Harry Weil
Musical Talent and Emigrant: Harry Weil (1898–1970)

Harry Weil was born in 1898, the son of Jacob Weil, a gabbai (beadle) and cantor, and his wife, Rachel. He returned injured from World War I, in which he had fought as an infantryman with the Tyrolean Kaiserjäger (rifle regiment) in Northern Italy. Weil’s active participation in numerous Hohenems and Vorarlberg theatrical and musical societies, from Schrammel quartet to big band in Bregenz, emerges from the recollections of Hohenems’ older inhabitants, but also from photographs and documents. In 1924, together with kindred spirits, he founded the Hohenems workers’ choral society Nibelungenhort, which exists to this day. In 1932, Harry Weil married Angelina Tavonatti, a Catholic woman, in Bregenz, and they had a son, Harry Jr.
In the wake of Jacob Weil’s death in 1933, he partially moved back with his family to Hohenems, continued to manage the small grocery store, cared for his sick mother, served as organist in the synagogue, and held religion lessons for the few Jewish youngsters in Hohenems. His work as community cantor, a task he carried out on a rather informal basis, no longer provided a source of income. Harry Weil lived in part from earnings as insurance agent.
At the same time, he was also politically active. In 1934, he was arrested as Communist for his involvement in the distribution of anti-Fascist pamphlets and sentenced to a short prison term. In 1937, he was active in a Trotskyist grouping. After the ‘Anschluss,’ he assisted refugees in crossing the Rhine before he himself escaped to Switzerland in June 1938. His brother Louis was arrested and murdered in Dachau that same summer.
In 1939, Harry Weil immigrated with his family to the United States where his brother Jules—who had moved to Chicago already in 1938—had been able to organize a visa for him. Harry Weil kept in close contact with some people from Hohenems also after the war and regularly visited his homeland. As one of the last surviving members of the Hohenems Jewish community, he tried to reclaim their assets and also his own apartment. However, his petitions were rejected by the authorities in charge. After all, according to Hohenems’ first postwar mayor, he had “left voluntarily” in 1938. Harry Weil remained in America and took over the American representation of Rupp, the Vorarlberg processed-cheese producer. Harry Weil passed away on August 18, 1970 in Santa Monica, USA. In keeping with his last wish, his urn was interred at the Jewish cemetery in Hohenems.