wrote Dr Max Abraham’s obituary. Here it is.“
And there it was, dated 21 January 1901, a detailed, loving account of his friend neatly typed in Gothic script in the Nichtamtlicher Teil Deutschen Buchhandel, a newspaper for German publishers.
“When Dr Max Abraham died he gave the business to his nephew Henri Hinrichsen who encouraged your grandmother to play the violin and become a professional opera singer. Twenty years her senior he would have been like a father to her, as her own father Karl, had died when she had been young.”
“So, he saved her life?“
“Yes, he saved her life. By 1939 it was very difficult to get out of Nazi Germany unless one had a kind contact in another country to vouch for you. Henri had a son in London, Max, and arranged with him that Granny would live with him and his wife and be a nanny to their little child.“
“Who is Marie Luise Hinrichsen?” I replied, picking up a postcard amongst the papers and photos my father had taken out of his Pandora’s Box. “Was she Max’s wife?“
“This card says they lived in London, Hampstead, NW3 30, Hollycroft Avenue, that’s not far from us.” The card read in German, ‘Frau Marianne Loewenberg née Peiser was from 13 March 1939 – 26 August 1939 working in my house as a home help. She is able to manage all aspects of a home and is completely reliable and hard working. She was a loving nanny and friend to our four-year-old child. Marie Luise Hinrichsen.’
“What happened to Marie?“
“I don’t know.“
“What happened to the four-year-old child?“
“I don’t know.“
“Well, I will find out.” I told my father, “I will find out.”
The following day I put all the papers into order and translated them. And then something odd happened. Call it serendipity, call it fate, call it what you will, my phone rang.
“Hi, are you Monica? Are you the chairwoman of Second Generation Network?”
“Yes, I am. How can I help you?”
“Hi, I’m Monica Stoppleman. I live in Nottingham.” Monica wanted some information on the Second Generation Network. I gave it to her and then she asked, “And how about you? What is your background?”
What about my background, I thought, I barely knew it myself. I blurted out that my father had just told me that my grandmother had had her life saved by the music publisher Henri Hinrichsen and had been a nanny to his grandchild in London. “Hinrichsen! Hinrichsen!” Monica shouted down the phone, “I know a Hinrichsen. I am going to write to him. Klaus Hinrichsen. I am certain he will know where Marie is.” I left the phone call stunned and shocked. A week or so later Monica had kept her promise. In a brown A5 envelope she enclosed a pretty pink booklet in the classic Edition Peters font. ‘Grieg and his publishers’ by Irene Lawford, ‘this belongs to your archive rather than mine!’ she wrote and attached to it a neatly typed letter dated 21 October 1999.
‘Dear Monica, Thanks for your card of 19th inst.
Monica Lowenberg: If you had given me her address/telephone I could have got in touch with her.
So will you please forward to her the following: =
Hinrichsen: Her grandmother must have been a friend of Max Hinrichsen, the music publishers from Leipzig who indeed lived in Hampstead. It is Edition Peters and there is still a Hinrichsen Foundation giving money to various music enterprises. We are the same family but now more distantly related.
The person Monica Lowenberg wants to contact is the daughter of Max Hinrichsen, Irene Lawford. …. Kenton. I spoke to her now and she awaits the call. You could just forward this letter to her if you like
Kind regards, Klaus E Hinrichsen‘
“I found Henri’s granddaughter!” I told my father, “I’m going to ring her now!” I can’t remember what I said when I called, I probably sounded completely confused relating how Monica had got in touch with Monica and how she was the child my grandmother had looked after and how her grandfather had saved my grandmother’s life. “Why don’t you come round”, Irene said warmly, “I would love to meet you. We live only ten minutes away from each other. How very sad we never knew.”
I went to see Irene the following day. I remember marvelling at an enormous bay tree protecting her drive and a large pink stone, like a huge paperweight, resting on her doorstep. I rang the doorbell with my grandmother’s violin in one hand and CF Peters music in the other.
The Library holds the Hinrichsen Family Collection, a rich collection of family papers. The Hinrichsen family were the owners of a famous music publisher in Leipzig, which they owned and ran until the company was Aryanised by the Nazis. Not only did they provide financial support to struggling composers they were also instrumental in founding Europe’s first women-only college and a world-renowned music library that provided free access to students of music.
Henri Hinrichsen and his family were murdered during the Holocaust.
In February 2022, the Library’s Senior Archivist Howard Falksohn wrote a vignette for the AJR Journal exploring Henri’s life.
Suggested further reading
- The Nazification of Art: art, design, music, architecture and film in the Third Reich by Brandon Taylor & Wilfried van der Will
- Music Publishing and Patronage: C.F. Peters: 1800 to the Holocaust by Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen
- Five Hundred Years to Auschwitz: a family odyssey from the Inquistion to the present by Irene Lawford-Hinrichsen