24 June 1883
|Died||4 December 1942
Monowitz concentration camp
|Occupation||librettist, lyricist, writer|
Fritz Löhner-Beda (24 June 1883 – 4 December 1942), born Bedřich Löwy, was an Austrian librettist, lyricist and writer. Murdered in Auschwitz III Monowitz concentration camp and nearly forgotten, many of his songs and tunes remained popular up to today.
He was born in Wildenschwert, Bohemia (present-day Ústí nad Orlicí, Czech Republic). In 1888 his family moved to Vienna and in 1896 changed the name Löwy into less Jewish Löhner. Having passed his Matura exams, he went on studying law at the University of Vienna, where he became a member of the Jewish Kadimah student association. After he had obtained his doctorate, he worked as a lawyer from 1908 onwards. A dedicated football player, he was among the founders of the Hakoah Vienna sports club in 1909.
In 1910 Löhner-Beda decided for a career as an author. He wrote numerous light satires, sketches, poems and lyrics but also contributed to several newspapers, often under the pen name "Beda", a short version of his Czech first name Bedřich (Frederick). In 1913 he met with Franz Lehár, for whom he wrote the libretto of the 1916 operetta Der Sterngucker (The Stargazer). Still in 1918, Löhner-Beda was called up for military service in World War I, which he left in the rank of an officer and as a strong antimilitarist.
In the 1920s he became one of the most sought-after librettists and lyricists of Vienna. Together with Lehár as composer, Ludwig Herzer as co-author and Richard Tauber as singer he produced the operettas Friederike (Frederica) (1928), Das Land des Lächelns (The Land of Smiles) (1929) and, with Paul Knepler as co-author, Giuditta (1934). Together with his friend Alfred Grünwald as co-author and Paul Abraham as composer, he produced Viktoria und ihr Husar (Victoria and Her Hussar) (1930), Die Blume von Hawaii (The Flower of Hawaii) (1931) and Ball im Savoy (Ball at the Savoy) (1932).
Immediately after the Austrian Anschluss to Nazi Germany in mid-March 1938, Fritz Löhner-Beda was arrested and deported to the Dachau concentration camp on 1 April 1938. On 23 September 1938 he was displaced to the Buchenwald concentration camp. There he composed, together with his fellow prisoner Hermann Leopoldi, in the end of 1938 the famous anthem of the concentration camp, Das Buchenwaldlied ("The Buchenwald Song"):
O Buchenwald, ich kann dich nicht vergessen,
O Buchenwald, I can’t forget about you,
The line wir wollen trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen was adopted by the Holocaust survivor Viktor Frankl for the German title of his 1946 book Man's Search for Meaning. Though Löhner-Beda's name appeared in the Nazi Encyclopedia of Jews in Music in 1940, his songs and the Lehár operettas were still performed, though with no mention of the author. His initial hope for an intercession by Franz Lehár was deceptive. After World War II, Lehár denied any cognizance of his concentration camp imprisonment.
On 17 October 1942 he was deported to the Monowitz concentration camp near Auschwitz. The circumstances of his death have been described by Raul Hilberg in The Destruction of the European Jews: During an inspection by several board directors of the IG Farben syndicate around Otto Ambros, Fritz ter Meer, Carl Krauch and Heinrich Bütefisch, the already diseased Löhner-Beda was denounced as working not hard enough, wherefore he was beaten to death on 4 December 1942. A Kapo accused of the murder in the 1968 Frankfurt Auschwitz Trial was acquitted of the charge due to lack of evidence.
Among the most famous songs for which he wrote the lyrics are:
- In der Bar zum Krokodil ("In the crocodile bar"), music by Willy Engel-Berger
- Du schwarzer Zigeuner ("You black gypsy"), tango, an adaptation of Cikánka by Karel Vacek
- Drunt' in der Lobau ("Down there in the Lobau"), music by Heinrich Strecker
- Ausgerechnet Bananen ("Of all things bananas"), an adaptation of "Yes! We Have No Bananas"
- Ich hab’ mein Herz in Heidelberg verloren ("I’ve lost my heart in Heidelberg"), music by Fred Raymond
- Oh, Donna Clara, Tango by Jerzy Petersburski
- Wo sind deine Haare, August? ("Where is your hair, August?"), foxtrot by Richard Fall
- Was machst du mit dem Knie, lieber Hans? ("What are you doing with the knee, dear Hans?"), pasodoble by Richard Fall
- Dein ist mein ganzes Herz ("Yours is my heart alone") from The Land of Smiles
- Freunde, das Leben ist lebenswert ("Friends, life is worth living") from Giuditta
- Meine Lippen, sie küssen so heiß ("My lips, they kiss so hotly") from Giuditta
- Günther Schwarberg: Dein ist mein ganzes Herz. Die Geschichte von Fritz Löhner-Beda, der die schönsten Lieder der Welt schrieb, und warum Hitler ihn ermorden ließ, Steidl, Göttingen, 2000 (German), ISBN 978-3-88243-715-7 (hardback) ISBN 978-3-88243-892-5 (paperback)
- Barbara Denscher, Helmut Peschina: Kein Land des Lächelns. Fritz Löhner-Beda 1883–1942, Residenz, Salzburg, 2002 (German), ISBN 978-3-7017-1302-8
- Fritz Löhner-Beda in the German National Library catalogue
- Fritz Löhner-Beda at the Internet Movie Database