In Dachau at a Summer Resort

Die Presse (10/11/2004)

The Theater Museum Displays an Exhibit on Fritz Grünbaum in 2005
Daniela Tomasovsky

A Researcher of Theater and an Historian Take on the Biography of the Great Cabaret Artist

Karl Farkas explains to Fritz Grünbaum the meaning of Albert Einstein: "Alright, listen - Einstein said, time and space are relative concepts." Grünbaum: "To whom did he say that? You?" Farkas: "No!! In general, he said that everything is relative. For example, sit down nude for one minute over a glowing burner on the stove." Grünbaum: "It would never occur to me in my wildest of dreams!" Farkas: "But, only as an example!" Grünbaum: "For example, you sit down! I’m not such an idiot!"

"Conversation About Einstein" is the title of one of the episodes that Fritz Grünbaum and Karl Farkas staged in the Simpl. The two became acquainted in 1921: As a person sitting in the audience at the Cabaret, Simplizissimus, Grünbaum tried to rattle the master of poetry improvization, Farkas, by interjecting comments. He counterattacked him; suddenly the two outbid each other in a witty exchange of blows and the dual began.

In April of 2005, Fritz Grünbaum’s birthday will be celebrated for the 125th time. It will be an occasion for the historian, Marie-Theres Arnbom and Christoph Wagner-Trenkwitz, to become involved with the cabaret artist, librettist of the operetta and revues, script writer and actor. In a project of the Austrian Science Fund (FWF), they want to reconstruct Grünbaum’s life and sift through his works. "First of all, we canvassed the archives - not only in Austria, but in many different places where one can find traces of Grünbaum: In Brünn, where he was born, in Wien, where he studied, in Berlin, where he spent a number of years, and in Karlsbad, where he frequently played in guest performances," said Arnbom. And one finds something rather astounding - in Brünn, he had founded an association of artists and had invited Arthur Schnitzler to his reading. In the Mährisch-schlesischer Korrespondent (Moravian-Silesian Correspondent), we found a review stating that the ladies from Brünn apparently came to see not so much the poet but the handsome man. And the review also comments that he read rather half-heartedly."

Records from the archives of censorship belonging to the office of the Governor of Lower Austria, which are kept today in the archives there, reveal: "Any texts that were to be presented on stage for the first time had to first be censored. Expressions such as ‘lower classes of people’ were not allowed, or ‘Franzl Prohaska,’ the pseudonym for Kaiser Franz Josef, was crossed out.

Also photos, textbooks on operettas, theater and cabaret repertoire were discovered by the two researchers. The idea is a big Grünbaum exhibit in the Theatermuseum. "Moreover, we want to help make Grünbaum’s work popular again. We hope to do this by staging two evenings in the Volksoper, which show a cross section of Grünbaum’s works - from operettas, like Dollar Princess set to music by Leo Fall, and from songs to his rhymed monologues. The high point of the evening is the comeback of Karlheinz Hackl, who together with Heinz Marecek, will perform some verbal exchanges. And the Austrian Film Archive will do a film retrospective. Grünbaum acted in as many as ten films.

As Arnbom claims, it is not easy to reconstruct what Grünbaum left behind since he had no children, and after his death in the Dachau concentration camp, everything he had was dispersed throughout the world. Also the whereabouts of his extensive art collection is uncertain. At least two Schiele are going to be part of the the exhibit: "The Dead City," and "Two Girls Embracing."

Arnbom has preoccupied herself considerably with Grünbaum’s time spent in the concentration camp: "Grünbaum, who forever was making fun of the Nazis in his performances, was clearly hated by them. They literally tortured him to death. One survivor described how Grünbaum was forced to lie on the floor with his tongue sticking out while German soldiers wiped their boots on it until it was a bloody clump of flesh."

Despite the atrocious conditions in the concentration camps of Dachau and Buchenwald, Grünwald never lost his humor. :"He always organized cabaret evenings and entertained his fellow sufferers for a few untroubled hours." The exhibition will also show a poster, which the historian, Gerald Stourzh, has called attention to: "In July 1938 there was an exhibit in Vienna entitled, "The Eternal Jew." The poster shows photos of Jewish inmates in concentration camps, among which is Fritz Grünbaum. At the bottom it states: Jews and Jewish Laborers in Dachau at a Summer Resort. "That is gruesome," said Arnbom.

The two researchers have another goal: "We want that a commemorative plaque be erected at Grünbaum’s place of birth in Brünn. Currently a branch of McDonald’s occupies the house...."

Austrian Theater Museum: Exhibit from February 2 - May 5, 2005 (; Volksoper Wien: "Grüß mich Gott!" (Greet me God!) Grünbaum Evening on February 13 and 17, 2005 (; Retrospective in the Metro Cinema (