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‘Humans, Monkeys, Injustice’- A Stage Reading of a Jewish-German Theatre Play in Nineteenth-Century Berlin

This afternoon, we will travel back in time to nineteenth-century Jewish Berlin. What role did the stage play in the Jewish-civic culture of the time? An afternoon with theatrical reading introduced by Ezra Engelsberg (DIA) and evaluated by Deborah Hertz (University of California at San Diego).

In 1824, Ludwig Robert wrote a play about a baboon which symbolizes the treatment of German Jews in his time. The play illustrates well the role of theatre in Berlin’s Jewish-bourgeois culture. Plays were often read aloud in domestic settings. This play, full of humour, was a parodic rewriting of a tragedy written by Michael Beer featuring an Indian pariah.

During this reading of the unpublished parody, history will be ‘staged’ to revive the Berlin literary salon. Prior to the play, Ezra Engelsberg, PhD candidate at the DIA, will introduce the setting. Following this, Deborah Hertz, professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the University of California (San Diego), will comment the play and its time. The title of her talks is: ‘Secret Secrets and Open Secrets in the Life of the Playwright Ludwig Robert (1778-1832)’.

About the Speakers

Deborah Hertz is professor of Modern Jewish Studies at the University of California/San Diego. She specializes in modern German history, modern Jewish history and modern European women’s history. Her current research focuses on the history of radical Jewish women. Among others, she wrote How Jews Became Germans (2007), Jewish High Society in Old Regime Berlin (2005), and Briefe an eine Freundin: Rahel Varnhagen an Rebecca Friedländer (1988 and 2018).

Ezra Engelsberg researches identities in Jewish-German theatre between 1800 and 1871. He completed the Research Master’s in History and the Master’s in Middle Eastern Studies at the UvA, focusing on epistemological problems in historical representation, and on nineteenth-century literary historiography in the German language.


Date & time: Tuesday 21 February 2023, 15.00 – 18.00h
Location: SPUI25, Amsterdam
Registration: Register here

Language: German (stage reading) & English (lectures)

Organised by Huizinga Instituut, Duitsland Instituut Amsterdam, Menasseh ben Israel Instituut, Spui25