Gustav Lewi

Danzig (Gdansk), 1876-1941, Berlin

Gustav Lewi was a pianist and composer in Berlin. He came from an educated Jewish family from Gdansk who owned a tea import company in Berlin. He had four sisters: Minna Lewi was a successful sculptor, while Hedwig Lewi was a mathematician who worked closely with Max Planck. Since Minna, Hedwig and Gustav never married, they continued to live together as a family. When the National Socialists came to power, Lewi tried to hide his Jewish origins and assumed the pseudonym “Leonhardt” so that he could perform as a pianist and continue to be published as a composer. His sister Franziska Lewi was murdered with her non-Jewish husband in Auschwitz, while Minna and Hedwig decided to commit suicide together in 1944 in order not to be deported. A sister managed to emigrate to England and her granddaughter, Sue Key-Burr, has become the heir to the small Lewi estate. Despite his attempts to disguise his origins, Levi was listed in the notorious “Dictionary of Jews in Music”, compiled by the NS-regime. The estate suggests a composer of high-quality salon music. He died of asthma in 1941 in the Jewish hospital in Berlin.