Published online by Cambridge University Press: 07 September 2018
I saw the political and social changes as if through a mist. A single thought excited me: my school years and my military service were over, and I had an entire life to spend however I wanted.
During the war I had been in charge of bringing two troop transports to General-von-Pape-Straße in Berlin, and during the trip I had been able to fulfill my greatest wish: I'd attended a [Max] Reinhardt production at the German Theater. I saw Othello with Paul Wegener in the title role. It was a brilliant performance in many respects, but it failed to attain the full scope and substance of Shakespearean drama, and I was disappointed. The second time, I went to a production of Wedekind's Earth Spirit on the Königgrätzerstraße stage, with Ludwig Hartau in the role of Dr. Schön. Wegener's Othello had been the product of meticulous intellectual craft smanship; Hartau was the first great actor I ever saw on stage. He was the decisive encounter for the direction my career was to take, a direction I'd first perceived in the clattering phonograph, in Marcel Salzer, and in the readings with my friends of the literary group. I wanted to be an actor. The only thing standing in my way was my father.
I signed a contract with a traveling theater for the roles of the youthful bon vivant. The director may have believed what I said about having performed small parts with the Posen City Theater, but he hired me for the good clothes I owned. Elegant civilian dress was very expensive and hard to come by after the war. I kept putting off mentioning the enterprise to my father, and the family discussions of where I would start my medical studies—wartime volunteers who had finished their high school education were exempted from admissions exams—continued harmoniously. When I finally told my father that I had decided to pursue a career on stage, and that I had already signed a contract, he laughed and walked out of the room. I got my suitcase and began to pack.