The fashionable Barbarina tanzpalast or night-club was situated at 18 Hardenbergstrasse in the Charlottenberg district of Berlin and was allegedly founded in 1921. It became one of the most prestigious of all dance-restaurants in Berlin in the Jazz Age of the 1920s.
The Barberina tanzpalast was named after the celebrated Italian dancer and mistress of Frederick the Great. From the sidewalk you walked 20 feet or so through a trellised gate to the entrance.
The venue was beautifully decorated and appointed in a rococo style with a red and gold motif. For some the interior was both garish and ornate. It consisted of a large room that was intimate and luxurious with mirrored walls and red plush carpeting.
There was a small, central dancing area that was about 15-25 feet. Facing the entrance on the farthest side was a raised front area for the band set above the floor by a few feet with two booths on either side. The musicians came onto the bandstand from the service bar area located at the back. Encircling the dance floor in a circular arrangement around the edge of the room were over 25 tables and groupings of 2-4 chairs. Private gilded booths or loges punctuated the edge of the room and set two feet above the main floor. There were a second tier of booths almost like balconies about ten feet above. On every table was a telephone by which anyone could communicate with anyone else. There was also a separate bar area as sumptuous as the dance hall itself and a small garden. Presumably the kitchens and wine store were in the basement.
Originally the venue had been a small opera house built within an apartment building erected in 1886. The Barberina opened in 1921 but it is not known exactly when. Equally, it is not known who owned it and converted it into a restaurant. According to the author Knud Wolfram the venue had been converted into a restaurant on the ground floor and it had been a Russian restaurant. It is estimated that after the Russian revolution in 1917 there were anything from 50,000 Russian refugees in Berlin. Russian businesses boomed and Charlottenburg was the favoured district so much so that it was called Charlottengrad. Russian restaurants and cabarets proliferated such as the Bear, the Coq d’Or, the Russian Tea Room, the Bluebird and the Allaverdi.
The Chicago Tribune observed ‘the Barberina reminds one of a rococo theatre in the style so familiar in the courts of princes of the 18th century. There are charming balcony loges, light flooded terraces and a miniature stage on which one sees internationally known artists. And the best music and cooking.’ It was also described as ‘charming’ and ‘noted for its genial atmosphere’ by Variety.
The location of the Barberina tanzpalast initially proved auspicious as it was very close to the newest of film studios created by the American film company Famous Players Lasky. Albert Kaufman arrived in Berlin in early 1921 to set up a film production centre and created EFA – the European Film Alliance with the construction of a new studio on Augusta Viktoria Platz where Hardenbergstrasse ran into the Kurfstendamm. The Barberina was described at the time as ‘the newest, the smartest and the most popular restaurant in Berlin’ and the studio was opposite and further down the Hardenbergstrasse on the site that became the UFA Palast am Zoo.
It was observed that previously ‘the’ rendezvous of Berlin was the Palais Heinroth (at 8 Kantstrasse) but it had now lost its vogue and the Barberina had taken its place. The film stars, directors and producers including Al Kaufman and the actress Pola Negri (who in late 1921 spent some time showing Charlie Chaplin the sights of Berlin) all flocked over the road to the Barberina ‘where exclusiveness is retailed to them for a few hundred extra marks.’
Interviewed in the Barberina tanzpalast, Pola Negri said ‘I’ll be glad to leave Berlin … the atmosphere here is too depressing. Here we are dancing and drinking champagne, our table smothered in flowers, while less than a block away there are men and women and what is worse, little children without enough to eat. We’re dancing on the abyss you know.’
Sadly, the Famous Players Lasky experiment with EFA failed and the company declared bankruptcy in late 1922, but the Barberina had been put on the map and continued to flourish.
Within a short space of time, the Barberina tanzpalast became internationally well-known and regarded by the English, French and American press as one of the most classiest and salubrious of Berlin night-haunts. Berliners considered it to be first class and catered to the happy go lucky dance crowd and a smart sophisticated clientele. Although most of the German aristocracy preferred the refinement provided by the Eden, Esplanade Adlon or Kaiserhof hotels, the ultra-fashionable and international set who frequently went there to dine and dance would afterward go to the Barberina.
On 1st December 1923 it was announced by Billboard that the Barberina had re-opened as a cabaret de luxe with a first class programme. The director and presumably owner was Oscar Cremer who was also the director (owner or manager) of the Hotel Esplanade on the Baltic Sea coastal area of Heringsdorf not far from Swinemunde. The area was described as the German Atlantic City and both places were regarded as ‘super’ seaside resorts.
Since all foreign performers were still prohibited in Germany, the first cabaret programme in December 1923 was made up of all-German acts and included Manni Ziener, Viktor Schwannecke, Ernst Hoffman, Gunther Hess, Anita Anaessen, Erich Kaiser-Titz, Julius Kuthan and Mischa Spolianski. The artistic director at the time was Harry Lamberts-Paulsen who had been born in Hamburg in 1895 and was a successful comedian and cabaret artist who had also appeared in some films. The hugely influential Mischa Spolianski was a Russian born composer of cabaret and revue songs. He had started out playing piano in cafes and movie theatres and by 1924 had already had huge success in various top Berlin cabarets such as Schall und Rauch and Kabarett der Komiker.
By January 1924, the artistic direction had switched to the stage and film actor Fritz Hirsch (State Theater) with musical direction from Mischa Spolianski, who had already been appearing at the Barberina in late 1923. The acts, once again all German, included Sascha Gura, Juliette Boulan, Max Bing, Henry Lorencen, Mizi Massareck, Elli Glassner, Anne Marie Korff, Herrm Laurence, Arnim Saffers and Fritz Hirsch.
There was a new line-up in February 1924. Once again, the artistic director was Fritz Hirsch with musical director Mischa Spolianski. The German acts were Kitty Aschenbach, Lajos Szendy, Marianne Berger, Ingrid Holgar, Hilde Immer, Lajos Szendy, Tilly V. Schoning, Fred Hutten and Traugott Mller.
We must remember that Cremer directed the Barberina tanzpalast through extremely difficult times in Berlin during the period 1921-1924. The effects of war reparations were crippling and spiralling inflation hit a peak in mid 1923 with political turmoil on the left and right. This period of hyper-inflation must have caused serious disruption to the Barberina and may be why, sometime in 1924, Cremer sold the Barberina to Georg Tichauer.
Georg and his brother Dagobert, became a well-known Berlin cabaret firm in the 1920s. Like so many other entertainment and hospitality businesses in Berlin, the family were Jewish, which later became a serious issue under the Nazi’s. Georg was born 11th April 1889 in Oberglogau, Poland and Dagobert was born 20th October 1883 in Konigshutte, Poland. There were several other brothers: Erwin, Ludwig, Artur and Max, (the latter died in 1918). Their parents were Josef and Bertha and when Joseph died in 1890 the children were placed in an orphanage.
According to the author David Manson (based on family recollectons) Georg was ‘artisitically talented’ and ‘had a strong entrepreneurial flair.’ While living in Stettin, Georg became a window dresser then a designer and also a manager or owner of a cinema. It would appear that both Georg and Dagobert moved between Stettin and Berlin since Dagobert married Kaethe Markstein in 1911 in Charlottenburg, Berlin, Georg married Herta Greifenhagen in 1914 in Stettin and their mother, Bertha, died in Charlottenburg in 1913. Georg and Herta’s only child Willy (later to become Willy Tirr after the War and living in Leeds, England) was born in Stettin in 1915 but grew up in Berlin.
Either during, or shortly after World War 1, George made his mark dealing in property. He ‘demonstrated great energy, business acumen and strength of character.’
Georg owned and ran the Viktoria Hotel in Swinemunde (now on the edge of Poland and 40 miles from Stettin) in the 1920s and with his brother Dagobert they were business partners in the venue Germania Weinstuben located at 110 Chausseestraße, Berlin. However, in May 1921 they both gave up their involvement that reverted to businessman Theodor Bergemann in Berlin-Halensee and Mrs. Ww. Marie Bergemann née Rohrbeck in Berlin Schoneberg who were appointed managing directors. In March 1922 Georg took over the Kakadu Weinrestaurant from Erich Flatow in Charlottenburg in a limited partnership with an unknown partner. From April 1923 the company was called Kakadu Weistuben Georg Tichauer and Company. Finally, by 1926, the Tichauer family were running at least three venues – the Barberina, the Kakadu and the Valencia – all in close proximity to each other.
By the summer of 1924 restrictions for the engagement of foreign acts had been lifted. Under Georg Tichauer, the Barberina became a favoured rendezvous for English, American and Parisian artistes who were conducting a ‘continental tour’. Usually, the Barberina showcased 8 variety acts on a monthly or bi-monthly contract. Dancing acts were especially featured and many acts doubled from such places as the Wintergarten, Admiralspalast and Scala theatres. It was also a place where key continental and American jazz bands could appear. Once again, the Chicago Tribune observed in 1929 that the Barberina tanzpalast was one of three dance establishments in the style of New York and London cabarets (the other two were the Casanova and Ambassadeurs) that were the most famous, the most exclusive and the most mondaine in the German capital.
The first listing of performers at the Barberina tanzpalast under Tichauer comes from September 1924 announcing the Eric Borchard American Jazz Band as the resident jazz band along with the Russian dancers the Bolgaroff Troupe and a dancing duo called Sprinz and partner. By October 1924 the British ensemble The London Sonora Band headed by drummer and saxophonist Bobbie Hind had residency at the Barberina through March 1925. Hind’s band had premiered at the Scala in September 1924 and may have doubled at the Barberina. During December 1924 the acts comprised Eda Harloff, Guido Harper, Janos and Olivia, Sonja Gusson, Lorenzon, Arco and Essmanoff, Nicolaleva Eugenie and Pug Muck.
From April to June 1925 the resident band was the American Alex Hyde and his Romance of Rhythm orchestra. Hyde had been born in Germany and had enjoyed successes at the Piccadilly Hotel, London during the run of the Dolly’s Revels cabaret show from February – June 1924. Thereafter, the band spent several months at the Deutsches Theater in Munich from June 1924 before moving to Berlin in the Spring of 1925. During this period Hyde had a good recording contract for His Master’s Voice Gramophone Company.
In late May 1925 Berlin was buzzing with the arrival of the black jazz troupe Chocolate Kiddies a musical revue that began an 8-week run at the Admirals Palast from 25th May. Presented under the direction of Arthur Lyons who had staged the Club Alabam Revue in New York the music was provided by Sam Wooding’s Orchestra also from the Club Alabam. Shortly after the launch at the Admirals Palast the entire troupe were guests of honour at the Barberina (described as Berlin’s leading and fashionable dance-restaurant or club) and Berlin’s gilded youth fought for the privilege of dancing with one of the ‘girls’. It is not too much to assume that Sam Wooding took up a residency at the Barberina doubling at the Admirals Palast and that some of the members of Chocolate Dandies also performed there in the summer of 1925.
Another black orchestra arrived in late 1926 in the form of Arthur Briggs and his Savoy Syncopators Orchestra. They had a lengthy residency from 1st October 1926 through April 1927. Briggs was an American trumpeter who went to Europe in 1919 with Will Marion Cook’s Southern Syncopated Orchestra. In 1922 he founded his Savoy Syncopators Orchestra in Brussels but played in Vienna and in Germany through the 1920s. Although Briggs had a long run not everyone was appreciative and one rather racist reporter in B.Z. am Mittag referred to Briggs as ‘the terrible black Negro who wanted to educate Berliners to African music.’
During Briggs residency one of the major acts to perform in late 1926 and perhaps early 1927 was the young American song and dance comedian Jack Forrester who doubled at the Valencia. The Valencia was Georg Tichauer’s new venture at 8 Kantstrasse and had been the restaurant Palais Heinroth that opened in 1926. Forrester had arrived in Paris in August 1926 and had been dancing with Marion Chambers before arriving in Berlin. He was also later to achieve success in two shows at the Casino de Paris in Paris and became a successful film producer and businessman.
At this time Georg’s nightclub business with the Barberina tanzpalast and the Valencia was at the height of its success. Author David Manson said that ‘Georg was an immensely popular man about town.’ He was wealthy and had a chauffeur driven limousine but he was also a drinker and womaniser. By 1929, and most likely before this date, Georg and his family lived at 10 Bismarckstr, Wannsee – a very salubrious lake side address.
In April 1927 Briggs was followed by the German Hermann Rohrbeck and his Don Perico jazz orchestra and the show featured the dancer Risa von Dombay, the acrobatic dancer Silvia Melfis, Les Alexejeff, Jonny Bings, Tamara Iwanowa and Mildred O’Keefe (in ‘brilliance in Pointe and Fantasy Dances’) and two dancing couples Caligari and Mariette and Severa and Tervano. Elli Glassner was also on the bill and may have been the MC or conferencier.
Elli Glassner (named variously Elle or Ellis) had appeared at the Barberina tanzpalast before and according to one report was the hostess or conferencier at the Barberina. She was apparently unattractive but authoritative and commanded a certain following among Berliners. She was also ‘fond’ of Arthur Briggs, so she may have been the MC during Arthur Brigg’s residency at the Barberina. However, it has not been possible to identify an Elli Glassner in any records. I wonder if she was in fact Erika Glassner? Erika Glassner was a brunette dancer, cabaret artiste and actress and a star of German silent films. She was the daughter of a painter and sister to an opera singer. She had the role of Mistress of Ceremonies ‘ in Erik Charell’s revue Von Mund zu Mund (From Mouth to Mouth) in August 1926 but due to illness Marlene Dietrich took her place and became a resounding hit.
There was a complete change of programme for May 1927 with Ellen Li, the Roeder Duo, Vera d’Arcy, the two Barrisons, Sera Achmed, Graziella Raymond, Wiesberg Rochilla, Pays with Janine Roussel, Ruth Bayton and Ben Tiber.
Bayton was a celebrated black dancer who had been part of Lew Leslie’s troupe From Dixie to Dover Street in London (1923) and then Blackbirds of 1926 in Paris (1926). She made the big time in Berlin and became as well-known as Josephine Baker was in Paris. She was signed to appear in the revue Der Zag Nach dem Westen staged at the Theatre des Westen in Berlin (1926) that also played Vienna. She was then seen with Ben Tyber in Wissen Sie Shon (1927) also at the Theatre des Westen. The show ran for a few months from March 1927 before going on tour and so she may have doubled at the Barberina.
In addition, there were two famed dancing teams from the Paris Music Hall that of Tamarina and Fredoff and Roberts and Tamara.
In the summer of 1927, the English dancer Lilian Tolliss appeared at the Barberina tanzpalast in ‘Dances Unique’ and then danced at the Alhambra Prague (in September) and the Bristol Bar in Brunn (October). By November 1927 Bernard Ette and his Orchestra were installed and the programme included the Derby Sisters (English singers and dancers), Su and Matra (humorist dancers), Glenn Ellyn (dancer), Renee Teepuppen (Dancer), Jasko-Jayeko-Mori (Japanese dancers), Phil Arnold (American dancer), The two Maningoes and Tamarina and Fredhoff (from the Olympia, Paris who had also appeared in May 1927).
By December 1927 along with Bernard Ette Orchestra, the performers were Roussanowa and Demine, Bea Zoltana (the Hungarian dancer), Irmgard Borchardt, Iris White, Elli Glassner, Baby Benders, Otto Clemente, H. Andre, Tera Guinoh (the Parisian dancer who had been at the Trocadero in Hamburg in November) and Christiane and Duroy (celebrated Parisian dancing team who had been at the Berlin Scala in November).
Presumably the programme changed every month or so in 1928 and 1929 but there are few references available as to any detail of who was performing. However, in early 1928 at the there was German band under the direction of Wilhelm Stern.
Sometime in late 1928 or early 1929 Georg Tichauer expanded his grouping of cabaret venues with the addition of a totally new rendezvous called the Ambassadeurs, described in March 1929 as the ‘Tanzpalast des Westens’ and in August 1929 as ‘the de Luxe restaurant of West Berlin.’ The new venue was listed at 17 Hardenbergstrasse so in the same building as the Barberina or most likely simply next door.
The programme of acts was shared by both the Barberina tanzpalast and the Ambassadeurs tanzpalast. Special agents were sent to París and London to book talent of the best calibre and Eddie Dulsberg, the Scala đírector, acted as agent and booker of many of the acts for the Barberina and the Ambassadeurs. So, for example in March 1929 there were the two Morrisons (Les Maurissons), the Ray Sisters (Folly & Yolande Ray), Vonine and Welson, Ermosilla, Paula Wray, Signe Selid, Juanita Casanova, Ernest and Yvonne and Accent and Jenesco (Janesko). There were two orchestra’s playing – the Canaro Tango Orchestra and Lud Gluskin and his Orchestra.
in August 1929, the main attraction was the female American music troupe called the Bon John Jazz Girls with the dancer Ruth Hiller, the Spanish dancing of Nana de Herrera, another dancer called Casetta Blanca, Galina Sazerina, Fred Berger, the Barry Twins and the dancing couples Les Costas and Jasper and Winifred. Elli Glassner re-appeared and acted as MC or hostess.
Hal Jasper and Yvonne Winifred were a British dancing duo and called ‘leg mania dancers.’ In April 1929 they had completed a four-month tour of the continent that included Belgium, France, Holland and Germany and, at some point, an engagement at the Barberina Cabaret, followed by a second engagement for one month in August 1929.
In late 1929 another all girl band called the Hollywood Redheads led by Babe Egan performed at the Barberina and the Ambassadeurs and in October 1929, Jack Browning, described as ‘the Demon Dancer’ was seen having just concluded a successful revue engagement at the China Theatre Stockholm. At about the same time the American acrobatic dancers the Irwin Sisters (Patsy and Billie) performed following several years in Paris and a trip of several months to Buenos Aires in the late summer of 1929.
Incidentally, the Bon John. Girls and the Hollywood Red Heads were booked right from the Wintergarten at salaries ranging between $1,000 and $1,250 weekly for a two-month solid booking.
But all was not good. The Wall Street crash must have had serious repercussions and the state of the economy in Germany was still precarious. Berlin’s luxury establishments went through a major crisis that came to a head in early 1930. One of the main luxury gourmet and cabaret companies the Voss ‘concern’ or ‘syndicate’ that operated The Palais am Zoo, Admirals-Casino, Tauentzien palast, Wien Berlin and Libelle collapsed. At the same time the Barberina and the Ambassadeurs were also in severe difficulty with payment difficulties. It was observed that Georg Tichauer and his company had over-reached themselves following the expense of constructing the Ambassadeurs and then large salary bills for various acts, which in some instances they could not pay. At a review of company operations, there was a temporary closure in January 1930 as the finances were re-organised and a plan initiated to pay creditors. What is clear is that after 1930, as a result of these financial issues, Georg’s prosperity declined.
What happened next is not clear, but the Barberina tanzpalast did continue. In early 1931 the famous dance orchestra Mischa from the Moulin Rouge in Vienna was playing at the Barberina and Ambassadeurs. In September 1932 the Chicago Tribune thought the trio of the Barberina, the Ambassadeurs and the Valencia were regarded as ‘the last word in luxury’ and observed that ‘orchestras of the highest class’ were engaged and special variety acts were offered.
With the rise to power of the National socialists during 1933 and Hitler’s accession to the role of Fuhrer – as such dictator – in August 1933, the writing was on the wall it terms of where Germany was heading with the suspension of civil liberites, the elimination of political opposition and persecution of German Jews. What this exactly meant for Georg Tichauer, his family, his business empire and in particular his three nightclub ventures is not entirely clear.
After 1933 (if not before) any association with a jew proved to be dangerous and Georg Tichaeur’s non-jewish business partner decided to leave the business. This may have forced Georg to sell-up and as a result his fortune and social standing disappeared.
Certainly, by October 1936 the Barberina tanzpalast was under new management. Variety thought it to be ‘the same charming place’ but it had settled down as a kind of ‘smalltime nitery’. The entertainment still consisted of eight acts but the total salary bill did not reach the figure paid formerly to one act in the early 1930s. There was a femme MC or conferencier called Grete Gravenhorst, who ushered in William Petras (comedy juggler); The Schmettan Sisters, (contortionists); the Mimosa and Caballero Trio (dancers); the Three Rialmas (tumblers); Nita Nerowa (gypsy dancer); Dagmar (toe dancer); and two dance bands.
In 1939 the milk management association Kurmark took the building over but it was destroyed in the war. Currently a brand-new building occupies the site housing the Technische Universität Berlin.
Thankfully, both Georg and Dagobert escaped Nazi Germany in the late 1930s but for some reason both hesitated before getting out. According to the author David Manson, Georg and Herta had lost all their wealth and were living in near poverty in a poor suburb of Berlin and ‘could not accept that good Germans as they were, could meet with such persecution.’ In early 1938 they paid someone to drive them to the Dutch border and crossed into Holland and from there travelled to England. They finally settled in Leeds and their son Willy, who also escaped via Holland, joined them. Willy, a painter, settled into a career in Leeds and became head of Fine Art at Leeds Polytechnic. Georg died in 1953. Dagobert took a taxi to Paris and via Belgium travelled to Rio de Janerio in April 1939 where he died in 1947.
All images (unless specified in the caption) and text © copyright Gary Chapman / Jazz Age Club and must not be re-used without prior consent
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung 4/1/30
Deutsche Allgemeine Zeitung, Mittwoch Morgen 15/1/30
Chicago Tribune 29/4/29
Chicago Tribune 5/5/31
Chicago Tribune 9/9/32
Evening Star (Washington) 8/10/22
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Berliner Börsen-Zeitung 23/4/23
The Stage 12/3/25
The New Age 6/6/25
The Stage 11/8/27
The Stage 18/4/29
The Stage 25/7/29
The Stage 26/9/29
The Tatler 28/5/30
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Berliner Tageblatt und Handels-Zeitung 13/6/23
Berliner Tageblatt und Handels-Zeitung 1/1/24
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Paris Soir 4/11/27
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Anzdielen und vergnügungspaläste by Knud Wolfram
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