They say that “Silence is golden.” Yet, do people truly know the real power behind this statement? Within the very context of silence is a space of artistry, which must be amplified in performance, in order for viewers to understand its meaning. When you bring the sacred realm of silence into the performing and creative arts, a great realm of mystique and beauty presides within any theatrical or film setting. That’s one of the beautiful elements of the silent film era. It forced people to venture back into that realm of performing in silence. One could not solely rely on your audience’s ability to hear lines, for the entertainment to be vigilant. A deeper connection into the art had to be crafted. Furthermore, acting has to be more dramatic, for the message to be heard.
Then you have the mixing of cabaret performances. Of course, cabaret is none other than the performance of fiction into the reality. If the Universe could dance, what would be the myriad depiction of its dances? During the time of silent films, how did the movement of dance’s performance differ from what we have seen, during other film genres? How did they intertwine themselves with the political climate of the day? And, especially, during those harsh times of human her/history, what was the particular climate of music and culture?
To be a Jewish woman singer, silent film actress, and cabaret singer, during the coming of the ugly part of Germany, is to be part of an era where silence required tact. Moving and performing through its domain required that a person move through a time, where one’s Jewish identity meant one is undeserving to live; let alone, speak. However, sometimes silence means that a person must be true-in performance, heart, and song. For one woman, it were her songs, which kept some kind of hope for Jewish people in Europe, during that daunting period of time.
Her name is Dora Gerson. . . and her silent sound was heard throughout the 1920’s and 1930’s, of Germany’s daunting time.
Her Jewish family lived in Berlin, Germany, where she was born. It was in 1920, where she appeared in her first film. From there, her work began. That initial year, she appeared in the film “Auf den Trummern des Paradises,” (“On The Brink Of Paradise”). If only such a paradise had been sustained, for her own journey in Germany. In 1933, her feature in mainstream, German films would come to an end, because of her Jewish heritage. Nevertheless, she would continue her work in recording for a Jewish, recording company. Highlighting parts of her Jewish heritage, she recorded “Der Rebe Hot Geheysn Freykekh Zayn,” in 1936, which was in the Yiddish language. In fact, the song was celebrated by the Jewish community in Europe. Some of her other songs include “Backboard und Steuerbord” and “Vorbei.”
They’re gone beyond recall A final glance, a last kiss And then it’s all over Under the frame of eternity A final word, a last farewell
Can you imagine that kind of sorrow, fear, and anguish? Reflect upon what it means to understand how death is certain. Knowing that your song reflects a harsh reality for many people, during this period. Perhaps, just perhaps, the writing of this song was a foreshadow into her own horror story; one that was shared by millions of Jewish families. Its not a coincidence that also in 1936, Gerson and her family moved to Netherlands, in order to escape from Nazis Germany. Unfortunately, it was on May 10, 1940, when Germany invaded the Netherlands. Attempts to move to flee to Switzerland, in 1942, were unsuccessful. They were captured and sent to Poland to be murdered in the Auschwitz concentration camp. Its painful to know that an actress and singer was murdered in one of the worst events in human her/history. Yes, it does go to say that even entertainers were not immune from attempted genocide. Unfortunately, there were wealthy Jews, and famous ones, who learned the hard way that hatred has no limits. However, there is still something sacred with musicians and singers. They may have taken her life, but they could not take her sound.
There is nothing in this world, that could ever take away a singer’s musicality. Nothing in this Earthly spacing. Not even death! They took her life, and the lives of her family. Yet, her song, they could not have. In fact, it was preserved for future; for others who will never meet her, to hear her voice.
Since we are mentioning her voice, let’s go even further. Dora Gerson is another example in there being a gentility, when singing in the German language. Her voice is akin to that of a sparkling feather. It has a light texture. Simultaneously, the vibrations in her voice create a glittering effect. Its not powerful or dramatic. Yet, it creates a unique aura of imitating sound when it is silent. Yes, I know it sounds bizarre. Do you remember when we conveyed about the presence of silence, and a wealth of hidden richness, gone, unseen? Well, much of that richness is connected to stillness. When you are still, you see things you are unable to view, should you be in action. When you are still, you observe what is hidden. Its one of the most magical things a person can experience. Dora Gerson lived through the times of silent films. She performed in its artistry. It means there is a particular skill, acquired, and is unique to that specific entertainment genre. Such makes one come to wonder, as to how her career, is attached to her tragedy.
I believe we have already answered the question! Remember, stillness is key!
I can only imagine how her voice and talents were soothing miracles for Jewish people, living in Europe, during the time of fascists reign. Perhaps, it could have been a quiet elegance, and taste of Heaven; while being in a living Hell. During those times of fear, while being hunted, it seems that the only thing, keeping one’s insanity in tact, is music. A gentle reassurance of hope, that soon, this too will end. Hope, that one can make it one more day. Hope that you and your family will stay hidden, until help, arrives. Through all of that mental and emotional agony, it is those gentle and quiet magical voices; reminding people that they are still, alive! Yes, alive, while others have lost their lives.
Another important point relates back to the gentility of the German language, and how it had been presented as beautiful; even during that ugly time, within German domains. The German language was seen by the world as ugly, oppressive, and the destruction of nations and society. Nevertheless, there were still German people-including Jewish people-who continued to perform the aesthetics, produced in the German language. Their work, performance, concerts, and very existence kept beauty channeling in Germany, even when their gifts were depicted as “dangerous” for German statehood. Such is another factor, as it concerns taking what was meant for evil, and using it for good. Again, it goes to re-affirm the significant role of artists-both performing and visual. They are imperative in maintaining a nation’s foundation; reminding of the beauty, instead. During a nation’s challenges-and when on the brink of destruction-it is the responsibility for musicians, singers, and visual artists to creativity alive. When hurricanes, thunderstorms, floods, and tornadoes collude together, the creatives must remain firm, in the midst of.
The beloved Dora Gerson sprinkled hope into the hearts of her people. Even when banned from being in the mainstream spotlight of the German, entertainment industry, she made sure her voice was heard. Spraying her name throughout German air, as a special blessing for future generations, who would come to know her name. Granted, she had to leave. Circumstances and oppression forced her to escape. Yet, her name is still there; left there to float around in German winds. They thought that if they took her life, they would silence her, forever. Yet, before doing that, she left traces of her art! And through the capturing of her artistry, her sound, lives on!
We can only imagine her final thoughts before transitioning on. Her final words. Her last sound. Did she think about the recordings of some of her most memorable songs? Did she reflect upon being on stage? What about the very last performance, that she ever gave? Who would ever know that her final time on stage, would be her last one? Did she smile when think about getting standing ovations? Did she hold herself close, gathered around with her family, and crying on the memories of the good times being gone? Did they pray together? Did they sing together? Did Dora Gerson entertain her family, with her last performances? We don’t know about her last moments and words in Auschwitz’s concentration camp? Thank the Creator we recorded her sound! Thank the Heavens, its safe, and sound!