Close
Close

Wolfgang Schivelbusch

Wolfgang Schivelbusch is writing a book about the intellectual culture of Berlin in the time of Weimar, the Nazis and the Cold War.

Turnip into Asparagus

Wolfgang Schivelbusch, 5 June 1997

When they first met and fell in love, in Berlin in 1924, Kurt Weill was 24 years old and already a name in the postwar world of modern music in Germany. Lenya, then still Karoline Wilhelmine Charlotte Blamauer and two years his senior, was a struggling actress-dancer. They met, appropriately enough, at the house of Georg Kaiser, a playwright concerned, like Wedekind, with the bourgeois mind and the temptations of sex. Blamauer-Lenya was the daughter of a Viennese coachman and, in the German Public Health Administration’s terminology, an HWG person. An HWG person (Person mit häufig wechselndem Gesch-lechtsverkehr, ‘with frequently changing sexual partners’) was not necessarily a prostitute – as the editors of these letters suggest the young Blamauer-Lenya was – but any kind of promiscuous female. In this, Blamauer-Lenya was not very unusual – at least not in postwar Berlin, where the male population had been decimated. She was, however, exceptional in the energetic way she went about her sexual adventures – she was certainly not the ‘sweet Viennese girl’ of Schnitzler’s novellas, whom men picked up and dropped at their leisure. A real-life Lulu (as Teresa Stratas once called her), Blamauer-Lenya herself did the picking and dropping, and went on doing so even once married to Weill.’

Read anywhere with the London Review of Books app, available now from the App Store for Apple devices, Google Play for Android devices and Amazon for your Kindle Fire.

Read More

Sign up to our newsletter

For highlights from the latest issue, our archive and the blog, as well as news, events and exclusive promotions.

Newsletter Preferences