Australian Dictionary of Biography

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Lowin, Paul (1892–1961)

by John Carmody

This article was published in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

Paul Lowin (1892-1961), businessman and philanthropist, was born on 22 September 1892 at Jägerndorf, Silesia, Austria-Hungary (Krnov, Moravia, Czech Republic), younger of two sons of Jewish parents Edmund Löwin, manufacturer, and his wife Laura, née Goldberger. In a statement to a Sydney court in 1940, Lowin testified that he had been a soldier in the Austro-Hungarian army during World War I. In 1915, he asserted, he was captured by the Russians and was held prisoner at Odessa and for three years in Siberia, where his left kidney was removed, which adversely affected his health thereafter. He also claimed that he went home via Vladivostok in 1919, worked in his father's factory and married in 1926, and that his wife died giving birth to their son in 1931.

Official Austrian records show, however, that Löwin lived in Vienna from September 1918 until March 1935, occasionally visiting Paris, Berlin, Jägerndorf and Prague. Although in 1918 he described himself as Jewish, by 1930 he no longer specified a religious affiliation. Documents recorded his profession as opera singer (one specifying 'at the Volksoper') and he was invariably described as unmarried. His name was also given as 'Liban' or 'Löwin-Liban'.

According to Lowin's subsequent account, he worked as a journalist in Prague before moving to Cairo in 1936, partly for health reasons, as a reporter for a Prague newspaper and a publicist for Czech merchandise. After the German annexation of the Sudetenland in October 1938 his brother was forced to flee from Krnov and later died in a concentration camp. Paul was offered a position as a foreign correspondent in Australia and reached Sydney on 16 August 1939 in the Strathnaver. He was described as 5 ft 6 ins (168 cm) tall, with grey eyes and black hair.

Lowin initially worked freelance for newspapers in England and the United States of America. By 1941 he was a textile manufacturer, trading as the Swedish Handweaving Co. in George Street. The business was successful, as were his property investments largely in the eastern suburbs. As part of an application for naturalization, in 1948 his solicitor wrote that Lowin planned to visit Czechoslovakia 'to reclaim his family property and purchase machinery for his business'. His application had been delayed by the Department of Immigration, principally because of his conviction in May 1940 on a possibly trumped-up charge of sexual assault on a 15-year-old boy in a public lavatory in the Sydney Domain. Lowin was naturalized on 6 April 1948. By then he owned and lived in a flat at Elizabeth Bay, and had a house and business interests in Vienna.

After his arrival, Lowin had become friendly with the expatriate Viennese conductor Henry Krips, with whom he took singing lessons—although Kurt Prerauer had a poor opinion of his musicianship. Lowin was also involved in German-speaking theatre in Sydney during the early 1940s. Frau Krips recalled him as 'full of ideas and cultural ambition; rather colourful'. He often brought back from Europe recordings and musical scores that were unavailable in Australia and would use them in musical soirées in his flat, holding court to a group of artistically inclined young men and his large and affable black dog. Some of his protégés (including James Murdoch and Denis Condon) would play significant roles in Sydney's intellectual life. He loved opera and Lieder; like his friends who founded Musica Viva, his tastes were conservative, favouring Wagner, Verdi and Richard Strauss in particular. Lowin was homosexual and was very fond of the beach, especially Bondi, and its culture of youthful, muscular beauty.

By mid-1953 Lowin had returned permanently to Vienna, although he retained property in Sydney, which he revisited on several occasions. He sold out of his business about 1956. Lowin died in Vienna General Hospital (Allgemeines Krankenhaus) on 7 October 1961; apparently only a nephew in London survived him. The death registration recorded his occupation as 'Korrespondent' and his religion as Roman Catholic. His estate in New South Wales was estimated to be almost £20,000; by the finalization of complex legal issues in 1988, the nett value was in excess of $340,000. After personal bequests, the will established the Paul Lowin prize for the composition of an orchestral piece or a song cycle in alternate years. The richest for music composition in Australia, the prize was first awarded in 1991.

Select Bibliography

  • Australian Jewish Times, 12 Aug 1988, p 13
  • Sydney Morning Herald, 7 May 1963, p 1, 8 May 1963, p 16, 8 Nov 1972, p 26, 30 July 1991, p 12
  • series SP11/2 and series A442, item 1952/14/1897 (National Archives of Australia)
  • 10/38500, item 363/1940, 10/6164, item 1385/58, and Sydney Qtr Sessions, 30/31 May 1940, 6/2091 (State Records New South Wales)
  • private information.

Citation details

John Carmody, 'Lowin, Paul (1892–1961)', Australian Dictionary of Biography, National Centre of Biography, Australian National University, http://adb.anu.edu.au/biography/lowin-paul-13056/text23609, published first in hardcopy 2005, accessed online 18 November 2017.

This article was first published in hardcopy in Australian Dictionary of Biography, Supplementary Volume, (MUP), 2005

View the front pages for the Supplementary Volume

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