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 …the Netherlands certainly isn’t amongst the first countries that spring to mind when one speaks about the Exile of German-speaking artists during the period 1933-1945. While one quickly connects names, groups and currents in this context to cultural life in  countries such as Switzerland, France and the United Kingdom, Holland instead long has represented a terra incognita. 

...Exile of artists to the Netherlands differed from that to other host countries; and this isn’t only because - at first glance - cultural life there appears uninteresting. More than in the case of other countries, the Netherlands were perceived of as a transit station from where one attempted to reach the United States, or at least Great Britain. Consequently, only rarely did immigrants try to integrate there; they showed no interest for the traditions and culture, thought it unnecessary to learn the language.

...In the field of culture, the Netherlands was accustomed to foreign artists and groups presenting their Art there, particularly in the area of musical theater since  the Dutch were very open to this type of import. Thus, the increase in on-stage appearances during 1933 by German-speaking theater troupes didn't seem unusual. A troupe was hired, performed, hopefully enjoyed success, received reviews - and then moved on. It was that they thereafter remained in Holland for which one was unprepared, lacking the legal, organizational and social infrastructures to accommodate this.»

              Dr Katja Zaich
                “Ich bitte dringend um ein
: German Stage-Artists
                in Dutch Exile

The Netherlands, due to its long-standing tradition of freedom - as well as close historical ties and geographical proximity to Germany - became a frequent refugee destination for many Jews. Indeed, within six months of the Nazis seizing power, close to 15'000 German refugees immigrated there... and by the high-point of this exodus in 1938 - following Germany's occupations of Czechoslovakia and Austria - fully 30'000 refugees resided in Holland.

For some 8'000 of these, this host country would be the first stopping-point in their search for a new homeland; however, for the remainder, finding a means of existence in the Netherlands would prove extremely difficult. As such, only about 4'500 found employment while the others had to live with outside support.

Initially, entry into Holland didn't entail any formalities, as long as the refugee had a valid passport.

However, March 1935 marked the end of the Netherland's heretofore generous asylum policy. New requirements were implemented which if not met could result in the refugee being turned away at the border; and as of  in 1938 anyone who wanted to enter Holland, even temporarily, was required to possess a minimum of 300 gulden in personal funds, while those who wanted to establish residence had to prove having a personal fortune of at least 10'000 gulden.

Numerous solidarity committees stepped in to help. However, the full significance of their intervention only would become apparent in 1940 with the German invasion of this totally unprepared and until then neutral kingdom, as the overall Dutch population, to a certain degree, went into "resistance mode".

The most courageous amongst them also acted to protect the refugees from the invading oppressors. But Dutch spies working for the Nazis also were numerous, as were the fanatical home-grown fascist groups that managed to attract 35'000 members into their fold.



The Rudolf Nelson Revue 1935

Leidschepleintheater te  Amsterdam,  interieur. 1933.

Following their appearance in Switzerland, Nelson’s cabaret group is engaged for an appearance at Louis David's Leidscheplein Theater in Amsterdm.

That the troupe already was well-known to the Amsterdam public is demonstrated by the Het Volk newspaper article which appeared on April 27th 1934 about the troupe's up-coming arrival in Amsterdam the following day, and which even noted the hour of the troupe’s train arrival so that fans could turn out in number to greet them at Amsterdam Station.

The Revue, “1000 Takte Nelson” premiers on May 1st 1934 with Rudolf Nelson and Fred Freed at the grand piano… alongside Max Ehrlich, Kurt Lilien, Eva Busch, Dora Paulsen, Fritzi Schadl and Walter Behr on-stage. 

Walter Behr already had appeared two months earlier at the cabaret Ping-Pong, Dora Paulsen sings Damen der alte Schule (Ladies of the Old School) brillantly, and Rudolf Nelsen is characterized as the ”Man of Hit Songs”.

Still, in its review of the show, Het Volk also points out that perhaps one or the other aspect of the revue presently is too “Berlin-centric… but that this won’t persist, since anyone needs the time to get to know a new audience”.

This appears to have been the case; and in fact, Het Volk’s review of the following show, “Etwas fuer Sie” (something for you) opening in end-May 1934, observes that the troupe has found “insight into Dutch audience needs”, possibly also reflecting the addition of Lotte Dewis, Harold Horsten, Walter Fein and Peter Staub to the troupe.

June 15th 1934 marks the finish of this first guest appearance in Holland by the Rudolf Nelson Revue. While Nelson scouts a new engagement for the Revue, some of the troupe members individually make short-term guest appearances in spa resort Scheveningen's Kurhaus-Cabaret.

Max Ehrlich and Walter Behr, together with Irmgard Andersen and Eva Böhm, appear there in the Kurhais-Cabaret's July program. Subsequently, the full Rudolf Nelson Ruvue is engaged  to appear there for the Summer Program.

At summer's end, Max Ehrlich, homesick for his native land, decides not to pursue his guest appearances with the Rudolf Nelson Revue.

Meanwhile in Germany, Jewish entertainers once again may perform, even if only within the framework of an organization called the KuBu… Juedische Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Union) and exclusively in front of Jewish audiences.

Additionally, the KuBu’s leadership has reached out to Max Ehrlich in Holland, asking him to return home and assume direction of their Light Theater Department (kleinkunst Bühne).

Thus, in late January 1935, Max Ehrlich sets out on his return trip to Berlin, stopping over in Yugoslavia on the way for a stage appearance.






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