Skip to content
Licensed Unlicensed Requires Authentication Published by De Gruyter December 1, 2014

»Heimat im Koffer.« – »Oder über das Emigrantendasein. (Falls nicht zu traurig).«

Deutsch-österreichisch-jüdisches Kabarett im amerikanischen Exil

Joachim Schlör
From the journal Aschkenas


The idea to create and stage a play called »Heimat im Koffer« – »A home in the suitcase« – emerged, I presume, in Vienna shortly before Austria became part of National Socialist Germany in 1938: the plot involved the magical translocation of a typical Viennese coffeehouse, with all its inhabitants and with the songs they sang, to New York; their confrontation with American everyday life and musical traditions would create the humorous situations the authors hoped for. Since 1933, Robert Gilbert (Robert David Winterfeld, 1899–1978), the son of a famous Jewish musician and himself a most successful writer of popular music for film and operetta in Weimar Germany, found himself in exile in Vienna where he cooperated with the journalist Rudolf Weys (1898–1978) and the piano artist Hermann Leopoldi (1888–1959). Whereas Gilbert and Leopoldi emigrated to the United States and became a part of the German-Jewish and Austrian-Jewish emigré community of New York – summarizing their experience in a song about the difficulty to acquire the new language, »Da wär’s halt gut, wenn man Englisch könnt« (1943) – Weys survived the war years in Vienna. After 1945, Gilbert and Weys renewed their contact and discussed – in letters kept today within the collection of the Viennese Rathausbibliothek – the possibility to finally put »Heimat im Koffer« on stage. The experiences of exile, it turned out, proved to be too strong, and maybe too serious, for the harmless play to be realized, but the letters do give a fascinating insight into everyday-life during emigration, including the need to learn English properly, and into the impossibility to reconnect to the former life and art.

Online erschienen: 2014-12-1
Erschienen im Druck: 2014-12-1

© De Gruyter 2014