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Jüdischer Kulturbund

On April 1st 1933, two months following the Nazi’s power grab, Jewish businesses are boycotted throughout Germany, all Jewish civil servants are fired, Jewish doctors as well as lawyers are threatened… and Jewish performers are banned from appearing. 

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With the latter, in a single stroke, some 8’000 Jewish actors, musicians, singers, directors and stage as well as concert technicians summarily lose their livelihood.

That the Nazis never envisioned the side effects of this interdiction is evident from the retrospective remarks made three years later by senior Propaganda Ministry official, Reichskulturwart Hans Hinkel:

     "Whoever knows to what an unbelievable extent
     theater-life in Germany at the time was infested, can
     see how many Jewish artists were forced to face the
     dilemma of where they henceforth would work… It’s no
     wonder that – following our ascension to political power
     in 1933 – when we began cleansing the Jews from our
     German Artistic and cultural life - the question was
     raised of what should become of all these numerous  
     Jewish artists."

At that time, the new fascist regime still was concerned about its reputation and image abroad, and that these would suffer from the scandal of massive Jewish unemployment. They therefore, welcomed the June 2nd 1933 request from Kurt Singer, a World War I officer in the Berlin medical corps, and now representative of the Berlin State Opera, to rule favorably on the creation of a “German Jewish Cultural Union” (Deutsch-Jüdischer Kulturbund), a plan elaborated by Singer in collaboration with stage director Kurt Baumann and supported by the main Jewish organizations.

Singer had sent his original request to establish this organization to various ministries and instances within the regime. But Prussian Minister-President, Hermann Göring responded via the Science, Art and National Education Ministry (Wissenschaft, Kunst und Volksbildung) in the person of Hinkel… whom he’d recently appointed to head the Prussian Theater Commission.

Kurt Singer also received replies from the Police Presidium and from the president of the Theater Chamber of the Reich’s Propaganda Ministry. However, contrary to the others, Hinkel alone followed through.  

Indeed, Hinkel’s priority was to cleanse Prussia of all Jewish academic as well as cultural instances; and he recognized that driving all Jewish entertainers and related personnel into a single organization would greatly speed up the successful completion of his plan. Additionally, Hinkel understood that control of a massive Jewish cultural operation could represent an enormous career opportunity for him… as indeed it would, including in 1935 being named Head of the Reich’s Culture Chamber.

Kurt Singer and the other founders were aware of the danger that the organization would be exploited by the Nazi regime for propaganda purposes. However, in the light of the current massive unemployment problem, they decided in favor of “doing what could still be done at this point”.


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In 1935, homesick for his native land, Max Ehrlich returns to Nazi Germany. Besides, Jewish entertainers once again may perform there, even if only within the framework of the Jüdische Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Union) and exclusively in front of Jewish audiences. Max Ehrlich is named director of the Bund`s light theater department.

The KuBu or Jüdischer Kulturbund, (Cultural Union of German Jews) was created in 1933 with the consent of the Nazi Authorities. It was set up following the Nazi exclusion of all Jewish Germans as well as Germans of Jewish descent from participating in almost any other organization or public event, including theaters, concerts, cabarets, etc. or in other public venues as well as places..

image hosting by KuBu hired over 1300 men and 700 women artists, musicians and actors... and grew to a membership of some 70,000 persons who participated in the organizations events.

Originally named Kulturbund der Deutschen Juden (Cultural Union of German Jews, in April 1935 the Nazi authorities forced them to remove the term "German" from the name, imposing in its place  Jüdischer Kulturbund (Jewish Cultural Union).

The Kulturbund staged theatrical performances, concerts and  operas, as well as held exhibitions and lectures throughout Germany, performed by Jewish entertainers, artists, writers, scientists etc.. exclusively in front of Jewish audiences in segregated venues.

Even following the November 9th-10th 1938 pogrommes, the KuBu was permitted to continue its activities; however, by then, the discrimination and persecution of Jews had driven many into impoverishment, so that the number of venues, performers and speakers, as well as the number of members, sharply declined.

Following the 1938 pogrom, Max Ehrlich decides to leave Germany definitively. Both of his farewell performances immediately sell out and a third presentation is added. Thus, on April 2nd 1939, before a full house of fans, calling out their affection and encouragement, Max Ehrlich makes his final appearance in Germany. He returns to Holland and joins Willy Rosen and his Theater der Prominenten (Theater of Celebrities) where, even during the Nazi occupation, Max Ehrlich remains.






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                                 Last modified: January 5th 2012