A stage show entitled Lotti! Die Zitrone kehrt zurück (“The lemon returns”) starts in Berlin tonight. It marks a century since the birth of one of Germany’s most idiosyncratic stage and screen presences: dancer and film actress Lotti Huber. As she tells it in her 1993 autobiography Diese Zitrone hat noch viel Saft! (“There’s still a lot of juice left in this lemon!”), she was brought dancing into the world:
From an early age I showed great musicality and a gift for dance. My mother always said that she danced me to life: In high spirits, she had waltzed around the large dining table with my Uncle Herrmann from Breslau. On October 16 1912 at five o’clock in the morning I was there. “Look at the child,” my mother used to exclaim later, “look, when the music starts, she dances and she can’t even walk properly yet.”
Lotti, then Charlotte Goodman, was the daughter of a textile merchant in the Schleswig-Holstein port city of Kiel:
How my father loved his fabric! He had a real love affair with it. In raptures he demonstrated to Countess Reventlow, who was one of his loyal customers, the wonders of brocade and silks from Lyons: “Look at this silk, how it flows. A poem!” And he kissed his fingertips with delight.
The year 1937 found Lotti living in Berlin with the son of Kiel’s mayor – a dangerous alliance with an “Aryan” for the Jewish merchant’s daughter. She ended up in a concentration camp the following year for “race defilement”. Her family was able to buy her freedom in 1938; her lover was executed.
After living in Palestine and Cyprus, in 1965 Huber ended up back in Berlin with her British officer husband. After his death she enjoyed a late flourish of interest and activity, including a total of four Rosa von Praunheim films, among them his version of the Anita Berber myth. Flamboyant and outspoken, Huber cheerfully mocked the expectations accompanying advanced years. But reconciliation with her past took time; when invited to Kiel for a film premiere in 1982, she refused at first. Finally, curiosity overtook her:
I stroll through the streets of Kiel. It’s been almost sixty years – sixty years! – since I was last in this city. I never wanted to step foot in it again. As so often I had to learn: never say never. I walk along the Holstenstraße, which was the main street of Kiel back then. Yes, it must have been on this corner…
Lotti Huber died in 1998, to be reunited with her beloved Norman in Berlin’s Heerstraße Jewish Cemetery. This was her grave earlier today (I didn’t put the tiara on top but I imagine Lotti would approve of the gesture):