Schmidt, Joseph

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SCHMIDT, JOSEPH (1904–1942), singer. Schmidt was born in Davideni, Bukovina. During World War i his family settled in Czernowitz, where he began singing in the synagogue choir and soon embarked on concert appearances. Parallel with these he became cantor in Czernowitz, and later at the Leopoldstadt Synagogue in Vienna and at the Adas Yisroel Synagogue in Berlin. Despite the extraordinary brilliance of his lyrical tenor voice, a stage career proved almost impossible, since Schmidt was only 4 feet 10 inches tall. His impresarios found the means of overcoming this difficulty by building his career on radio concerts, recordings, and operetta films in which his stature was raised by adroit camera work. Schmidt became one of the major European stars in the field of operetta and light music, and his recordings were bestsellers of the period. He also appeared successfully in England, the United States, France, and Belgium, and visited Palestine in 1934. In 1940 he was saved from arrest by gentile friends during the German invasion of Belgium and brought through France to Switzerland. Interned in a refugee camp ("Auffangs-Lager") in Gyrenbad, he contracted a serious throat ailment but was refused special treatment and admission into the regional hospital. He subsequently died in the camp. The quasi-autobiographical film Ein Lied geht um die Welt, in which he had starred, was reissued with scant success in 1952.


Baker, Biog Dict, s.v.; C. Ritter, Ein Lied geht um die Welt (1955), a novel; K. and G. Ney-Nowotny, Joseph Schmidt; das Leben und Sterben eines Unvergesslichen (1963).

[Bathja Bayer]