René Blum (impresario)

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René Blum
René Blum

(1878-03-13)13 March 1878
DiedSeptember 1942 (1942-10) (aged 64)
Occupationopera and ballet impresario
Known forFounder of the Ballet de l'Opéra at Monte Carlo
RelativesLéon Blum (brother)
AwardsCroix de Guerre

René Blum (13 March 1878 – September 1942) was a French theatrical impresario. He was the founder of the Ballet de l'Opéra at Monte Carlo and was the younger brother of the Socialist Prime Minister of France, Léon Blum.[1] A Jew, he was interned in various camps from 1941 until he was murdered by the Nazis at the Auschwitz concentration camp in late September 1942. While at the camps, he was known for keeping up the spirits of his fellow prisoners with tales of his life in the arts.[2]


Blum was born in Paris.

At the turn of the 20th century he was an editor at the Parisian literary journal Gil Blas and a popular theatre critic.[2] He became a friend of Marcel Proust, and it was on his advice that Proust turned to Bernard Grasset to publish Du côté de chez Swann.[3]

During World War I, Blum served in the Battle of the Somme. He saved threatened artwork from Amiens Cathedral and earned the French Croix de guerre.[2][3]

Founder of Ballet of Monte-Carlo[edit]

He became director of plays and operettas at Monte Carlo in 1924,[3] where Sergei Diaghilev's Ballets Russes was based.[2] In 1931, Blum was hired by Louis II, Prince of Monaco, to create a ballet company that would continue the work and legacy of the late Diaghilev (who had died in 1929).[2] In 1932, with the help of financier Serge Denham, Blum and Colonel W. de Basil formed the Ballets Russes de Monte-Carlo.

Blum and de Basil fell out in 1934, and their Ballets Russes partnership dissolved.[2] Blum kept ballet alive in Monte Carlo. In short order, he hired choreographer Bronislava Nijinska. After Nijinska left, Blum hired Michel Fokine. In 1937, Blum and former Ballets Russes choreographer Léonide Massine acquired financing from Fleischmann's Yeast heir Julius Fleischmann, Jr.'s World Art, Inc. to create a new ballet company.[4] In 1938, their new company was allowed to regain the name Ballet Russe de Monte-Carlo (although the company fled for the United States in 1939, and was thereafter mostly based in New York City).[2]

Deportation and death[edit]

In the summer of 1940, after the German occupation of Paris, Blum returned to France to be with his family.[2] He was arrested on 12 December 1941 in his Parisian home, among the first Jews to be arrested in Paris by the French police. He was held in the Beaune-la-Rolande internment camp, then in the Drancy internment camp. On 23 September 1942 he was shipped to the Auschwitz concentration camp.[5][6] He was killed by the Nazis at age 64 in late September 1942.[2]


  1. ^ Judith Chazin-Bennahum, René Blum and the Ballets Russes: In Search of a Lost Life. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i Homans, Jennifer. "René Blum: Life of a Dance Master," New York Times (July 8, 2011).
  3. ^ a b c Sorley Walker, Kathrine. 1982. De Basil's Ballets Russes. London: Hutchinson. ISBN 0-09-147510-4; New York: Atheneum. ISBN 0-689-11365-X, p.3
  4. ^ "Blum Ballet Sold to Company Here," New York Times (Nov. 20, 1937).
  5. ^ Gilbert, Martin (2002). The Routledge Atlas of the Holocaust. Psychology Press. p. 10. ISBN 978-0-415-28145-4.
  6. ^ The Trial of Adolf Eichmann, Session 32 (Part 5 of 5), Georges Wellers testimony at the trial of Eichmann.