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Schenker, Jeanette

Jeanette Schenker, 1927, photograph by F.-E. von Cube Jeanette (Jeaneth) Schenker [prev. Kornfeld; née Schiff] (born Aussig an der Elbe, August 31, 1874; died Theresienstadt, January 8, 1945), wife of Heinrich Schenker.

Born Jeaneth Schiff, though known to family and friends as "Jenny," she had three brothers, Victor, Paul (who married Anna--family name unknown), and Louis, and four sisters, Rosa (who married Arnold Weil), Frieda (who married Theodor Glässner), Clara, and Emma. On July 30, 1893, she married Emil Kornfeld, a business man, with whom she had two sons, Erich and Felix (the latter died in Auschwitz in 1945), and Felix had a son, Thomas (Tomás).

Jeanette and Heinrich

Heinrich and Jeanette must have become acquainted by at least c. 1903, and may even have known each other before then since Heinrich and Jeanette's husband had been friends (Tomás/Esser). Jeanette left her husband and sons and moved to Vienna on September 30, 1910. In 1918-1921, she lived at Streichergasse 5, apartment 15, a few minutes' walk from Heinrich's Reisnerstraße apartment. From 1910 on, with Heinrich's help, she long sought a separation from Kornfeld, but only on November 10, 1919, after a change in the laws, were Heinrich and Jeanette eventually able to marry. (Federhofer, p. 37, and n.57).

Jeanette never became a regular student of Heinrich's, having only occasional lessons from him, and those only up to 1913. She not only served as Heinrich's amanuensis from early on but also was a constant collaborator in all his work (as he frequently attests in letters), as well as close companion. Heinrich remarked of Jeanette when studying the autograph manuscript of Beethoven Op. 109, that she "often shows a surprising resourcefulness" as a result of which new insights emerged (diary OJ 1/12, p. 379, July 16, 1913); elsewhere he declared that she "stands fully equipped at my side intellectually" (DLA 69.930/11, November 2, 1922, to Halm); he dedicated Der freie Satz to her with "MEINER GELIEBTEN FRAU," having previously stipulated the form of words in a codicil to his will, adding: "Without her practical help down to the very last detail, the work would not be completed." (OJ 35/6, [1], May 20, 1934). Heinrich's private names for her included "Lie-Lie" (which led some to refer to her erroneously as "Lilly"), "Lieliechen," "Lie-Liechen," and "Liecherl."

After Heinrich's death she actively promoted his works with publishers and editors, catalogued his huge Nachlaß, and entrusted parts of it to pupils and disciples, notably two trunks of materials in August 1938 to Ernst Oster (who emigrated to the USA, taking them with him to New York) and one trunk to Erwin Ratz (who remained in Vienna and passed it after the war to Oswald Jonas, who took those materials to Riverside, California). As a Jew, Jeanette was persecuted by the Nazis in the early 1940s; despite having allegedly twice been rescued from the Nazis by Erwin Ratz (Fink, p. 22), she was eventually deported from Vienna on transport IV/2-48 on June 29, 1942, and died in Theresienstadt concentration camp on January 8, 1945.

Jeanette's Contribution

Jeanette's distinctive, upright handwriting is familiar to all who work on Heinrich's papers. As his eyesight deteriorated, she took over writing his diaries, fair-copying his essay-style entries (as far back as 1896), and then taking over the daily record of events from about June 1911 on. In the correspondence, the more important letters were taken down by her from dictation in shorthand ("Stenogramm"), written out by her in a draft copy ("Urschrift") that Heinrich would then correct in his own hand (e.g. OJ 5/16, [2], May 5, 1914, to Hertzka), after which he would himself write out the fair copy ("Reinschrift"), which was then mailed out. Whenever he had a bout of severe eye-strain, she would write the fair copy, which Heinrich then signed and dated (e.g.: WSLB 245, May 4, 1915, to Hertzka). She wrote up Heinrich's lessonbooks (OC 3) from January 1912; many of his unpublished analyses, and material for articles and theoretical works, are in her hand; she seems only to have copied text, not graphs. After his death, she maintained correspondence with many of Heinrich's pupils and friends into the first half of 1942.


Only one letter survives from Jeanette to Heinrich (OC 31/421, November 27, 1911) and none in return. Some interesting personal notes between the two are preserved as OC 49/138-65, and others probably in Heinrich's hand as OJ 5/37 (1926-30). A small amount of correspondence to her from others from before Heinrich's death survives in OC; much correspondence sent or received jointly by Heinrich and Jeanette is preserved in OJ, most notably to and from Moriz and Valerie Violin (the first postcard to them in Jeanette's hand dates from September 23, 1909) and members of the Schenker and Kornfeld families. A good deal of correspondence to her after Heinrich's death survives, from Angi Elias (11 items), Sophie Guttmann (4 items), Otto Vrieslander (63 items), and others.

Other Surviving Documents

Jeanette left a travel diary for a journey made to Chile, April 27 to September 30, 1936 (OJ 35/9). There survive ten photographs of her with Heinrich (OJ 72/15), three studio photograph portraits of her alone (OJ 72/16, 1-3) and one taken by von Cube (OJ 72/16, 4 - see above), also one of her brother Victor, and one of her grandson (OJ 72/21, 72/9). Her citizenship certificate (Heimatschein) dated March 23, 1939, and her passport dated June 11, 1941, also survive (OJ 35/1). Her death certificate is now posted on the Theresienstadt website, at Toten-Begleitschein.


Private communications from Heribert Esser
Private communication from Robert Kosovsky
Federhofer, Heinrich Schenker nach Tagebüchern und Briefen ... (Hildesheim: Olms, 1985)
Fink, Evelyn, ed., Rebell und Visionär: Heinrich Schenker in Wien (Vienna: Lafite, 2003)
Terezin [=Theresienstadt] Memorial Archive
Correspondence between Heribert Esser and Tomás Kornfeld (OJ 71/10a and 21a)


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