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52 5 Kunz versus Cohn Little is documented about Harlan’s personal life between 1924 and 1927— between his divorce from Dora Gerson and his first encounter with Hilde Körber. According to Ingrid Buchloh, during this period he was engaged to a woman who would then marry Gerhart Hauptmann’s son Benvenuto.1 He did finally have a well-publicized private life beginning the last week of September 1929, when one afternoon he stormed into the State Theater, interrupted a rehearsal, and attacked Fritz Kortner. According to various sources, he slapped him or possibly hit him with a riding whip. Leaving the theater, he drove to his actor-friend Lothar Müthel’s house to relieve himself verbally, but he did not dare get out of his car because, as Müthel’s daughter Lola would vividly remember decades later, Harlan had already relieved himself in another way—he had wet his pants in agitation.2 Veit Harlan hit his friend Kortner in the firm belief that the latter had molested his wife. As if that were not enough, Kortner had allegedly boasted about his conquest. Rumor had it that Kortner had even used a rope to make Körber more submissive and had raped her. In the FilmKurier , an unnamed theater columnist asserted on Monday, September 23, “The actors not only have a right to privacy. They have . . . the duty.”3 It was too late to insist on privacy. The right-wing press saw another excuse to attack Leopold Jessner, the Jewish Social Democrat, and his favorite actor, Kortner. The Berliner Lokal-Anzeiger was in general conservative rather than right wing, but its September 25 issue cited without comment a Deutschnational (German Nationalist) Parliament member’s appeal to the minister of culture, demanding measures against Kortner and adding that the latter was “originally Cohn from Vienna.”4 Courageous and provocative as ever, Kortner continued appearing onstage as Shylock in The Merchant of Venice. Decades later, the incident that had been used to discredit Kortner was used to discredit Harlan and Kunz versus Cohn 53 prove that eleven years before making Jud Süss he had already expressed anti-Semitic rage. In his autobiography Aller Tage Abend, published in 1959, Kortner wrote about Harlan but used the name “Kunz,” possibly because Kortner had once played a character called Veit Kunz in Franz Wedekind’s play Franziska. In Berlin of the 1920s, Kortner used to watch boxing fights in the company of Brecht, Rudolf Forster, Ernst Deutsch, and Hans Albers. “Our circle was joined by a young, extremely funny actor,” he remembered . “I have reasons to change his name. Kunz should be his name. He was politically leftist, philo-Semitic and very amusing.” Kortner found that Kunz and his wife overstated their philo-Semitism and sometimes became paranoid. Then the men’s different status caused some trouble. Playing Osvald in Ibsen’s Ghosts was, according to Kortner, “the great desire of my pal Kunz. The disappointment over not being allowed to play this part was all the more severe since his emotional balance was endangered by marital problems. The Kunzes, once happily in love, had turned their lives as a young couple into a hell. For this condition there have been many embarrassing occasions and only one cause: the two should never have become a couple.”5 Shortly after the marriage, Körber found out that Harlan could not compete with Kortner, which she not only confided to Johanna Hofer, Kortner’s long-suffering wife, but also told Harlan himself. “She did it in order to stimulate his jealousy,” Kortner explained, “which easily turned physical and which she endured with a strange pleasure . Provoking him to become ever more excessive, she moved on to invent incidents that had never happened between her and me. She finally went so far . . . , in order to get free of his strangling hands, as to claim that I had raped her in an obscure nightclub, while she was tied by a rope.” “Kunz” thought about shooting his wife, his rival, and himself, calmed down, but then allowed himself to be encouraged by anti-Semitic colleagues to get even. There followed the desperate attack onstage, and only a testimony by actor Willi Forst provided some enlightenment. The wine cellar in the Martin-Luther-Strasse in which the rape was supposed to have taken place did not exist, and that evening the Kunz couple had been accompanied by Kortner and Forst, who had driven the Kunzes to...


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