Historical Figures

Ida Honor - the mother courage of the theater

She is considered the "Mother Courage" of theatre. Former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt called it a "gateway to the world". A coincidence during the war brought the Jewess Ida Honor to Hamburg.

When the actress, founder and principal of the Hamburger Kammerspiele died on February 16, 1989, the Hanseatic city honored her honorary citizen with a state ceremony. Schmidt's words, like those of the other speakers, make it clear what the "Grande Dame" of the theater meant for the Hanseatic city. "She brought Anouilh and Giraudoux and Sartre, Gogol, Max Frisch - she brought us all the great playwrights of the world, whose names we young people didn't even know! It was - in the midst of a mental and physical desert - a very unique one , unrepeatable performance", Schmidt praised his good friend. As a "lighthouse", Ida Ehrlich helped returnees from the concentration camps, prisons, bunkers and battlefields to find their way after the Second World War.

Professional ban and failed departure

In the Third Reich, the National Socialists banned the Jewess Ida Ehrlich from working.

Even in the Third Reich, Ida honor barely escaped death. Born on July 9, 1900 in Prerau/Moravia, the daughter of a head cantor had the desire to become an actress very early on. She trained at the Vienna Academy for Music and Performing Arts. Engagements follow, among others, in Bielitz-Biala in Silesia, in Budapest, Königsberg, Stuttgart, Mannheim and Berlin. In 1933, the National Socialists banned the Jew from working, and only the "privileged mixed marriage" with the doctor Dr. Bernhard Heyde, whom she met at a guest performance in Stuttgart and who refuses to dissolve the marriage, enables Ida Ehrlich to survive the years of Nazi rule.

Initially, she assisted as a medical assistant in her husband's practice in Böblingen. When a stone was thrown into the Heydes' bedroom during the Kristallnacht on November 9, 1938, the family decided to leave Germany. In 1939, the two of them board an emigrant ship in Hamburg with their little daughter Ruth. The destination is Chile, but shortly before the Azores the ship has to return because the Second World War has broken out. As she describes it in her biography "God has a bigger head, my child...", Ida Honor is practically washed ashore in Hamburg with her small family.

Just barely escaped deportation

Despite her "mixed marriage", Ida Ehrlich's life is constantly in danger. Because of her marriage, she does not have to wear a Jewish star, but she is forbidden to go to concerts, the cinema or the theater or even to sit on a park bench. In 1943 she was sent to the Fuhlsbüttel concentration camp for a few weeks because a film team from the "Wochenschau" selected her from the queue at a food distribution and she did not dare refuse the request to be allowed to film her receiving the food. Shortly thereafter, the Gestapo fetched Ida Honor from her home - she had fooled the German people with her appearance in front of the camera instead of saying who she was.

According to her own memories, Ida Ehrlich was only released because her husband went to school with Hitler's Reichsfuhrer of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, and wrote him a letter describing the situation. Shortly before the end of the war, Ida Ehre is to be drafted for a "labor assignment", which means nothing other than deportation. A friend of the family, the actress Marianne Wischmann, hid them until the end of the war. The Nazi era had a greater impact on her than the forty years of theater after 1945, Ida Ehrlich writes later in her biography.

Ida Ehrlich's credo:love instead of hate

Shortly after the end of the war, Ida honor founded the Hamburger Kammerspiele.

The actress writes that her own mother gave her the courage to believe that she could survive the horrors of the Nazi era. From her mother, who was killed by the Nazis in the Theresienstadt concentration camp, Ida Ehrlich also learned to love instead of hate, she wants to reconcile and look to the future. Instead of leaving Germany after the end of the Second World War, she submitted an application to the British military government in June 1945 to host the Hamburg Kammerspiele at Hartungstraße 9, a theater building that was used by the Jewish Cultural Association until the "forced Aryanization". to be allowed to found. On December 10th of the same year, her ensemble celebrates its premiere with the play "Beacon" by Robert Ardrey.

World theater after twelve years of dictatorship

With her "Theatre of Humanity and Tolerance", Ida Ehrlich brings a large piece of world theater to the Hanseatic city after twelve years of dictatorship. She brings numerous German premieres of plays by Jean-Paul Sartre, Thornton Wilder or Jean Giraudoux to Hartungstrasse.

With the world premiere of Wolfgang Borchert's "Outside the Door", the Kammerspiele write theater history.

The Kammerspiele wrote theater history on November 21, 1947 with the world premiere of Wolfgang Borchert's "Outside in Front of the Door", which he had originally conceived as a radio play. It became a "key work for the generation that returned in 1945 from the battlefields and prison camps of World War II", as Anna Brenken put it in her biography "Ida Ehre". Under the direction of the principal, the Kammerspiele developed into one of the leading German theaters.

As "Mother Courage" on stage

Ida Honor is not only the founder and artistic director of the small theater on Hartungstraße, she also works there as a director and actress. Her major roles include Brecht's "Mother Courage" and Hekuba in the "Troerinnen". In order to be able to keep the small theater financially, she opens the Kammerspiele for lighter fare, in a tough fight she repeatedly campaigns for support.

Great commitment into old age

The honorary citizenship that the Hanseatic city bestowed on her in 1985 is just one of many awards that Ida Honor received for her commitment to the Hamburg and German theater scene. The University of Hamburg awarded the principal an honorary doctorate in 1988, and she received the Great Federal Cross of Merit and the Schiller Prize from the city of Mannheim. She has been a member of the main committee of Northwest German Broadcasting for four years and the administrative board of NDR for 13 years. Not only was she on stage until shortly before her death, she was also committed to peace and tolerance outside of the theater. For example, in 1983, at the age of 83, she performed at a peace event in the St. Pauli Stadium.

A photo of Ida Ehrlich as she sits next to Bundestag President Jenninger in the Bundestag goes around the world.

On November 10, 1988, she recites Paul Celan's "Todesfuge" in the Bonn Bundestag on the occasion of a commemoration of the pogrom night. She experienced first-hand the much-criticized speech by the then President of the Bundestag, Philipp Jenninger, who tried to explain the Germans' enthusiasm for National Socialism - and therefore had to resign a day later. The photo of Ida Ehrlich, weakened by a hospital stay, sitting with her hands over her face next to Jenninger in the Bundestag went around the world.

Funeral at Ohlsdorf Cemetery

Ida Ehrlich died on February 16, 1989 at the age of 88 in a Hamburg hospital. She is buried in the Ohlsdorf Cemetery in a grave of honor next to Gustaf Gründgens, the long-time director of the Hamburger Schauspielhaus. In Hamburg, a square in the city center was later named after her, and a school in the Eimsbüttel district also bears her name.