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James Martin Simon

Also Known As: "Jannes"
Birthdate: (64)
Birthplace: Berlin, Germany
Death: October 14, 1944 (64)
Auschwitz (Nazi Concentration Camp - Auschwitz )
Place of Burial: Holocaust Martyr
Immediate Family:

Son of Martin Simon and Rosaline Henriette Simon (Steinthal)
Husband of Anna Simon (Levy)
Father of Jörn Martin Simon and Ulrich Ernst Simon
Brother of Louise Simon, INFANT; Berta Rosa Seligsohn (Simon) and Ludwig Martin Simon

Occupation: Pianist
Managed by: Private User
Last Updated:

About James Simon

  • Born on 29 September 1880 in Berlin
  • Married on 1 May 1907 to Anna Levy in Berlin
  • Birth of his son, Jörn Martin Simon on 14 September 1910 in Berlin
  • Birth of his son, Ulrich Ernst Simon on 21 September 1913 in Berlin
  • Emigration: 1 April 1933, via Zürich to Amsterdam, The Netherlands
  • Death of his son, Jörn in 1937 in Russia during the purge of the Moscow Trials
  • Deported from Westerbork 5 April 1944 to Theresienstadt, ghetto
  • Transferred 12 October 1944, to Auschwitz, extermination camp
  • Death: 14 October 1944, Auschwitz, extermination camp - officially declared dead, age 64

Full German name: Jannes Martin Simon, in places. More often James Martin Simon

Niece: Shoshana Heyd

James Simon was born in Berlin in 1880 and murdered in Auschwitz in 1944 after a sojourn in the Nazis' "model camp" Theriesienstadt (1941-1944). While some of Simon's piano pieces, lieder, and his opera Frau im Stein (1918) were published, many of his important compositions remain unpublished and unperformed.

Dr. James Simon, born in Berlin on 29th September 1880, was a solidly-trained composer, pianist and musicologist. At the Musikhochschule his teachers included Max Bruch (composition) and Conrad Ansorge (piano). In Munich he wrote his PhD dissertation, Abt Voglers Kompositorische Werke (1904), followed by Faust in der Musik (1906), published in a series of musicological studies edited by Richard Strauss.

From 1907 to 1919 Simon taught in the Klindworth-Scharwenka Conservatory in Berlin. He was active as a pianist throughout his life, giving solo recitals, playing chamber music and, as a prolific composer of Lieder, probably often accompanied singers in recitals. The writer of these lines, in conversation with Shoshana Heyd, his niece, was very close to her uncle, studying piano with him for some years:

   I looked up to him with great admiration and love…and I remember his lectures and piano lessons very well. He was a wonderful teacher…I remember James Simon when I play a Bach fugue. He said to me, “You know, you must play it as if it has started from olden times. Not as if it starts now but as if it is from eternity to eternity.

Shoshana, recalling his Berlin recitals and that he especially liked playing Chopin, Brahms and Beethoven, also remembered his lectures on Mozart operas and Bach cantatas. From a similar conversation with Simon’s son, Prof. Ulrich Simon, he characterized his father as a typically “established, liberal and wealthy Jewish family”. According to his son, James lived in a make-believe, Alice in Wonderland world. He was quite conservative in his musical tastes and although he admired the musical-aesthetic thinking of Feruccio Busoni, the famous pianist and composer, he kept his distance not only from Schoenberg and his followers, but even from Mahler. Ulrich stressed that his father, though a twice-a-year visitor to the synagogue, was

   “very German, really. And … later on…, for me, he became the great guard of the German classical repertoire, especially Bach and Mozart. That was really his life.”

For his son, James' utter other-worldliness was the key to his existence, unable to register what was going on around him. His composition, performance, lecturing and writing were the expanse upon which he created, recreated and extrapolated his art by sharing it with his audiences.

Although James Simon was decidedly conservative as a composer, he wrote much beautiful music and was a consummate musician. His approximately one hundred Lieder number among them many very beautiful songs. The best of them continue the great tradition of Lieder from Beethoven to Hugo Wolf and Richard Strauss. His Sonata, op. 9, for cello and piano, owes much to Strauss’s influence. His single opera, Frau im Stein (Lady in the Stone, 1925), set to music Rolf Lauckner’s, of the same name, subtitled as a Drama für Musik (1918), performed only once, was published by Universal Edition in Vienna. Many of his larger works, including orchestral compositions, string quartets and a cantata, Ein Pilgermorgen (A Pilgrim’s Morning, 1929-30) for soprano, tenor, baritone, chorus and orchestra (Rilke), remain in manuscript and have never been performed. At a Jewish Culture Union concert, June 17, 1934, at the Berliner Theater, the Union and its Opera Chorus presented works by Orlando di Lasso, Hans Leo Hassler, Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy, Robert Schumann, Johannes Brahms, Israel Brandmann, Moritz Goldstein and James Simon. The latter was Simon’s world premiere of his setting of Psalm 137. The work was positively cited by Dr. Ludwig Mioch, in the Gemeindeblatt of July 7, 1934: “This group was preceded by Psalm 137 in a truly sensitive and smart composition by James Simon that was first performed on this occasion.”

The composer was not present on this occasion, however, as he had already left Berlin in 1933, settling in Zürich. During his short visit to Tel Aviv and Jerusalem in 1938, he composed a Lament in Yemenite Style, for cello and piano, in memory of his sister. He gave a piano recital in a private home and presented a lecture on music in the Bible at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem, speaking in German. Returning to Europe Simon took up residence in Amsterdam. Although his life there was very difficult, he continued both his composition and performance. Trying hard to have his Symphonic Dances programmed by the Concertgebouw Orchestra, they were finally accepted but not yet scheduled when the war began and Jewish composers’ works were prohibited. The work was never presented. He did, however, give radio broadcasts, one of which included Scarlatti, Martini, Haydn, Mozart and Beethoven. Simon joined the well-known violinist Alma Rosé in a recital on August 24, 1941 at the Amsterdam Ontspanningsgebouw, including Beethoven’s Spring Sonata, a group of piano pieces by Mendelssohn, Schubert’s great Fantasie, op. 159 and short pieces by Paganini-Přihoda, Dvořák, Anton Rubinstein, Debussy and Pablo de Sarasate.

In late March or early April, 1944, Simon was sent to Westerbork and on April 4 was one of a thousand inmates deported to Terezín. Simon quickly entered into the musical life of the ghetto. He played recitals and gave a number of lectures. While he quite likely wrote other works there, none have survived. On July 9, 1944, however, he set Psalm 126 for Karel Fischer’s Durra-Chor, which was performed seven times in Terezin between July and October. Besides listing his lecture topics there, which included his earlier “Music in the Bible,” he closed the circle which he had opened with the Psalm 137 setting. As so many of his fellow musicians in the ghetto, James Simon also prepared a souvenir sheet for Karl Herrmann:

Dedicated to Karl Herrmann. ‘Do righteous deeds and throw them into the sea.’ It is according to this Arab proverb you act in your modest readiness to help, for which I wish to thank you. [Notating the opening of the melody, Simon inscribed its text, beginning of Psalm 126.] ‘When the Lord brought back those that returned to Zion…’

Dr. James Simon from Berlin, Theresienstadt, 21.9.44.

On October 12 he boarded the transport to Auschwitz and died in a gas chamber shortly after his arrival. He was last seen sitting on his suitcase composing music.

By David Bloch - Prof. David Bloch is founder-director of the Terezin Music Memorial Foundation in Israel.


Simon, James

born on 29th September 1880 in Berlin / - / Stadt Berlin resident of Berlin

Emigration: 01st April 1933, Niederlande

Deportation destination: from Westerbork 05th April 1944, Theresienstadt, ghetto 12th October 1944, Auschwitz, extermination camp

Date/Place of Death: 14th October 1944, Auschwitz, extermination camp officially declared dead

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James Simon's Timeline

September 29, 1880
Berlin, Germany
September 14, 1910
Age 29
Berlin, Berlin, Germany
September 21, 1913
Age 32
Berlin, Germany
October 14, 1944
Age 64

On October 12, 1944 James Simon boarded the transport to Auschwitz and died in a gas chamber shortly after his arrival. He was last seen sitting on his suitcase composing music.

Holocaust Martyr