Friedrichstadt Palace Berlin honors Jewish roots

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Friedrichstadt Palace Berlin honors Jewish roots

The Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin acknowledges its ìJewish roots since 1919 | The eventful stage history of todayís Friedrichstadt-Palast Berlin began one hundred years ago.

On 29th November 1919, the Jewish theatre visionary Max Reinhardt opened the Grofles Schauspielhaus ñ the predecessor to the Palast. Renamed the Theater des Volkes (Theatre of the People) during the Third Reich, the theatre was controlled directly by Joseph Goebbelsí Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Operations resumed at the theatre located in the Soviet sector of Berlin after the war as early as summer 1945 and it was accorded its present-day name of the Friedrichstadt-Palast in 1947.

Up until 1990, the Palast was the largest entertainment theatre in the German Democratic Republic (GDR) ñ and today also in reunified Germany. In light of the resurgence of anti-Semitism and as a sign of solidarity for Jewish life in Germany, the Palast is proudly acknowledging its Jewish heritage during the celebrations with a flag bearing the Star of David. Since the start of the 2019/20 anniversary season, the Palast has been reviewing the theatreís eventful history with a variety of activities.

The most visited theatre in the German capital has now hoisted a flag outside its main entrance bearing a Star of David and the inscription ìJewish roots since 1919î in German and English. ìOur founders of 1919 later suffered under the Nazis. Max Reinhardt as a Jew, Erik Charell as a Jew and homosexual, and Hans Poelzig as an expressionist architect. While Reinhardt and Charell went into exile, Poelzig was banned from pursuing his profession,î tells Dr. Berndt Schmidt, General Director of the Palast. ìItís part of our theatreís DNA and an obligation for the present.

Especially in the wake of the attack on the synagogue in Halle and the assaults on rabbis and members of the Jewish community all across Germany.î Given its eventful history, the Palast today consciously stands for freedom, diversity and democracy. Since 2014, the theatre has no longer invited the ambassadors of countries whose laws oppress homosexuals to its premieres. In 2017, Schmidt moreover publicly distanced himself from the racist and nationalist world views of the Alternative f¸r Germany (AfD), a political party with far-right extremist elements that is also represented in the German Bundestag.


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A dispute erupted in the media and among theatremakers as to whether a state-owned theatre is allowed to make such public statements. Dr. Berndt Schmidtís perspective: ìWhen we see freedom and artistic freedom in jeopardy, German theatres are not only allowed to ñ they even must. What else should the lessons from German history be?î At the height of the controversy on 7†October 2017, the entire theatre with almost 2,000 guests had to be evacuated for a short time due to an anonymous bomb threat. Background information: About the Palastís founders: Max Reinhardt was the most visionary impresario and theatre owner of his time. Hans Poelzig was an influential architect.

Erik Charell conceived the revue shows of the ëGolden Twentiesí in Berlin, discovered Marlene Dietrich and the Comedian Harmonists, and created the operetta ëIm Weiflen Rˆsslí (The White Horse Inn) that was a global hit. From 1933, the National Socialists barred all three from working in Germany. Their Jewish ancestry led Reinhardt and Charell to go into exile; as a homosexual and a Jew, Charell was particularly at risk. Poelzig was increasingly subject to reprisals due to his expressionist (ìdegenerateî) architecture.

In 1980, the old Palast had to be closed and demolished due to structural damage to the building. On 27†April 1984, the new Palast opened as the last major construction of the German Democratic Republic (GDR). It still impresses today with the worldís biggest theatre stage. The new Friedrichstadt-Palast seats 1,900 guests, making it the largest theatre in Berlin. With 700,000†guests every year, it is the most visited entertainment theatre in Germany.

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Author: George Taylor

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