Here are some dark and juicy facts about Berlin and Cabaret Culture in the 20’s!
- Post-war instability created an atmosphere in which societal values became more fluid and laid the foundation for the cultural shifts that occurred during the years of the Weimar Republic (1919 – 1933).
- Weimar Republic Germany was a hotbed of creativity, fostering innovation in virtually all art forms. Well known avant-garde movements that emerged from the era include Bauhaus (design and architecture), Epic Theatre, and German Expressionism (film and visual arts).
- Hyper-inflation was a major crisis in early 1920’s Germany. At the peak of inflation, money was worth less than the paper it was printed on and the middle class was effectively wiped out.
- Berlin was severely over-populated and overcrowding placed further stress on the urban society; in 1920 its population was 4.3 million. By comparison, Toronto’s population at the time was 0.5 million.
- Rampant poverty led to a rise in the popularity of Communism – in tandem with the emergence of National Socialism. The two movements often clashed, even resulting in violent street battles between militant gangs aligned with the two opposing ideologies.
- Due to the economic crisis, thousands of women and young men resorted to prostitution out of necessity. The almost ubiquitous presence of prostitutes in Berlin resulted in more open and laissez-faire attitudes towards sexuality, including homosexuality and queer culture.
- A thriving black market filled the void left by the collapsed currency-based economy. This in turn encouraged criminal activity and a robust recreational drug trade.
- Cabarets at the time ranged from large halls where beer and champagne flowed freely and nightly entertainment featured plenty of nudity and crass musical numbers, to more theatrical venues that tackled social issues often through a Marxist or satirical lens.
- Erotic entertainment was a large part of Berlin nightlife in the 20’s. It is estimated that at one time there were 500 erotic clubs in the city, including many that catered specifically to the gay, lesbian, and transsexual communities.