In February, the singer Hilde Zadek, whose career spanned decades at the Venna State Opera, died at the age of one-hundred-one. Born to a Jewish family in eastern Germany, Zadek made her formal debut at the Opera in 1947 in the title role of Aida, to an audience including no small number of recent Nazis. Jay Nordlinger writes:
An important incident had occurred in 1934: Hilde Zadek overheard a schoolmate say, “Es stinkt nach Juden”—“It reeks of Jews.” She punched the girl in the face, knocking out her front teeth. Hilde was expelled from school and then had to flee—not to another city but to another country. She went, age sixteen, to Palestine.
There, she trained as a pediatric nurse. She also studied singing—with Rose Pauly, a Hungarian soprano who had [also] fled there. Eventually, the rest of the Zadeks came to Palestine, too. This was after [her father], Alex Zadek, had been imprisoned in a concentration camp, Sachsenhausen. Others in the family—the extended family—were not so lucky.
In 1945, when the war ended, she returned to Europe [to pursue her musical career]. She never lost her connection to Palestine, or Israel—in fact, it strengthened. She taught in Israel a lot, pro bono. She worked to put voice instruction in that country on a solid footing. She was constantly concerned with the development and success of Israeli singers.
From official Austria, she garnered many honors. . . . In her last years, she was asked a simple question: do you want anything? She said she would think about it, overnight. And, in fact, she did want something: as Austria had honored her, she would like to be honored by Israel. After a process, Israel did agree to honor her—but this was never consummated: Hilde Zadek never got back to Israel and did not receive the honor.
She had one final wish: “After I die, tell my friends that Israel offered to honor me.” She wanted them to know. It was important to her.