Thursday, October 29, 2015

In Memoriam Gerhard Bronner

My father being a technology freak bought the family's first television set in 1953. Red Baron remembers well Queen Elizabeth's coronation being one of the first Eurovision transmissions from Westminster Abbey on June 2, 1953.

In 1954 many of my former class mates were assembled around the 35 cm diameter black-and-white screen watching the soccer match between Hungary and "West Germany". The Germans became world champions in beating the favorite Hungarians 3 to 2 at Bern's Wankdorf Stadium on July 4, 1954.

At that time one of my highlights on television was a cabaret show or rather a one-man-show by a guy at his piano called Gerhard Bronner singing his critical political songs. In 1953 Bronner had traveled from Vienna to Hamburg changing his career from an Austrian cabaret artist to a job at the German television. In those years Hamburg had the one and only television studio in the German speaking world where Bronner wanted to try out the new media. Until 1955 he was the leader of the entertainment department of the North German Broadcasting Corporation (NDR).

In the following years I lost sight of this talented man until 2005. Two years before his death in Vienna, he came to Freiburg.

In his show the old man read from his autobiography Spiegel vorm Gesicht (Holding up a mirror) interrupted by some of his better known songs. I was so fascinated that I bought his book and learned about the poor Jewish boy born in Vienna in 1922 who on several occasions had escaped the Nazis at the very last moment. Once he had to cross the Danube river swimming together with a friend who perished.

Last week my memory came back reading Bronner's name on Facebook together with the following citation being typical for him. At the commemoration ceremony for the 60th anniversary of the liberation of the Concentration Camp Gunskirchen on May 7, 2005 he had held up a mirror to his Austrian fellow citizens: There are three things that cannot be combined: intelligence, honesty, and National Socialism. One can be intelligent and a Nazi but then he is not honest. Somebody being honest and a Nazi is not intelligent. When one is honest and intelligent he will not be a Nazi.

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