Documents associated with this person:

  Studio portrait photograph of Jeanette Schenker as a young woman.
Jeanette Schenker (OJ 72/16, No. 1 - Atelier Kosel)

Wife first of Emil Kornfeld, secondly of Heinrich Schenker.

The oldest of the ten children of Wilhelm (Wolf) Schiff and Emilie (née Strasser), Jeanette – known to family and friends as "Jenny" – was born in Aussig. She had four brothers, Louis, Emil (who died in infancy), Victor, Paul, and five sisters, Frieda (who married Theodor Glässner), Emma (who married Eduard Winternitz), Klara (who married Oskar Hatschek), Rosa (Ružena, who married Arnold Weil), and Hella (Helena, who married Hans Delmonte).

On July 30, 1893, Jeanette 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, Tomás. In addition, since the Schiff parents both died in 1900, at which point their youngest son was only 5 years old, the Kornfeld household took Paul (who was younger than Erich) in, and Jeanette (his sister) and Emil served as proxy parents to him.

On July 30, 1928, Klara, with husband and son, came to visit the Schenkers at their summer retreat in the Tyrol, and Heinrich writes an extensive commentary on the "turmoil" that this causes Jeanette (OJ 4/1, pp. 3236‒3237): My Lie-Liechen [...] has five sisters and three brothers, about whom she finally has the opportunity of receiving some information. She did not leave her home town until she was thirty-six years old; thus she lived as an adult with many people whose fates she now learns about. [...] [T]here is something oppressive when one who has become something new returns to one's earlier life, so to speak – there are spaces between them, which make a connection between the two worlds impossible – [...] A return is especially impossible if it is undesirable to the person concerned.

Jeanette and Heinrich

  Photograph of Heinrich and Jeanette Schenker.
Jeanette & Heinrich, wedding Nov 30, 1919 (OJ 72/15, No. 1)

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, staying first in the Hotel de France, Schottenring 3 (OJ 3/4, p. 2576). 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 fought for a separation from Kornfeld. The separation was finally obtained on July 31, 1919, and on November 10, 1919, after a change in the laws, Heinrich and Jeanette were at last able to marry (Federhofer, p. 37, and n.57).

Jeanette never became a regular student of Heinrich’s. Earliest lessons noted in Schenker’s lessonbooks took place on January 16 and October 15, 1912, and November 8, 1913, on which occasions she was working on pieces by Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin, with Czerny exercises; Schenker’s diary for February 28, 1915 records: “Lie-Liechen begins the study of thoroughbass, and so a long-cherished wish of the two of us is fulfilled;” for October 12 and 15, “Lie-Liechen has her first lesson for a long time,” and “Lie-Liechen for the first time [studies] cantus firmus.”

Jeanette 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

  Photograph of Jeanette Schenker.
Jeanette Schenker, 1927 (OJ 72/16, No. 4 - F.-E. von Cube)

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. As Schenker once remarked: "Lie-Liechen accompanies me at all meetings" (OJ 6/7, [7]), and his diary bears frequent witness to this statement. 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.

  Photograph of Jeanette Schenker's passport.
Jeanette Schenker, passport 1941 (OJ 35/1, No. 2b)

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 (OJ 72/21), and one of her grandson Tomás (OJ 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, Hellmut 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)
  • Photographs used by permission of Special Collections & Archives, University of California, Riverside Libraries, University of California, Riverside, CA.


Ian Bent

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