The migration of artists and intellectuals from Europe to Los Angeles during World War II is well known. Stravinsky, Schoenberg, Rachmaninoff, Bertolt Brecht, Heinrich Mann, Theodor Adorno, Thomas Mann – all of them moved to California and made a salon under the palm trees and among the Hollywood Hills.
Get Watch & Listen Updates
Join the Watch & Listen newsletter list!
But of course, musicians and writers weren’t the only European refugees who came to Los Angeles and found solace in culture. Gertrude “Trudy” Lehrer was born in Vienna in 1919, and she came of age going to the opera house, where she and her friends would crowd the standing-room-only sections. When Hitler came to power, she was able to leave the country and made her way to L.A. She didn’t know anyone in Los Angeles, but she managed to put together a few odd jobs – including work as a fan girl in Aïda on the Hollywood Bowl stage.
Trudy settled into life in Los Angeles, eventually meeting and marrying Irving Lehrer and settling in Los Feliz. There, they harbored her German-speaking refugee parents and raised a family of their own – a girl named Shelah and two boys named Michael and David. The family celebrated Shabbat every Friday night at her table. Together, they’d go to Los Angeles Philharmonic concerts at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion and the Hollywood Bowl, and later at Walt Disney Concert Hall. That their home in Los Feliz was centered almost perfectly between the two venues was not lost on the Lehrers.
Now 100 years old, Trudy still goes to LA Phil concerts, and music is central to her life and that of her family. Those three children have produced 11 grandchildren and 20 great-grandchildren, all of whom go to concerts together. And they still gather every Friday for Shabbat.
Music: Violin Concerto No. 1 by Max Bruch, performed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Lionel Bringuier.
Hollywood Bowl archival photographs by Otto Rothschild. Used by Permission of The Music Center Archives. Gift of the Rothschild Family.