21 I 1897, Teplice (Bohemia) — 28 X 1944, KL Auschwitz-Birkenau

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Biography

Leo Straus was a cabaret artist and playwright. In the Theresienstadt ghetto, he wrote satirical texts and performed in a cabaret.

His father was the composer Oscar Straus and his mother, Helene Neumann, a violinist and concertmaster who performed under the pseudonym Nelly Irmen. He studied law at the University of Vienna where he obtained a doctoral degree, in 1920. Initially, he worked in the banking sector, but later began work as a playwright and administrative director of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. He wrote lyrics for various revues, including a libretto for a revue composed by his brother, Erwin Straus, e.g., Der Tanzende Shylock: Revue um jeden Preis in zwei Teilen (“Dancing Shylock: Revue at Any Price in Two Parts”). He was married to Myra Gruhenberg, a journalist, writer, and singer.

Both Leo’s and Myra’s works were banned once the Nazi Party came to power in 1933. When Austria was annexed to the German Reich in 1938, they were both prohibited from working practicing their professions as a result of the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws.

Leo and Myra were deported to the ghetto in Terezín (Theresienstadt) on 1 October 1942. They both became involved in the cultural life of the camp. Leo became the master of ceremonies at the cabaret Straus-Brettl (“The Straus Theatre“). There, among other works, he wrote the satirical poem Die Stadt Als-Ob (“The As-if Town”). His wife also performed in the cabaret. On 12 October 1944, Leo and Myra were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where they both died.


As-If Town („Als-Ob”)

Text: Leo Straus
Music: unknown

Voice: Bente Kahan
Piano: Dariusz Świnoga
Violin: Mirosław Kuźniak

Recording from the „Cabaret Songs from the Theresienstadt Ghetto” CD by Bente Kahan, Dybbuk International, 2018.


Theresienstadt Questions („Theresienstädter Fragen”)

Lyrics: Leo Straus
Polish translation: Aleksander Gleichgewicht
Music: unknown
Arrangement: Ronen Nissan

Vocals: Bente Kahan
Violin: Marcin Markowicz, Malwina Kotz
Viola: Marzena Malinowska
Cello: Jan Skopowski
Double bass: Paulina Rosłaniec

Recording from the „Cabaret Songs from the Theresienstadt Ghetto” CD by Bente Kahan, Dybbuk International, 2018.

The „As If” Town („Als-Ob”)
Translated into English by Dahlia Pfeffer Luxemburg

I know a little city,
where order can be found
The name is rather witty,
it’s called the “As-If” town

Not everyone’s permitted,
an entry to this place
Just the specially selected,
who belong to the “As-If” race.

They live a life prosaic,
“as if” real life it were
Enjoying tales archaic,
“as if” the truth it were.

The people on the streets,
make haste and plunge along
To finish inane deeds,
they act “as if” daylong

The Cafè in the center,
like Café de l’Europe
With music and the banter,
one feels “as if” there’s hope.

And people treat each other,
to gestures crude and stiff
At home they were nobody,
here they pretend “as-if”

And all day long one sips,
“as if” coffee, however,
On Saturday, yes, on Saturday,
you get “as if” chopped liver

One lines up for one’s soup,
“as if” it were delicious
And searching with a loupe,
for food “as if” nutritious.

One lies down on the floor,
“as if” it were a bed
And dreams of days of yore,
“as if” letters had been read.

One bears the awesome fate,
“as if” it weren’t so bad
And talks about tomorrow,
“as if” one’s to be had.

I Ask Most Politely („Ich bitte nicht lachen”)
Translated into English by Dahlia Pfeffer Luxemburg

I ask most politely, restrain your laughter slightly
Regarding present state of affairs,
the ovens erupting, the roofs are collapsing
But no reason for you to put on airs
I find it horrific when someone terrific
Unleashes anger violent, so loud,
When words become aggressive
Make good manners retrogressive
With no cause, oh what a crowd!
No, you have no clue, you fail to see, do you?
I listen to your view, but it won’t do
‘Cause we in Terezin
Lead lives of ease, we always grin,
For were it otherwise
We would capsize.
The place is full of men,
With virility and acumen,
My love is genuine for Terezin.
Gone are my mortgages,
I’m learning many languages
Despite a heart that’s longing for those days gone by.
‘Cause we in Terezin
Lead lives of ease, we always grin
And love our dearest little Terezin.

Leo Straus was a cabaret artist and playwright. In the Theresienstadt ghetto, he wrote satirical texts and performed in a cabaret.

His father was the composer Oscar Straus and his mother, Helene Neumann, a violinist and concertmaster who performed under the pseudonym Nelly Irmen. He studied law at the University of Vienna where he obtained a doctoral degree, in 1920. Initially, he worked in the banking sector, but later began work as a playwright and administrative director of the Vienna Chamber Orchestra. He wrote lyrics for various revues, including a libretto for a revue composed by his brother, Erwin Straus, e.g., Der Tanzende Shylock: Revue um jeden Preis in zwei Teilen (“Dancing Shylock: Revue at Any Price in Two Parts”). He was married to Myra Gruhenberg, a journalist, writer, and singer.

Both Leo’s and Myra’s works were banned once the Nazi Party came to power in 1933. When Austria was annexed to the German Reich in 1938, they were both prohibited from working practicing their professions as a result of the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws.

Leo and Myra were deported to the ghetto in Terezín (Theresienstadt) on 1 October 1942. They both became involved in the cultural life of the camp. Leo became the master of ceremonies at the cabaret Straus-Brettl (“The Straus Theatre“). There, among other works, he wrote the satirical poem Die Stadt Als-Ob (“The As-if Town”). His wife also performed in the cabaret. On 12 October 1944, Leo and Myra were deported to Auschwitz-Birkenau where they both died.

21 I 1897, Teplice (Bohemia) — 28 X 1944, KL Auschwitz-Birkenau

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