Silences and Secrets: The Australian Experience of the Weintraubs Syncopators
Monash University Publishing, $34.95 pb, 315 pp, 9781921867804
Kay Dreyfus was inspired to write about the Weintraubs Syncopators after seeing a German documentary at the Melbourne Jewish Film Festival in 2000. The film recounted the story of this interwar dance and variety band, which had earned fame in Josef von Sternberg’s The Blue Angel (1930), and later used a European tour to escape from Hitler’s jazz- and Jew-hating régime. After a music-driven adventure across Russia and Asia, the group believed it had found a haven when it reached Australia in 1937, and secured a residency in Sydney’s high-society Prince’s restaurant. Then disaster struck. Accused of espionage, musicians accustomed to celebrity suddenly found themselves interned. Although they were later released, the band never reformed. Dreyfus was intrigued by the Syncopators’ story, but it was the film’s assertion of Australian responsibility for their destruction that piqued her intellectual curiosity.