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25 1 The Father The Harlan family was of French Huguenot origin and had its name changed from “Herland” to “Harlan.”1 Veit Harlan’s grandfather Otto had originally been a cloth maker and, after marrying Bertha Bienert—whose father, a former miller, had become the second-wealthiest man in Saxonia next to the king—successfully went into the bank business, acquiring the title of consul. On December 24, 1875, Bertha Harlan gave birth to Walter, Veit’s father. Seven more children followed until she died at the age of forty. Walter Harlan was to walk in his father’s footsteps, leaving his hometown Dresden to study law in Heidelberg, Berlin, and Leipzig to become more adept at leading a bank business. However, he turned out to be a passionate man led by instinct rather than by reason or duty. To his father’s dismay , the twenty-year-old student fell in love with a sixteen-year-old waitress who did not even know who her father was. According to family legend, Adele Boothby was a foundling, the daughter of an Irish girl and a Gypsy man, left in a basket and raised by one Frau Boothby. In those years, Roma and Sinti were persecuted not on racial grounds but because of their lifestyles; their children could be integrated into bourgeois society if given up for adoption, which Adele’s mother seems to have done. Harlan family historian Ingrid Buchloh’s research for her book Veit Harlan led to different results. Adele’s father has remained unknown, indeed, but her mother’s identity was verifiable: she was chambermaid Rebecca Boothby, and the child was born in Hamburg on January 25, 1871. As is the case so often, the truth here is not too far from the legend. Rebecca Boothby did give her child away to foster parents immediately, so, according to National Socialist laws, Adele Harlan was “of dubious racial origin.” Interestingly, the only Jewish woman to appear in Jud Süss, a film whose Jewish cast is otherwise all male, is told by an old man who might be her grandfather or uncle or veit harlan 26 pimp, “Put on some clothes, Rebecca.” Adele ran away from her foster parents, joined a circus to become an actress, but ended up being a waitress in a Leipzig café. Whatever her social deficiencies, Walter Harlan fell in love with her. When his father threatened to disinherit him, he stood by his girlfriend and even enjoyed the thought of being a poor poet, poetry being his second “vice.” Curiously, he still succeeded as a law student . In Leipzig, he was promoted to doctor of the law and after his first law exam became Royal Saxon junior lawyer at the Leipzig Inferior Court (Amtsgericht). His interest in the law waned nevertheless. In 1894, he published a small volume of poems and in 1895 cofounded the literary and music magazine Die redenden Künste (The talking arts). He also got involved with an acting troupe, gaining experience as a performer and director. By then, Walter had fathered two illegitimate children with his girlfriend of illegitimate birth. The couple’s first child, Walter, was born in 1893 but died before he could walk. Then came Esther, born on January 16, 1895. An offer to become dramatic adviser at the Lessing-Theater encouraged Walter Harlan to move to Berlin, where he and Adele finally married. Their next child, Peter, was born on February 20, 1898. Peter later became a music instrument manufacturer and helped to reestablish the Blockflöte (fipple flute or internal-duct flute). Walter Harlan’s first entry in the Deutsches Bühnen-Jahrbuch (German stage almanac) is for the season from September 1, 1898, to July 1, 1899.2 The Lessing-Theater had about 1,100 seats, and although its owner, Dr. Oskar Blumenthal, could not afford to put top talent under contract, his guest stars included such celebrities as Eleonora Duse and Sarah Bernhardt. The Harlans’ address at this time was Savignyplatz 12, which is one train station west of the Zoologischer Garten and a few minutes’ walk from the Kurfürstendamm . Walter did not remain at the Lessing-Theater for long—his last entry in the almanac was for the 1903–1904 season—but he did not lose interest in being a dramatic adviser. Having completed his novel Die Dichterbörse (The poet’s stock market, 1899), he worked on the critical theory book Die Schule des Lustspiels (The school of...


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