Posts Tagged ‘Berlinisch’

Claire Waldoff – Quintessential Ur-Berliner

Monday, November 13th, 2017

 

Often referred to as an Ur-Berliner (the epitome of a Berliner), Claire Waldoff (1884-1957) was one of Berlin’s most popular cabaret singers and entertainers during the 1910s and 1920s. She sang in the straight-down-to-the-point Berlinisch – the Berlin dialect – known to combine heart with unabashed bluntness. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/berlinisch-dialect-of-the-berliner In reality, Claire Waldoff wasn’t from Berlin at all. She arrived in the city when she was in her early twenties and took to Berlin like a fly to flypaper. You might say, she became a Berliner to the core.

Claire Waldoff’s Rise and Fall

Born as Clara Wortmann in Gelsenkirchen, a town in the northern part of Germany’s industrial area, Waldoff was the eleventh child in a family of 16. She wanted to become a physician, but the family didn’t have the money to pay for her studies. As an alternative, she she chose singing and acting. In 1906, Claire Waldoff visited Berlin and was immediately captivated by the city’s cosmopoletan style and temperament. Initially, she played in some minor roles until she landed a singing engagement at a nightclub, called Roland von Berlin. That was in 1908. In a dress bought on credit, flaming red hair, gravelly voice, one eyebrow mockingly raised, cursing and smoking cigarettes on stage, she became a star overnight. Her friends included many prominent artists, such as Marlene Dietrich, with whom she performed on stage.

Audiences loved Claire Waldoff. She usually wore a simple blouse along with a tie and slacks. One of her famous songs was Ach Jott, Wat Sind Die Maenner Dumm (Oh, God, How Stupid Men Are). For a first recording on Gramophone, click https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N3keVMxe71U

After coming to power in 1933, the Nazis quickly banned Claire Waldoff’s appearances because many of her composers and lyricists were Jewish. Besides, they considered her songs too suggestive. It was also no secret that Waldoff lived and operated a gay-lesbian-salon with her long-time lesbian partner, Olga “Olly” von Roeder. Following World War II, Claire Waldoff lost all of her savings in the West German monetary reform of 1948 and was forced to live on a meager pension, provided by the City of Berlin.

Claire Waldoff Remembered

A monument, created by Reinhard Jacob, and located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast immortalizes Berlin’s sassy cabaret singer. http://www.walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/friedrichstadt-palast-berlins-top-revue-theater/

Claire Waldoff monument, located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

Claire Waldoff monument, located in front of the Friedrichstadt-Palast, Berlin. Photo © J. Elke Ertle, 2017. www.walled-in-berlin.com

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

 

“Berlinisch”, dialect of the Berliner

Monday, July 1st, 2013

Berlinisch is a vernacular that is spoken only in Berlin, Germany. It is not a written language, only a spoken one, and mirrors the character of its people. The born-and-bred Berliner has a reputation of being a matter-of-fact, self-confident, often flippant individual who has at his disposal a sufficient dose of skeptical optimism, ready wit, and down-to-earth humor.

The city of Berlin is first mentioned in 1244, but we know that Germanic settlements existed in the region, dating as far back as the 6th century. Originally Plattdeutsch (Low German) was the official language and spoken at the courts. But in the 15th century, businessmen from Frankfurt/Oder and Leipzig (65 miles southeast and 200 miles southwest respectively) brought the language of Upper Saxony to Berlin. Upper Saxon was more similar in character to the High German that the reformer, Martin Luther, spoke. Over time, the upper circles and administrative bodies in Berlin combined the Upper Saxon sounds with their customary Low German language. And by the 17th and 18th centuries, all levels of Berlin’s society spoke Berlinisch.

But by the end of the 18th century, Berlin’s educated circles felt that Berlinisch sounded too vulgar and should be replaced by High German. Soon, the children of the middle class no longer learned Berlinisch in school. To this day, Berlinisch is not spoken in school, yet; somehow, every Berliner learns to speak the vernacular. Indeed, Berlinisch sounds a little rough around the edges, but it is a dialect with lots and lots of heart and honestly. It would be a shame if it disappeared.

So red't der Berliner by Wilhelm Franke, 1966, a guide to speaking "Berlinisch". www.walled-in-berlin.com

So red’t der Berliner by Wilhelm Franke, 1966, a guide to speaking “Berlinisch”. www.walled-in-berlin.com

(the history of the rise and fall of Berlinisch is taken from a small booklet, called “So red’t der Berliner” by Wilhelm Franke and was given to me by his daughter)

 

For a sneak peek at the first 20+ pages of my memoir, Walled-In: A West Berlin Girl’s Journey to Freedom, click “Download a free excerpt” on the home page of http://www.walled-in-berlin.com. Walled-In is my story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.