Leo Smit: Amsterdam-Paris-Sobibor
To the 80th anniversary of the death
April, 30, 2023. Jewish Museum and Tolerance Center, Moscow
Leo Smit came from a mixed Sephardic Ashkenazi family. His father, Rephaël Smit, was a wealthy shoe merchant descending from the Ashkenazi Smit family. The other three grandparents, two of which were also cousins, descended from the Sephardic Ricardo family. Leo's grandfather, Jozef David Smit, was a cantor in the synagogue. In 1924, Leo Smit was the first in the Amsterdam conservatory's history to graduatecum laude” in composition. In 1927, he moved to Paris to broaden his musical horizons. He frequented all kinds of musical events and had inspirational encounters with the composers of the time, like Darius Milhaud and Erwin Schulhoff.

At the end of 1936, the Smits moved from Paris to Brussels and in November 1937, they were back in Amsterdam due to family circumstances. On April 24, 1940 Smit’s Concerto for viola and string orchestra was performed in the Concertgebouw. Two weeks later World War II broke out and Jewish musicians and composers were barred from all important venues and their music was now rarely performed in public. In November 1942, Leo and his wife Lientje were forced to move to the Transvaal neighborhood, a deportation district in the east of Amsterdam. In March 1943, they were summoned to the Jewish Theatre (today again known as Hollandsche Schouwburg and National Holocaust Memorial), then transported to Westerbork. By the end of April they were transported to Sobibor and murdered upon arrival.

And if we talk about the Circle of Leo Smit, then we should pay attention to the two names already mentioned - Erwin Schulhoff (1894-1942) and Darius Milhaud (1892-1974): both of them came from Jewish families, but their fates were opposite - Schulhoff was deported to concentration camp and died there, and Milhaud fled to the United States.
But if we listen to Smit's music, another name comes to mind - Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) - who was of Basque origin, but shortly after his death, being an author of Deux mélodies hébraïques and Chanson Hébraïque, he was considered to be Jewish and his music was banned by Nazi.

Leo Smit
a prominent Dutch composer, murdered at the Sobibor extermination camp 30.04.1943
  • Leo Smit
  • Maurice Ravel
  • Erwin Schulhoff
  • Darius Milhaud
In Smit's Circle
Smit Sextet 14' woodwind quintet + piano
Schulhoff Divertimento 14' ob, cl, fg
Smit Sonate 13' fl + piano
Milhaud Suite 12' woodwind quintet
Ravel Kaddish 5' cl + piano

fl, ob, cl, fag, cor, piano
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