November 2, 1900|
Munich, Kingdom of Bavaria, German Empire
|Died||June 26, 1942
Sol-Iletsk, Russian SFSR, Soviet Union
Neher was born in Munich to a music teacher in 1900. She started to work as a bank clerk in 1917. In the summer of 1920, she made her debut performance at the Baden-Baden theater without a specific stage education, later also working at the theaters of Darmstadt, Nuremberg and at the Munich Kammerspiele. In 1924, Neher started to work at the Lobe-Theater Breslau, where she met Therese Giehse and Peter Lorre. On May 7, 1925 she married Alfred Henschke (the poet Klabund), who had followed her from Munich to Breslau, at that time already a well known and successful poet. The first performance of his Circle of Chalk ("Der Kreidekreis") turned into her first great success.
In 1926 Neher went to Berlin to work with Bertolt Brecht. He wrote the role of Polly Peachum in The Threepenny Opera, but late in rehearsals her husband died at Davos on August 14, 1928. She was therefore unable to appear at the premiere, but acted the role of Polly in the later performances.
Brecht wrote several roles for her like Lilian Holiday in Happy End and the title role in his Saint Joan of the Stockyards. Neher had also great success as Marianne in Ödön von Horváth's Tales from the Vienna Woods and embodied and immortalized Polly in G.W. Pabst's film of The Threepenny Opera.
While in Berlin, Neher practiced boxing with Turkish trainer and prizefighter Sabri Mahir at his studio, which opened to women (including Vicki Baum and Marlene Dietrich) in the 1920s. Posing for a photograph opposite Mahir and equipped with boxing gloves and a maillot, she asserted herself as a “New Woman”, challenging traditional gender categories.
In 1932 she married Anatol Becker and left Germany after Adolf Hitler's ascension to power in spring 1933. She first emigrated to Prague, where she worked at the New German Theater, but went on to the Soviet Union in 1934, where she met Gustav von Wangenheim and worked with him at his German language cabaret Kolonne Links.
In 1936, throughout the Stalinist Great Purge, Wangenheim denounced Neher and her husband, Anatol Becker, as Trotskyites, she was arrested on July 25, 1936. Becker was executed in 1937; Neher was sentenced to ten years in prison and sent to a gulag near Orenburg. She died in the prison there of typhus on July 26, 1942.
Her fate caused protests among other emigrants outside the Soviet Union, especially as Bertolt Brecht did not aid Neher.
The Carola-Neher-Street in Berlin Hellersdorf is named after Neher.
- Matthias Wegner: Klabund und Carola Neher – eine Geschichte von Liebe und Tod. Rowohlt, Reinbek bei Hamburg 1996. ISBN 3-87134-266-1
- Tita Gaehme: Dem Traum folgen. Das Leben der Schauspielerin Carola Neher und ihre Liebe zu Klabund.. Dittrich, Köln 1996. ISBN 3-920862-11-2.
- Guido von Kaulla: Und verbrenn in seinem Herzen: Die Schauspielerin Carola Neher und Klabund. Herder, Freiburg/Br. 1984
- Michaela Karl: Carola Neher: Die Silberfüchsin. In: Bayerische Amazonen – 12 Porträts. Pustet, Regensburg 2004. ISBN 3-7917-1868-1. S. 168-189
- Gammel, Irene. "Lacing up the Gloves: Women, Boxing and Modernity." Cultural and Social History 9.3 (2012), p. 375.
- Hans Schoots, Living Dangerously - A Biography of Joris Ivens
- Reinhard Müller "Menschenfalle Moskau. Exil und stalinistische Verfolgung" Hamburg 2001
- Carola Neher - Biography - IMDb
- Walter Held „Stalins deutsche Opfer und die Volksfront“, in der Untergrund-Zeitschrift Unser Wort, Nr. 4/5, Oktober 1938, S. 7 f.; Michael Rohrwasser, Der Stalinismus und die Renegaten, Die Literatur der Exkommunisten, Stuttgart 1991, p. 163