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Anita Berber

anita berber, anita berber dancer
Anita Berber 10 June 1899 – 10 November 1928 was a German dancer, actress, and writer who was the subject of an Otto Dix painting She lived during the time of the Weimar Republic


  • 1 Early life
  • 2 Notoriety in Berlin
  • 3 Marriages
  • 4 Selected filmography
  • 5 In popular culture
  • 6 References
  • 7 External links

Early life

Born in Leipzig to Felix Berber, First Violinist with the Municipal Orchestra, and his wife, Lucie Berber, an aspiring actress and singer, who later divorced, Anita Berber was raised mainly by her grandmother in Dresden By the age of 16, she had moved to Berlin and made her debut as a cabaret dancer By 1918 she was working in film, and she began dancing nude in 1919 Scandalously androgynous, she quickly made a name for herself She wore heavy dancer's make-up, which on the black-and-white photos and films of the time came across as jet black lipstick painted across the heart-shaped part of her skinny lips, and charcoaled eyes[1]

Notoriety in Berlin

Berber's hair was fashionably cut into a short bob and was frequently bright red, as in 1925 when the German painter Otto Dix painted a portrait of her, titled "The Dancer Anita Berber" Her dancer friend and sometime lover Sebastian Droste, who performed in the film Algol 1920, was skinny and had black hair with gelled up curls much like sideburns Neither of them wore much more than lowslung loincloths and Anita occasionally a corsage, placed well below her breasts[1]

St Thomas Cemetery, Neukölln, Section 2, Row 21 - probable resting place of Berber

Berber's dances – which had names such as "Cocaine" and "Morphium"[2] – broke boundaries with their androgyny and total nudity, but it was her public appearances that really challenged social taboos Berber's overt drug addiction and bisexuality were matters of public gossip[3] In addition to her addiction to cocaine, opium and morphine, one of Berber's favourites forms of inebriation was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl[4] This would be stirred with a white rose, the petals of which she would then eat[5]

Aside from her addiction to narcotic drugs, Berber was also an alcoholic In 1928, at the age of 29, she suddenly gave up alcohol completely, but died later the same year According to Mel Gordon, in The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Debauchery,[6] she had been diagnosed with severe tuberculosis while performing abroad After collapsing in Damascus, she returned to Germany and died in a Kreuzberg hospital on 10 November 1928, although rumour had it that she died surrounded by empty morphine syringes[5] Berber was buried in a pauper's grave in St Thomas Cemetery in Neukölln[7][8]


In 1919, Berber entered into a marriage of convenience with a man with the surname Nathusius She later left him in order to pursue a relationship with a woman named Susi Wanowski, and became part of the Berlin lesbian scene[9]

Berber's second marriage, in 1922, was to Sebastian Droste This lasted until 1923 In 1925, she married a gay American dancer named Henri Châtin Hofmann[9]

Selected filmography

A plaque outside Berber's former house in Berlin
  • The Story of Dida Ibsen 1918
  • Around the World in Eighty Days 1919
  • Different from the Others 1919
  • Prostitution 1919
  • The Skull of Pharaoh's Daughter 1920
  • The Hustler 1920
  • Figures of the Night 1920
  • The Count of Cagliostro 1920
  • The Golden Plague 1921
  • Circus People 1922
  • Lucrezia Borgia 1922
  • The Three Marys 1923
  • Vienna, City of Song 1923
  • A Waltz by Strauss 1925

In popular culture

  • A 1987 film by Rosa von Praunheim, Anita - Tänze des Lasters "Anita - Dances of Vice" focuses on Berber's life[10]
  • The band Death in Vegas named a song after her, which is on the album Satan's Circus It is frequently used on the NPR radio show This American Life



  1. ^ a b "Glitter & Doom - Anita, mon amour" Wound Magazine 1 1: 150–151 November 2007 ISSN 1755-800Xmw-parser-output citecitationmw-parser-output citation qmw-parser-output id-lock-free a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-free amw-parser-output id-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output id-lock-registration a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-limited a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-registration amw-parser-output id-lock-subscription a,mw-parser-output citation cs1-lock-subscription amw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registrationmw-parser-output cs1-subscription span,mw-parser-output cs1-registration spanmw-parser-output cs1-ws-icon amw-parser-output codecs1-codemw-parser-output cs1-hidden-errormw-parser-output cs1-visible-errormw-parser-output cs1-maintmw-parser-output cs1-subscription,mw-parser-output cs1-registration,mw-parser-output cs1-formatmw-parser-output cs1-kern-left,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-leftmw-parser-output cs1-kern-right,mw-parser-output cs1-kern-wl-rightmw-parser-output citation mw-selflink
  2. ^ Evans, Richard J 2003 The Coming of the Third Reich New York: Penguin p125 ISBN 0-14-303469-3
  3. ^ Pettis, Ruth M 16 August 2005 "Berber, Anita" glbtqcom Archived from the original on 30 December 2008 Retrieved 2008-11-18
  4. ^ Gordon, Mel 1 May 2006 Voluptuous panic: the erotic world of Weimar Berlin Feral House pp 9– ISBN 978-1-932595-11-6 Retrieved 14 November 2011
  5. ^ a b Berlin: Metropolis of Vice Paradigm Pictures, 2005
  6. ^ Gordon, Seven Addictions
  7. ^ "Anarchists of Style: Anita Berber, Part 2" http://wwwwornthroughcom/2011/01/11/anarchists-of-style-anita-berber-part-2/
  8. ^ Wilson, Scott Resting Places: The Burial Sites of More Than 14,000 Famous Persons, 3d ed: 2 Kindle Locations 3520-3521 McFarland & Company, Inc, Publishers Kindle Edition
  9. ^ a b Capovilla 2001, p50
  10. ^ "Anita - Tänze des Lasters" The Internet Movie Database Retrieved 2007-11-13


  • Capovilla, Andrea 2001 "Berber, Anita" in: Aldrich, Robert & Wotherspoon, Garry eds Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II New York: Routledge; pp 50–51 ISBN 0415159830
  • Gordon, Mel 2006 The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin's Priestess of Debauchery Los Angeles, California: Feral House

Further reading

  • Berber, Anita & Droste, Sebastian 2012 Dances of Vice, Horror, and Ecstasy Translated by Merrill Cole Newcastle upon Tyne: Side Real Press
    • A full translation from the German
  • Fischer, Lothar 1996 Tanz zwischen Rausch und Tod: Anita Berber, 1918-1928 in Berlin Berlin: Haude und Spener
  • Funkenstein, Susan Laikin 2005 "Anita Berber: Imaging a Weimar Performance Artist" in: Woman's Art Journal 261 Spring/Summer 2005; pp 26–31
  • Gill, Anton 1993 A Dance between the Flames: Berlin between the Wars New York: Carroll & Graf
  • Jarrett, Lucinda 1997 Stripping in Time: A History of Erotic Dancing London: Pandora HarperCollins; pp 112–135
  • Kolb, Alexandra 2009 Performing Femininity Dance and Literature in German Modernism Oxford: Peter Lang ISBN 978-3-03911-351-4
  • Richie, Alexandra 1998 Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin New York: Carroll and Graf
  • Toepfer, Karl Eric 1997 Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935 Berkeley: University of California Press

External links

  • Anita Berber on IMDb
  • Legendary Sin Cities CBC series -- "Berlin: Metropolis of Vice"
  • Photographs of Anita Berber

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