The actress and singer Dorothea Gerson used the stage name of Dora Gerson. She was trained at the Max Reinhardt-schule for drama and the Volksbühne (‘People’s Theatre’) in Berlin. She was soon noticed and acquired a reputation with the Holtor Tournee Truppe in the same city. She acted in two feature films, led what was described as ‘rather a wild life’ and married Veit Harlan, a director who would later make nazi propaganda films like Jüd Suss. The couple were divorced.
In the 1930s Gerson performed as a chanteuse in the Netherlands with Louis Davids in the Kurhaus, Scheveningen, including Yiddish songs in her repertoire. She was the star of the German Jewish exile cabaret Ping Pong, which she founded together with Erwin Parker and Kurt Egon Wolff. In 1934 this company decided to go on tour in Switzerland to evade problems obtaining work permits for its foreign members. Dora stayed in Switzerland and was very popular there too, but even so, she later returned to Amsterdam. Ping Pong was disbanded, and Gerson performed in various revues and cabarets (including Cor Hermus’s ‘De Onwijze Kater’) and sang in the intermission in cinema performances and toured with Louis Davids and Jan Musch.
Dora Gerson made a great impression on the press, fellow artistes and the public. One journalist wrote:
‘The only person with whom she could be compared is Fien de la Mar, but her restrained air of dignity and poised style make her superior’.
In 1936 Dora married one of her admirers, the textiles merchant Max Sluizer. Her last appearance was in Wim Kan’s programme ‘De Zeven Joffers’ in the season 1938-1939; after that she devoted herself entirely to her two children. After a number of postponed escape attempts, the family set off towards the Swiss border in 1942. Dora refused to sedate her little daughter Miriam, and the child’s crying gave their presence away: the whole family was murdered in Auschwitz on 14 February 1943.
About Dora Gerson:
J. Klöters, Dora Gerson en het eerste emigrantencabaret Ping Pong in: K. Dittrich en H. Würzner (red.), Nederland en het Duitse Exil 1933-1940, (Amsterdam, 1982), 210-225. Met foto's.
P.H. Honig (red.)Acteurs- en Kleinkunstenaarslexicon. 3200 namen uit 100 jaar Nederlands toneel (Diepenveen 1984), 321.
Katja B. Zaich, Ich bitte dringend um ein Happyend. Deutsche Bühnenkünstler im niederländischen Exil 1933-1945 (Frankfurt am Main, 2001), 57-64; 231.
De cd Vorbei… Beyond Recall. A Record of Jewish musical life in Nazi Berlin, 1933-1938 (Bear Family Records BCD 16030-08, Hamburg, 2001) bevat opnamen van Dora Gerson.
In addition, a Jokos file (number 53720) on this family is at the Amsterdam Municipal Archive. Access is subject to authorization from the Stichting Joods Maatschappelijk Werk.