Cabaret & Childhood in 1920s Vienna
By Liesl Muller-Johnson
Distributed by Trans-Atlantic Publications
188 pages, Illustrated
This is the story of a lyrically happy childhood spent in Europe between the wars. But it is much more than that. Rosl Berndt, the author's mother, was a distinguished and famous cabaret artiste, who started her career as child star Die Kleine Rosl and returned to the stage after marrying a Hungarian impresario and having a daughter, Liesl. While her mother is away on tour, Liesl is brought up by her adored grandmother, Bronya, who provides her with a secure, regulated and loving home life. However, when Liesl is six years old, Bronya dies in a tragic accident and she is immediately catapulted into her mother's Bohemian world.
First, there is an avant-garde boarding school in Germany, then a rather exclusive one in Vienna and, later, more studies in Bucharest. During the holidays her time is divided between the close-knit community of Vienna's Weintraubengasse and visits to her mother at her new home in Amsterdam or in expensive, glamorous hotels frequented by famous actors, singers, musicians, composers and writers of the day. Though largely protected from the harsher realities of the Second World War, the fact that she is half-Jewish is a constant source of unease for Liesl. As she matures and falls in love, first with a dashing Rumanian cadet officer, then a charismatic English war hero, Liesl continues to find that life as Rosl's daughter is sometimes difficult, but never dull.
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