Gregorij von Leitis “From the very beginning many emigrants came to our shows. They’d had to flee their native Germany
and Austria during the Nazi regime and had found exile here in New York. In our Elysium Theater Company,
they rediscovered the kind of culture they had known in their childhood and youth. In a way, coming to us
was a cultural homecoming for them.”
In New York, Gregorij von Leïtis met numerous emigrants who had fled the Nazi regime – first and foremost
the writer Hans Sahl, Maria Ley Piscator, choreographer, dancer and widow of the theater pioneer Erwin Piscator,
the actress Dolly Haas and Gisela Graf, widow of the Bavarian legend Oskar Maria Graf. Through his encounters
with them, he became aware of the fates of oppressed and exiled artists. Since then, an important focus of his
work has been to bring back to the stage the works of composers and writers who were persecuted and
silenced by Hitler's henchmen.
Works unearthed in libraries and archives have been presented for the first time under his auspices. Just as an
example: The Lay of Love and Death of Cornet Christoph Rilke, a piece for recitation and piano, composed by
Viktor Ullmann in the summer of 1944 while he was imprisoned in a concentration camp, has been performed
by Gregorij von Leïtis more than 50 times.
David Stone wrote in 1999 in a report for the Institute for Jewish Policy Research in London: “It is remarkable
that the German director and dramaturge Gregorij von Leïtis [...] from former Federal Chancellor Kohl and many
important personalities from art and politics in Europe and America has been called the 'Ambassador of Jewish
Culture'. "