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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Kurt Gerron
Comedy duo Sig Arno and Kurt Gerron, Berlin 1931
Born(1897-05-11)11 May 1897
Died30 October 1944(1944-10-30) (aged 47)
Occupation(s)Actor, film director
Years active1920–1944

Kurt Gerron (11 May 1897 – 30 October 1944) was a German Jewish actor and film director. He and his wife, Olga, were murdered in the Holocaust.

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Born Kurt Gerson into a well-off merchant family in Berlin, he studied medicine before being called up for military service in World War I. After being seriously wounded, he was qualified as a military doctor in the German Army, despite having been only in his second year at university. After the war Gerron turned to a stage career, becoming a theatre actor under director Max Reinhardt in 1920. He appeared in secondary roles in several silent films and began directing film shorts in 1926.

Gerron's popular cinema breakthrough came with The Blue Angel (Der Blaue Engel, 1930) opposite Marlene Dietrich. Two years before, Gerron originated the role of "Tiger" Brown in the 1928 premiere production of The Threepenny Opera (Die Dreigroschenoper) at the Berlin Theater am Schiffbauerdamm, in which he also performed the first public performance of the song, "Mack the Knife". With the show's international success, Gerron's name and recorded voice became well known across Europe.

Under the Nazis

After the 1933 seizure of power by the Nazis (known today as the Machtergreifung), Gerron left Nazi Germany with his wife and parents, traveling first to Paris and later to Amsterdam. He continued work there as an actor at the Stadsschouwburg and directed several movies. Several times he was offered employment in Hollywood through the agency of Peter Lorre and Josef von Sternberg, but Gerron refused to leave Europe.

After the Wehrmacht occupied the Netherlands, Gerron and his parents were first interned in the transit camp at Westerbork. His parents were deported on May 5, 1943, and murdered in Sobibor. Gerron and his wife were later sent to the Theresienstadt concentration camp. There he was forced by the SS to stage the cabaret review, Karussell,[1] in which he reprised Mack the Knife, as well as compositions by Martin Roman[2] and other imprisoned musicians and artists.

In 1944, Gerron was coerced into directing a Nazi propaganda film intended to be viewed in "neutral" nations such as Switzerland, Sweden, and Ireland, for example, showing how "humane" conditions were at Theresienstadt.[3] Once filming was finished, Gerron and members of the Jazz pianist Martin Roman's Ghetto Swingers were deported on the camp's final train transport to Auschwitz, on 28 October. Gerron and his wife were murdered in the gas chamber immediately upon arrival on 30 October 1944,[4] along with the film's entire performing entourage (except for Roman and guitarist Coco Schumann). The next day, Reichsführer SS Heinrich Himmler ordered the closure of the gas chambers.

All known complete prints of Gerron's final film, which was to have been called Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet (Terezin: A Documentary Film of the Jewish Resettlement), and which is also referred to as Der Führer schenkt den Juden eine Stadt (The Führer Gives the Jews a City), were destroyed in 1945. Twenty minutes of footage were discovered in Czechoslovakia in the mid-1960s, and today the film exists only in fragmentary form.

On Friday June 17 2022 a Stolperstein for Kurt Gerron and one for his wife, Olga Gerson were installed at Paulsborner Strasse 77, Berlin, their last residence in Germany.

Gerron's star on the Walk of Fame of Cabaret in Mainz, Germany.

Selected filmography

Documentaries about Gerron

Gerron is the subject of three documentary films, Prisoner of Paradise (PBS), Kurt Gerrons Karussell, and Tracks to Terezín, which features Holocaust survivor Herbert Thomas Mandl talking about Kurt Gerron as the director of the film Theresienstadt. Ein Dokumentarfilm aus dem jüdischen Siedlungsgebiet.[5] The narrator in Kurt Gerrons Karussell, which stars Ute Lemper, is Roy Kift, who has also written a play on Gerron's time in Theresienstadt entitled Camp Comedy.[6] The play is published in The Theatre of the Holocaust, edited by Professor Robert Skloot and published by the University of Wisconsin Press.


  1. ^ Schoeps, Karl-Heinz (2004). "Introduction". Literature and Film in the Third Reich. Camden House. p. 3. [Kurt Gerron] arrived in the concentration camp of Theresienstadt in 1944 and was forced by the SS to stage the review Karussell (Carousel)...
  2. ^ Gardner, Lyn (1 June 2001). "Laugh or We Shoot". The Guardian. Retrieved 25 March 2013.
  3. ^ Brown, Kellie D. (2020). The sound of hope : music as solace, resistance and salvation during the Holocaust and World War II. Jefferson, North Carolina. ISBN 978-1-4766-7056-0. OCLC 1134074119.{{cite book}}: CS1 maint: location missing publisher (link)
  4. ^ Last, Dick van Galen; Wolfswinkel, Rolf (2014). Anne Frank and After. Amsterdam University Press. p. 108. ISBN 978-9053561829.
  5. ^ Herbert Thomas Mandl "Spuren nach Theresienstadt / Tracks to Terezín" - Interview and director: Herbert Gantschacher; camera: Robert Schabus; editor: Erich Heyduck. ARBOS Vienna-Salzburg 2007
  6. ^ - Willkommen! at

"Prisoner of Paradise" by PBS, 2003, 100 mins, not rated.

Fictional biography by Charles Lewinsky (Swiss, in German) Gerron, 2011, French translation Retour indésirable, Grasset, 2013.[1]

External links

  1. ^ Johanna Lier (2011-09-22). "Himmlisches Schmierentheater" (in German). WOZ Die Wochenzeitung Nr. 38/2011 vom 22.09.2011. Retrieved 2015-09-26.
This page was last edited on 3 April 2024, at 01:36
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