While the chief’s 12-year-old son Winnetou already considers himself a great warrior, his father Intschu-Tschuna believes his son still has a lot to learn. When the absence of the buffalo threatens the Indian people, Winnetou seizes the opportunity to prove himself to his father. The most famous German Apache Mescalero arrives …

While the chief’s 12-year-old son Winnetou already considers himself a great warrior, his father Intschu-Tschuna believes his son still has a lot to learn. When the absence of the buffalo threatens the Indian people, Winnetou seizes the opportunity to prove himself to his father. The most famous of the German Mescalero Apaches will be released in mid-December under the title “The Young Chief Winnetou”. The characters of Karl May are as fascinating as ever. In 1962, “Der Schatz am Silbersee” was the first German feature film with the dream adventure couple Old Shatterhand and Winnetou. The parody “Der Schuh des Manitu” (2001) is the most successful German film of all time. Much earlier, however, Old Shatterhand and Winnetou were a theatrical phenomenon, long before the Karl May Games in Bad Segeberg. An extremely readable book titled “Karl May on the Stage”, published by Karl May Verlag, accounts for this.

Especially in the 1930s and 1940s, stories with their location in the Far West experienced a real boom, to which the authors Nicolas Finke and Reinhard Marheinecke devote themselves in their illustrated volume of 400 pages. They focus not only on individual productions, but also on actors, authors, reception in the press and political circles.

Karl May (1842-1912) would have had the ambition to bring on stage Winnetou and his friend Old Shatterhand. Hermann Dimmler (1874 to 1932), playwright and priest, published a theatrical version in 1928. But it was not until Ludwig Körner (1890 to 1968) published the title “Winnetou, the red gentleman” that the indigenous peoples and the German adventurers became stars in theaters and outdoor stages across the empire.

And Ludwig Körner, who was also an actor and director, became an influential man of the theater. During the Nazi era, he rose to the post of President of the Reich’s Theater Chamber and became a propagandist of National Socialist and anti-Semitic cultural policy. On the other hand, with a special note, he may have saved the life of Jewish-born actress Charlotte Maertens. He also fell out with the Reich Chamber of Culture in the early 1940s, resigned as chairman of the Reich Theater Chamber, and was apparently even expelled from the NSDAP.

In 1929, Körner performed at Berlin’s “Königgrätzer Straße Theater” in a production by Winnetou, which he also directed, and which was considered the most important and successful of the early 1930s. Not Körner in Old Shatterhand, but Hans Otto (1900 to 1933) in Winnetou became the star of the Berlin theater scene. A great career was planned for the actor. But when the Nazis came to power, the KPD member went underground. In November 1933, he was arrested, mistreated and, after questioning, pushed from the third floor of a building. Otto died of injuries from the mock suicide.

With the success of Berlin, the triumphal march of the grains of “Winnetou” continued throughout the country – especially in Saxony. In Hohenstein-Ernstthal, May’s hometown, the association of young Christian men from the guesthouse “Drei Schwanen” put the play on stage in 1932. The occasion was May’s 90th birthday. The play was directed by Werner Legère (1912 to 1998), a strong supporter of Karl May, as the authors point out in the book. The newspaper “Hohensteiner-Ernsttahler Tageblatt und Anzeiger” was impressed by the staging: “She gave us three lucky Hours. Hours of unforgettable youthful romance “.

Why, of all things, Karl May’s work experienced a real boom in the Nazi era, which also meant that May’s work could not be fully appreciated in the GDR until the 1980s, remains controversial and is also discussed. in the unclear book “Karl May auf der Bühne”. It is assumed elsewhere that Adolf Hitler was an avid reader of May’s books. May himself was neither a nationalist nor a racist.

In 1934, when the Nazis were already ruling the Reich, a children’s performance at the Grenzlandtheater Obererzgebirge in Annaberg was announced with the following remarkable phrase: “It’s very sad, but we have to admit that the white man does not always play a good role in the colonization of North America ”. Only four years later, Ehrenfriedersdorfer Mayor Karl May wanted Greifensteine ​​to step onto the rock scene. But the Saxon Community Culture Association vetoed it. And there was a reason for that: in Saxon Switzerland, the first Karl May Festival was held in 1938 on the Rathen rock scene, which opened in 1936. “Political leaders got involved and used the project to theater for ideological and propagandistic purposes from the start, ”the book says. The NSDAP newspaper “Freiheitskampf” is quoted as follows: “Our time reads in the stories of Karl May the ideas of heroism, racial awareness and love for the country and finds there values ​​which are a content and a principle for our nation and our racial conscience. times “. Now, Winnetou and the Apache girl Ensho-Tschi weren’t blue-eyed Aryan heroes. Her tragic death was reported by the “Innsbrucker Nachrichten”, Austria was already occupied, as he also commented as follows: never result in an alliance because she was a red girl and he was a white man. Thus, the racial ethics of the Indians also finds an application in the game which is linked to our vision of the day today ”.

The attraction of the 1938 and 1939 festival in Rathen was Os-Ko-Mon, which was sold to the German public as a real Yakima. He played a medicine man and his real name was Charles Oskoman. And he devoted himself to the Nazis according to all the rules of the art: “May the great spirit lead your great leader Adolf Hitler with all his struggle … to the top”, he wrote to the co-founder of Karl May. publishing house, Euchar Albrecht Schmid. Oskoman, along with three other actors in Winnetou’s production Rathen in 1938, was targeted by the Dresden criminal police: they were accused of homosexual acts. What is particularly treacherous is that three actors were not arrested until after the end of the season. The American Oskoman, however, escaped arrest and conviction for unknown reasons and was also part of the party at the 1939 Festival. In 1938, 200,000 spectators attended the performances, in 1939 there were 150,000. The last performances of Winnetou were also presented there in 1940 and 1941. In the rest of the Reich the war ended in 1942, until then there had been performances in Chemnitz and again in Hohenstein-Ernstthal. Karl May was only replayed after 43 years with “Der Schatz im Silbersee” in Rathen: In 1983, the West German film classic “Der Schatz im Silbersee” was surprisingly broadcast for the first time on UK TV. the GDR – the stage version was released on the Saxon rock scene a year later.

Authors Nicolas Finke and Reinhard Marheinecke haven’t just put on paper an exciting piece of theater history for May fans. Two other volumes dealing with performances in May in other places in the Federal Republic, Austria, other countries and the GDR will follow.

Tip book Karl May on stage, Nicolas Finke and Reinhard Marheinecke, Karl-May-Verlag, 400 pages, price: 49 euros.