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Lowinsky’s Kabarett


The German term “Kabarett” usually denotes a form of  cabaret with a focus on political satire, often hosted by an acerbic conférencier (English: Emcee). Kabarett differs slightly from the modern-day interpretation of traditional cabaret. The first known modern cabaret, “Le Chat Noir”, was established on November 15, 1881 by Rodolphe Salis in Montmartre, Paris, but it closed its doors in 1897. It is specifically the legacy of Berlin's celebrated cabaret culture that remains an important chapter in the history of entertainment, art, and social change.

Kabarett der Namenlosen (or Cabaret of the Nameless) was the title of a Weimar Era cabaret that existed in Berlin from around 1925 until 1932. The concept was originally conceived by Erich “Elow” Lowinsky (1893-1978) and took place on Monday evenings at the Monbijou Café (formerly known as the Weisse Maus Cabaret) located at Jägerstraße 18 in Mitte, Berlin. This cabaret achieved both success (critics panned it) and controversy. Its fundamental idea was that anyone, regardless of experience or talent could apply and be guaranteed acceptance. In response to his first newspaper advertisement, Elow purportedly received over 180 replies. He would then showcase approximately 15 amateur acts on stage, pre-selecting only the most deluded, talentless, and sometimes even mentally unstable applicants. Kabarett der Namenlosen is also mentioned in Erich Kästner's novel Fabian, also known as Going To The Dogs: The Story of a Moralist (first published in 1931). In the novel, Kästner refers to the cabaret as The Anonymous Cabaret, and Elow is renamed as “Caligula.” 

(Source: Erich Lowinsky – Cabaret Berlin)


The fight for gay rights in Germany started as early as the late 1800’s. Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, a German “sexologist and human rights campaigner for the LGBTQ community, founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee in May 1897 as a subset of Berlin's Institute for the Science of Sexuality. Not only was this organization the first of its kind in Germany, it was the first gay-rights organization in the world to lobby for the rights of gay, lesbian, and transgender people, with a focus on legal representation. The anthem Das Lila Lied (The Lavender Song) from 1920 was dedicated to Hirschfield by Micha Spoliansky (under the pseudonym Arno Billing), perhaps fearing retribution and possible arrest. The lyrics are defiant and the music has a “marching” like quality. The song was very popular with lesbians and could often be heard in gay nightclubs.

In 1933 many nightclubs were forced to close, especially queer venues. The Eldorado, aka Tanzlokale für Herrenone (located in Motzstraße in Schoneberg) was one of the largest gay, lesbian and transvestite clubs in Berlin and was shut down nine days after a “Public Morality” directive that gay bars, clubs and cafes be closed. And so began the beginning of the end for thousands of gays, lesbians, drag queens and transvestites in pre-war Berlin. In October 1932, the gay scene was dealt an almost fatal blow when the Chief of Police ordered a ban on same-sex couples dancing in public. It was the end for The Eldorado.

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