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A Voice Silenced

An exhibition by Diane Neumaier in memory of Leonore Schwarz Neumaier

A Voice Silenced is, first, a moving tribute to a family member who perished in a Nazi
death camp. Every such story, every death is unique. Every life lost, when exposed
intimately through images and artifacts, can shatter our hearts. Yet, A Voice Silenced is
also a project about bringing forth, muting, or intertwining the voices of survivors.
Produced jointly by the son and granddaughter of Leonore Schwarz Neumaier, with the
assistance of other family members, the exhibition and the accompanying materials are
strikingly humble; no one signs the photographs and texts. Rather, the voice of the direct
survivor, who knew his mother, and that of the second-generation survivor, who only
knows the stories and pictures, gently jostle to convey their distinct senses of loss and

Diane Neumaier reprinted the snapshots her father John Neumaier took between 1933
and 1939, using the medium of photography to resurrect the vanished life of a middle-
class German Jewish family during the escalation of the Nazi anti-Semitic campaign.
Reworking and reinterpreting the photographs, she tried to establish her own relationship
with the grandmother she never knew. Even the disintegrated nitrate film is printed as she
peers into a lost world, into the void, unwilling to let go of anything. A conceptual
photographer, and an experienced photography editor and teacher, Diane Neumaier is
keenly aware of how photographs create meaning and of the complexity of their
authorship. Disintegrating negatives and scratchy records, fading handwriting and broken
porcelain: a life that once touched them now touches us.

Dr. Alla Efimova

Chief Curator, The Magnes

The exhibition is organized by Judah L. Magnes Museum and co-sponsored by the

Holocaust Center of Northern California. The complete installation of A Voice Silenced is
on view at the Magnes through September 19, 2004.

2911 Russell Street, Berkeley, CA 94705
Born in Vienna in 1889, Leonore Schwarz sang with several opera companies in
Germany and Austria before becoming first contralto of the Frankfurt Opera in 1917. She
married businessman Otto Neumaier and, after the birth of their son Hans (now John) in
1921, left the opera, continuing to perform on the concert stage and on radio.
After 1933, the Nazis prohibited Jewish artists from appearing before non-Jewish
audiences. Leonore sang only in concerts presented by the Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish
Cultural Association) or other Jewish groups during those years. It was becoming
increasingly clear to the Neumaier family that they were in danger and must leave
Germany. When Otto and Leonore Neumaier applied for permits to enter the United
States, they discovered they would have to separate. Because Otto had a son from his first
marriage already living in the U.S., he was allowed to go there in 1939. But Leonore had
no direct relative in America to vouch for her, and the consulate would not accept her
stepson as a sponsor. When her husband and son left, she remained behind in Frankfurt,
her name placed far down on a waiting list of those who wanted to leave Germany.
One day in June 1942, Leonore found it necessary to consult with a bank
employee about her precarious financial situation, since most of the family’s funds had
been confiscated by the Nazis. A neighbor denounced this meeting to the Gestapo as a
violation of Nazi laws restricting contacts between Aryans and Jews. The banker was
arrested. Concerned about the fate of the man, whom she knew to be a Catholic with a
large family, Leonore went to Gestapo headquarters to explain the nature of the meeting.
There she was arrested and immediately deported. Leonore Schwarz Neumaier was killed
in the Majdanek death camp.

Sometime in 1941, believing she would be reunited with her husband and son,
who had been able to escape Nazi Germany, Leonore Neumaier packed several trunks. In
1946, a Swiss storage company sent a notice regarding the trunks to her husband who,
still uncertain of his wife’s fate, had them shipped to the United States. Among her
needlework, porcelain, and feather bedding, Leonore had packed the portraits, opera
programs, posters, and reviews of her performances included in the exhibition.
In anticipation of celebrating their son’s Bar Mitzvah in 1934, Leonore and Otto
Neumaier gave him a new Leica camera. When he left Germany in 1939, he took his
photo albums, negatives, and camera with him. In the 1980s, John Neumaier gave the
negatives to his daughter Diane, who reprinted the sixteen rolls of slowly decomposing
35mm nitrate film for the exhibition. The proceeds from the 1999 sale of the Leica were
donated to two Frankfurt organizations devoted to the commemoration of the people of
Frankfurt who were killed in the Holocaust.