Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2018
Between 1931 and 1932, the death of the theater began in Berlin. What no one would have thought possible: Max Reinhardt gave up his five theaters and went to Vienna. The Rotter Brothers, leaseholders of many playhouses, fled from their debts to Liechtenstein. Long established theater managers vanished. Piscator at the Nollendorfplatz had given up early on, as had Charell at the Große Schauspielhaus. Heinrich Neft of the Volksbühne, proud never to have received a subsidy, was forced to ask the City of Berlin to support his Theater am Bülowplatz with 300,000 marks a year. Temporary engagements, some of which lasted no more than a single month, played to empty houses.
I ended my lease with the owners of the Theater am Schiffbauerdamm at the end of the 1931 season. The summer with its huge expenses, the theater's location in the dead central city, and the scarcity of appealing plays helped me in my resolve to leave. Our profits were a third of what they had been, and the wages for a stage actor boosted sky-high by the advent of sound fi lm. There were only isolated, sensational hits, and only three stars, [Elisabeth] Bergner, Richard Tauber and Hans Albers, could fi ll an auditorium.
The economic crisis intensified; unemployment was at four million. The Deutsche Bank closed its counters. In order to prevent a rush of panic, the banks and the savings and loan institutions limited withdrawals to 200 marks for a time.
I founded the Ernst Joseph Aufricht Production Company following the American, or the English, model. No longer obligated to enforce the daily rise of the curtain, I could take time to find a suitable play, one that could be cast as its roles demanded. I could try out a play in the provinces, then choose any one of the distressed theaters in Berlin. Size and character of an auditorium are important elements in the success of a production.
I rented a ground floor space at Kantstraße 162, on the corner of Joachimstaler Straße, and arranged my office there. Returning in 1954 I would find as my successors to these rooms the “Remde's St. Pauli” nightclub and striptease.