Leo Monosson

Leo Monosson was born 7th December 1897 in Moscow, to a family of wealthy jewellers.



He completed his schooling in Russia before travelling in his late teens and early twenties through Warsaw, Paris and Vienna studying music and singing before settling in Berlin in 1923.

In Warsaw, he married for the first time, to Charlotte Frank, and by the time they arrived in Paris had had two children. During a visit to Warsaw in 1928, Charlotte died suddenly and Leo returned to Berlin with his two children. He was married for a second time in 1932, to Stephanie Arnsdorff , an up and coming photographer, and they moved with the children into a seven-room apartment in Helmstedt Straße, near Bayerischer Viertel.

Extraordinarliy for the time, he was fluent in 11 languages, including Chinese and Japanese, and had an almost perfect memory for songs and lyrics.

He was a hugely successful and popular performer, credited with over 1400 recordings for all the major record labels of the time. He recorded under numerous pseudonyms including Leo Minor, Leo Emm, Leo Frey, Leo Moll, Leo Moon, and Leo Frank. He is thought to be the, uncredited, vocalist on the first recording of ‘Das Lila Lied’, by the Marek Weber Orchestra, which became an anthem for gay men and lesbians in the late 1920′s.

He was the voice for many screen actors who were not good enough singers before eventually forging a career for himself in films.

His first major role was in the 1930 film “Die Drei von der Tankstelle” (  Now known as ‘The Three Good Friends’) with music by Werner Richard Heymann and lyrics by Robert Gilbert.

He went on to star in 11 major films between 1930 and 1932.

When the Nazis came to power, Leo, as a Jew, was forbidden to perform or record and so emigrated back to Paris. However in 1940, Germany invaded France and they were forced to emigrate again, this time via Spain to the United States.

They settled in the Ardsley area of New York State and Leo started a new career as a Postage Stamp Dealer.

In 1952, he submitted an application for compensation to the Berlin State Office, in view of his forced  emigration. He stated:

” I managed, after 1933, never again to earn money by singing. My playing has been developed by German culture and elsewhere is strange and unpopular” 

On a trip to Jamaica in April 1967, Leo suffered a fatal heart attack in a hotel elevator, he was 69 years old. He is buried in Westchester Hills, New York State.

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3 Responses to Leo Monosson

  1. Hels says:

    What a brilliant, and handsome, young man. Apart from any moral concerns about genocide, the German nation also exiled or destroyed some of its finest thinkers and its most cultivated citizens. What a tragic loss for Germany.

    Monosson was correct in seeing that his playing had been developed by German culture, and elsewhere was strange and unpopular. After the war, his German-based skills would have been even more unpopular.

  2. Anatoly Grishin says:

    Leo’s forced emigration from Germany was in fact only a part of the problem. He wasn’t the only one to loose popularity. Careers of many popular music celebrities of the 30s ended after the war due to loss of interest to their music on the part of mass audiences, not only in Germany, but elsewhere.

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