Stolpersteine Staatstheater | Germany

The documentary theatre Stolpersteine Staatstheater, by Hans-Werner Kroesinger and Regine Dura, takes a close look on BADISCHES STAATSTHEATER during the months around Adolf Hitler’s seizure of power in Germany. The production is called Stolpersteine referring to an art project by German artist Gunter Demnig. According to the project’s homepage, this project “commemorates the victims of national socialism, keeping alive the memory of all Jews, Roma and Sinti, homosexuals, dissidents, Jehovah’s witnesses and victims of euthanasia who were deported and exterminated”. The so called “Stolpersteine” (tripping stones or stumbling blocks) are cobblestone-sized and carry an engraved brass plate that shows the name and biographical facts of the person it commemorates. Usually Demnig inserts the Stolperstein into the pavement surface right in front of the last self-chosen home of the victim.

In Karlsruhe there are two exceptions. In front of the building of the STAATSTHEATER opened in 1975, we find two Stolpersteine; one in memory of actor Paul Gemmecke and the other for opera soubrette Lilly Jankelowitz, called Jank. Gemmecke and Jank were both part of the theatre’s company in 1933 and lost their jobs due to “racial reasons” – Lilly Jank was Jewish and Gemmecke was married to a Jewish woman. Later, Jank died in a concentration camp and Paul Gemmecke took his own life. The stones were placed by the artist in November 2013.

As a contribution of the STAATSTHEATER to Karlsruhe’s 300th anniversary 2015, Stolpersteine Staatstheater focuses on the destinies of four employees during the less liberal years of a city founded on the base of freedom of religion, profession and trade. The audience finds out about Gemmecke and Jank and furthermore about actor Hermann Brand and prompt Emma Grandeit; about their careers, what their colleagues and superiors thought about them, how they were first loved and eventually scorned by the audience, how they had to face harassment, embarrassment, dismissal, denied compensation, deportation and death. By way 2 of example their stories stand for the fate of hundreds of artists and workers swiftly and almost noiselessly expelled from German cultural institutions during the first half of 1933.

Hans-Werner Kroesinger and his team have digged deep into the administrative files of the STAATSTHEATER, now preserved in the Generallandesarchiv. They dragged out old newspaper articles, playbills, official and personal correspondences and interviews with eye-wittnesses. They arranged these documents together with dramatic texts by Kleist, with back then popular comic songs by Brecht and others and personal texts by the actors Veronika Bachfischer, Antonia Mohr, Jonathan Bruckmeier and Gunnar Schmidt. All this is completed by atmospheric video installations and music. Notably there is the stage. There is no classic division of actors and audience. Most of the audience and the actors sit on cardboard stools, around an oversized table in the shape of half of a swastika. Strictly speaking there is no audience, only those who act and those who don’t. The documents are rather presented than acted out, only sometimes certain moments are dramatized in a conventional sense. Apart from the order of the presented material, no newly written comments or footnotes are given. The documents are supposed to stand for themselves. At the end of the show, the stage will have transformed into a reading room and the audience is invited to take an even closer, individual look at the documents.

with the support of the Goethe Institut

Badisches Staatstheater Karlsruhe


Nissan Nativ Acting Studio


Marthe Lola Deutschmann, Antonia Mohr – Jonathan Bruckmeier, Gunnar Schmidt – from the ensemble of the STAATSTHEATER


Hans-Werner Kroesinger 


Rob Moonen 


Daniel Dorsch 


Regine Dura 


Annalena Schott, Jan Linders


'It is indeed astonishing how long it takes for institutions, departments and agencies to take the time to focus on their own history. However, this unagitated, unemotional, meticulously exact and still moving investigation is completely new: No consternated accusation – but study of files".