Rosa Wien: Gay Rights, Schlager and Self-Exile: 1918-1938
By Casey J. Hayes
So…What comes to mind when you hear the word “Cabaret”? Perhaps…Liza Minelli? Yet, however historically accurate this depiction of the 1920s Weimar Berlin cabaret scene may be (I doubt they had Liza or Bob Fosse) it was a more reserved cabaret culture that developed within the Austrian capitol; more quick conversation, jokes, political statements, and sentimental chansons; less drag queens and spectacle. It would have, I believe, looked much more accessible to the conservative Viennese and less like the pages from a Christopher Isherwood novel. Yet, there are many historical yet little-known events that played out at the intersection of the struggle for civil rights for western society’s gay communities, the National Socialist’s persecution of homosexuals, and the fate of some of Europe’s greatest performing artists self-exiled in Vienna. The wildly hedonistic world of German-speaking Cabaret would be the backdrop for a collision which resulted in the ultimate elimination of the art of the “Kleinkunstbuhne” throughout Central Europe.