Dora Gerson in circa 1922 publicity photograph
23 March 1899
Berlin, German Empire
|Died||14 February 1943
Auschwitz, Germany (now Poland)
|Spouse(s)||Veit Harlan (1922–1924)
Max Sluizer (1936–1943; their deaths); 2 children
Life and career
Born Dorothea Gerson in Berlin, 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) at the insistence of Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels. Harlan's niece later married filmmaker Stanley Kubrick.
In 1920, 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. Both films are now 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. She 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. Gerson's most memorable recordings from this era were the songs "Backbord und Steuerbord" and "Vorbei" (Beyond Recall), which was an emotional ballad, memorializing pre-Nazi Germany:
|“||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, Gerson relocated with relatives to the Netherlands, fleeing Nazi persecution. She had married a second time to Max Sluizer (b. 24 June 1906). On 10 May 1940, Germany invaded the Netherlands and the Jews there 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 (aged 43), along with her husband and their two children, Miriam Sluizer (b. 19 November 1937) and Abel Juda Sluizer (b. 21 May 1940), were all murdered at Auschwitz on 14 February 1943.
- Joods Monument - Dorothea Sluizer-Gerson
- Schönfeld, Christiane; Finnan, Carmel (2006). Practicing Modernity: Female Creativity in the Weimar Republic. Königshausen & Neumann. p. 209. ISBN 978-3-8260-3241-7.