Kurt Singer conducting

On April 7, 1933 the Nazis passed the Law for the Restoration of the Professional Civil Service. “Civil servants who are not of Aryan ancestry” were immediately dismissed from all civil service jobs. This included performing artists and musicians who worked in the great halls of the Berlin Staatsoper, the Berlin Philharmonic, the Deutsche Theatre, and the Berlin’s Municipal Opera House.

In response, Kurt Singer, the neurologist and former director of Berlin’s Municipal Opera House, and his former production assistant Kurt Baumann recruited Rabbi Leo Baeck, conductor Joseph Rosenstock, journalist Werner Levie, and theatre critic Julius Bab to work together on a plan to present to Goebbels Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. This plan proposed the formation of the Jewish Culture League (Jüdischer Kulturbund). The head of the Prussian Theatre Commission, Hans Hinkel saw the proposal and invited Singer to meet and together they forged the final plan of the Kulturbund. The Kulturbund was created as a cultural organization for Jews only that was self-supported by membership dues. The Nazis had oversight of all Kulturbund activities, requiring the organization to submit performance plans to Hinkel for final approval.

The Kulturbund theatre in Berlin opened on October 3, 1933 with Gotthold Ephraim Lessing’s drama Nathan the Wise, a story about religious tolerance among Jews, Muslims, and Christians in Jerusalem. On seeing the performance, Hinkel was furious and shut it down after one performance. At its peak, the Kulturbund performed operas, dramas, and symphonies in 42 cities around Germany. Its last performance was on September 11, 1941 when the Kulturbund officially closed. Kulturbund members who had not already left Germany or gone into hiding, were sent to the camps.

 

The Jüdische Kulturbund Story

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