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The Nazi’s Seizure of A Star Fell From Heaven

The Lux Film Gesellschaft was established by Josef Koppelmann in the late 1920s. Initially Lux brought German films to Austria but later Josef decided to produce Austrian films. After securing the talent of Leo Slezak (who mentions Josef in one of his books), Koppelmann recruited Austrian opera stars, famous actors and cabaret chanteuses who began appearing in his productions and became regular visitors at his home. Among them were Franciska Gaal, Paul Hörbiger, Kurt Weill, Artur Schnabel and Joseph Schmidt. Lux also was the first company to bring talking films to Austria.

On the morning of March 12, 1938, troops of the Wehrmacht and the SS crossed the German-Austrian border. On the following day, in Linz, Hitler announced the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria into the German Reich. There were big celebrations all over Austria. Jews, however, were deprived of their civil rights and many were arrested. Jewish shops and businesses were broken into, destroyed or taken over by non-Jews. This seizure was called “aryanization” and was the fate of Lux.

Koppelmann not only was deprived of his company, but he also was arrested and taken to the Buchenwald concentration camp, where he was incarcerated for nearly a year. He traded away his fortune for his release from Buchenwald (this was still possible in 1939, before the Final Solution) and, together with his wife, Klara, and five-year-old son, Raoul, managed to obtain a visa to British-Mandate Palestine. Koppelmann always refused to talk about what happened to him in Buchenwald, but he returned a broken and sick man, never again the energetic and resourceful person he had been. He passed away in January 1950, never having recuperated. This was several years before I met and later married Raoul.

The Lux films either were destroyed or distributed under other producers’ names, making it difficult to ascertain how many titles the company actually made.

Lux produced many musicals. Among the famous ones is “Ein Stern Fällt vom Himmel” (“A Star Falls from Heaven”) with Joseph Schmidt. This film is still available but the producer listed is “Styria,” a company that according to the Austrian Films Archives was founded in Austria, in 1938! (The film was made in 1936.) Another film still circulating but without a credit for the real producers is Unser Kaiser.

Thus ended a beautiful chapter in Austrian film history and in Jewish history as well as in the Kopelman family. (We now omit the double letters.) We are left with a family saga and a sad heart.

We hope Bel Canto Society will correct history by providing credits to Lux Film and mentioning Josef Koppelmann.

–Chava Blodek-Kopelman, Ann Arbor, MI

Note: Intergloria, the company that produced the Kiepura and Eggerth vehicle The Charm of La Bohème (Bel Canto Society D534), also was aryanized.

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