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Dora Gerson

Dora Gerson in circa 1922 publicity photograph
Born Dorothea Gerson
March 23, 1899(1899-03-23)
Berlin, Germany
Died February 14, 1943 (aged 43)
Auschwitz, Poland
Spouse(s) Veit Harlan (1922-1924)
Max Sluizer {1936-1943}

Dora Gerson (March 23, 1899 - February 14, 1943) was a Jewish German cabaret singer and motion picture actress of the silent film era who was killed with her family at Auschwitz concentration camp.


Born Dorothea Gerson in Berlin, Germany, Gerson began her career as a touring singer and actress in the Holtorf Tournee Truppe alongside actor Mathias Wieman in Germany where she met and married her first husband, film director Veit Harlan. The couple married in 1922 and divorced in 1924. Harlan would eventually direct the highly anti-Semitic Nazi propaganda film Jud Süß (1940) by request of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. Harlan's niece would later married the American Jewish filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.

In 1920, Dora Gerson was cast to appear in the successful film adaptation of the Karl May penned novel Auf den Trümmern des Paradieses (On the Brink of Paradise) and later followed that same year in another May adaptation entitled Die Todeskarawane (Caravan of Death). Both films included Hungarian actor Béla Lugosi in the cast. However, both films are now considered lost films. Gerson continued to perform as a popular cabaret singer throughout the 1920s as well as acting in films.

By 1933 however, when the Nazi Party came to power in Germany, the German-Jewish population was systematically stripped of rights and Gerson's career slowed dramatically. Blacklisted from performing in "Aryan" films, Gerson began recording music for a small Jewish record company. Dora Gerson also began recording in the Yiddish language during this time, and the 1936 song "Der Rebe Hot Geheysn Freylekh Zayn" became highly regarded by the Jews of Europe in the 1930s. Her best remembered recordings from this era were the songs "Backbord und Steuerbord" and "Vorbei" (Beyond Recall), which was an emotional ballad, subtlely memorializing a Germany before the rise of the Nazi Party:

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

In 1936 Dora Gerson relocated with relatives to the Netherlands, fleeing Nazi persecution. She had married a second time to Max Sluizer {b.June 24, 1906}. On May 10, 1940, however, Germany invaded the Netherlands. Soon, the Jews of the Netherlands were subject to the same anti-Semitic laws and restrictions as in Germany. After several years of living under oppressive Nazi occupation, the Gerson family began to plan to escape. In 1942 Gerson and her family were seized trying to flee to Switzerland, a neutral nation in World War II Europe. The family were sent by railroad car to transit camp Westerbork bound for the Nazi extermination camp of Auschwitz in Nazi-occupied Poland. Dora Gerson at the age of 43 along with her husband and their two children, Miriam Sluzier {b.Nov 19, 1937} and Abel Juda {b.May 21, 1940}, all perished in Auschwitz February 14, 1943. [1]

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