Posts Tagged ‘Heinrich Zille’

Corner hugging Nante – Eckensteher Nante

Thursday, June 4th, 2015

“Corner hugging Nante (Eckensteher Nante in German),” along with painter Heinrich Zille (http://walled-in-berlin.com/j-elke-ertle/heinrich-zille-and-his-milieu/) and street singer “Harfenjule”, were Berlin archetypes of the 19th and early 20th century. Each is credited with a good dose of the legendary spirit, so unique to the Berliner character: Big heart and big mouth. These Berlin originals were good-natured, quick-witted, exceedingly self-confident, flippant, and sometimes even a little coarse. They came from all walks of life and commented on life around them with the appropriate joke. The figure of Nante became a timeless classic on account of Adolf Glassbrenner’s folksy theater piece, “Eckensteher Nante im Verhoer (The Interrogation of Corner hugging Nante), which premiered in 1833.

Corner hugging Nante

The real name of the historic Eckensteher Nante was Ferdinand ‘Nante’ Strumpf. He was born in 1803, had little education and performed casual work when he ran out of beer money. Once he had earned enough change, he headed for the nearby distillery Eulner. http://www.in-berlin-brandenburg.com/Berliner/Eckensteher-Nante.html It is said that Corner hugging Nante spent more time in the distillery than at work. To earn beer money, Nante positioned himself on Berlin’s ritzy boulevard, Unter den Linden (then called Koenigstrasse – King Street) and waited for an opportunity to make himself useful. He always stood in the same spot at the corner of Koenigstrasse and Neue Friedrichstrasse. With a strap slung over his shoulder to carry heavy loads, Nante usually stood resting against a post or house wall. For a few pennies, he offered to carry the purchases or luggage of well-to-do passers-by. But don’t think that Corner hugging Nante was loitering. Not at all. He was duly registered as a serviceman with the Berlin police department and wore an official brass armband that identified him as work permit holder number 22. Standing there, waiting, Nante made fun of the world around him. With typical Prussian humor, he commented on the hustle and bustle on the streets of Berlin. His earthy sayings were characterized by sarcasm, a distrust of “those above” and delivered in the grammatical style that is unique to Berlin. Over time, his cheeky proverbs became literary legend.

The archetype of the Berliner

According to “Meyers Konversations-Lexikon des 19. Jahrhunderts” 37 percent of the inhabitants of Berlin during Nante’s time had Germanic origins, 39 percent had Romanesque roots and 24 percent had Slavic blood. This mix and the prevailing circumstances evolved over time into an archetype that pooled the good and the bad qualities of the different nationalities, races and tribes. It resulted in a character that combined the toughness, endurance and obstinacy of their Germanic ancestors; the courage, laissez-faire spirit and hot-bloodedness of the French; and the quick grasp, language skills and moodiness of the Slavs. This mix made the Berliner good-natured and capable of great sacrifices. It also made him short-tempered and opinionated. Above all, it spawned the dry Berlin humor.

Nante Eck

If you wish to catch a bit of the spirit of Eckensteher Nante, drop by the Nante Eck on Unter den Linden at the corner of Friedrichstrasse. This Old-Berlin Restaurant serves traditional German food and offers plenty of ambiance. A statue of Corner hugging Nante greets you outside.

ckensteher Nante (Corner hugging Nante) in front of Nante Eck, Berlin © Photo by J. Elke Ertle. 2014

Eckensteher Nante (Corner hugging Nante) in front of Nante Eck, Berlin
© Photo by J. Elke Ertle, 2014

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.

Heinrich Zille and his milieu

Thursday, May 21st, 2015

Heinrich Zille was a German illustrator and photographer and one of the most famous Berliners of the first half of the 20th century. He was best known for his tongue in cheek portrayals of Berlin’s working class. He sketched during the late 1900s and into the roaring 1920s. At that time, a great majority of the city’s population (96%) rented. http://www.focus.de/kultur/buecher/literatur-heinrich-zille-als-fotograf-das-alte-berlin_id_4374447.html

Workers’ lived in Mietskasernen

Berlin grew rapidly during the industrial revolution. In search of prosperity, scores of people moved from the countryside to the cities between 1860 and 1914. Unfortunately, the move often pushed them into even deeper poverty. Although menial work was available in Berlin, housing was extremely difficult to find. Many of these transplants ended up living in deplorable conditions. The most common accommodation was a one-room apartment in a Mietskaserne (tenement barracks). These barracks were five stories high and had front, rear, and cross buildings surrounding several courtyards. The relative posh front building housed the middle class. The working class occupied all of the back buildings. These structures in the rear might consist of three to eight building groups, separated by small rectangular courtyards. The courtyards were only large enough to allow for a fire truck to turn around. Entire families lived in a few square feet and under conditions that seem unimaginable today. Many lived in damp basements, attics and spaces under stairs. The windows of lower-level apartments were often blocked by courtyard businesses. Many shift workers shared a room and the same bed. Some of the buildings housed as many as 3,000 individuals (20% of the apartments did not have running water, 34% did not have a toilet and 72% did not have a bathroom). Stoves burning charcoal briquettes provided the heat. http://www.hufeisensiedlung.info/geschichte/stadtgeschichte/bevoelkerungswachstum-und-mietskasernen.html

Heinrich Zille sketches his milieu

Heinrich Zille sketched the social settings in which the Berlin working class went about their everyday business. Because he sketched the unpleasant and often hopeless conditions of the common worker, German Emperor Wilhelm II referred to Heinrich Zille as a “gutter artist.”

Zille’s milieu could be found in the courtyards of tenement buildings, in the back alleys and in seedy bars. His illustrations showed children, ragged and unwashed, dirty and with bloody noses. He sketched the dark entrances of the tenements, the hanky-panky in courtyards and stairwells and families at weekly markets. He sketched kids playing in mud, basement businesses with signs “Buying rags and bones” and mothers ready to drown themselves to escape their hopeless life.

Heinrich Zille's "Blumenerde" - potting soil - (reproduction, part of the Axel Springer collection and presented to customers of the Berliner Morgenpost

Heinrich Zille’s “Blumenerde” – potting soil – (reproduction, part of the Axel Springer collection and presented to customers of the Berliner Morgenpost)

Many of Heinrich Zille’s works can be seen at the Zille Museum in Berlin’s Nikolai Quarter of Berlin, Provost Strasse 11.

 

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 a story of growing up in Berlin during the Cold War.