Aufsatz „Weimar Republic’s ‚Undesirable Aliens‘ on Stage“

Vorbemerkung: 2017 habe ich auf einer internationalen Konferenz mein Heidelberger Theaterprojekt vorgestellt. Daraus ist ein Aufsatz entstanden, der in dem Sammelband zur Tagung erscheinen sollte, aber letztlich nie erschienen ist. Daher veröffentliche ich den Text hier, damit er nicht verloren geht. (N.St., November 2022)

Fled, Unwanted, Deported – Weimar Republic’s “Undesirable Aliens” on Stage

As so often in European history, the present public discourse is shaped by the salient issue of migration: The coming, staying and going of foreigners is being debated increasingly radically. In 2015, at a time when many refugees were arriving in Germany, my colleague Eva Schöck-Quinteros (Bremen) and I noticed that the rhetoric in the media, and even more so in social media, closely resembled migration discourses of the past. We felt particularly reminded of the period of the Weimar Republic, the first German democracy (1919–1933), in which language and politics became increasingly radicalized and eventually led to the Nazi regime.

However, it was not the historical path to National Socialism that lay at the center of the project that Eva Schöck-Quinteros and I started in 2016, but the lives of the refugees who came to Germany after the First World War, and who were, for the most part, unwelcome and often deported. The largest group among these refugees were the so-called Eastern Jews, i.e. Jews from Eastern, East Central and Southeastern Europe. We wanted to examine the (stereotypical) portrayal of refugees in the media and the way the authorities dealt with those who had arrived. This question reverts to the issues of minority and refugee protection, state recognition as well as the observance of human rights. Moreover, those almost forgotten stories and biographies of individual (Jewish) refugees are part of the painful pasts of Germany and Europe.

These reflections resulted in three research-based learning projects at the universities of Heidelberg, Bremen, and Hamburg. Students conducted research independently, presented their results to each other, and brought these results to the stage in cooperation with theaters. In the fall of 2016, three scenic readings presented how states had dealt with so-called “undesirable aliens.” In this essay, I would like to present the project from the Heidelberg perspective: What did the students investigate? How was the learning project structured? How were the results presented and received? 

The learning project and its history

The approach to convey student research through theater was first developed in Bremen nearly fifteen years ago. The project series “Aus den Akten auf die Bühne” (Staging Files) has been running successfully in Bremen ever since.[1] At the core of the learning projects lies independent research conducted by students on topics of regional history that up to that point had hardly been investigated. In a second step, it is staged by a local theater. The stage production itself is reduced to a minimum, focusing, above all, on the exclusive presentation of historical sources and their historical language. The students do not take part in the staging itself (e.g. as actors), but undertake the original research and analyze the sources that serve as the historical material for the theater production; their results are then published in accompanying publications.

Based on this tried and tested concept and the contact to Bremen, the Heidelberg project started a successful cooperation, including the productive exchange of sources and information.[2] The idea of a Bremen-Heidelberg cooperation arose out of a discussion at the end of 2015 – a period that was marked by the arrival of a particular large number of refugees in Germany – and a joint statement on the importance of a historical analysis of refugee experiences. Special attention was to be paid to the situation at arrival in a new country, the (stereotypical) perception of refugees, and the process of integration. A period of interest was quickly identified: the Weimar Republic. Following World War I, the number of displaced persons in Europe reached about ten million. Among them were numerous so-called Eastern Jews, i.e. people of the Jewish faith, who had fled from their Eastern, East Central, and Southeastern European homelands to the West to escape political and social exclusion, violent pogroms, and war.  For many, the main destination was the USA. This was not a new development: since the beginning of recurring violent attacks on the Jewish population of Russia in the 1880s, many families had been forced into migration.[3] However, when the United States introduced quotas as the new principle of its immigration policy, the escape route via the German emigration ports of Hamburg and Bremerhaven became a de facto dead end for most. As a result, many Jews were stranded in Germany. The German states were thus transformed from a transit station on route across the Atlantic into a possible new home. In addition to the port cities, Berlin as a central European traffic hub was confronted with thousands of refugees who saw themselves forced to settle under the poorest conditions, especially in the neighborhood of the Scheunenviertel.[4] A few thousand “Eastern Jews” also moved to the Republic of Baden in Southwest Germany in the hope of building a new life. However, Germany, at that time, was marked by the consequences of the First World War: a lack of food, housing, and jobs. The “Eastern Jews” arrived in a country that was looking for scapegoats and believed they could often be found among the Jewish population. Jewish refugees were therefore largely deemed “undesirable” in the early phase of the Weimar Republic.

Reflecting on this historical development, the joint projects in Heidelberg and Bremen set itself the task of investigating the flight conditions and effects in the Republic of Baden, and the Hanseatic cities of Bremen and Hamburg after World War I. It was agreed that the three practical projects should be based on the same key questions for each city: Who was seen as ‘useful’ and was thus allowed to stay? Who was – also in the legal sense – considered ‚undesirable‘ and had to leave? And how to survive and live in a country in which one is unwanted? Or, from the perspective of the German population: how did German society and the authorities of the first democratic state in Germany react to the refugees?

The primary goal and “product” of the practical project was the scenic reading. The format of a “scenic reading” was chosen since several of its core elements reflect the work of historians: In a scenic reading the text that is being read, i.e. the testimony of the time, becomes the center of attention. Contemporary testimonies give an authentic impression of the language of the time. They provide insights into the actors’ speech, actions, and thoughts. Hence, they make possible that people’s specific stories of their experiences remain or become part of today’s discourses and public culture of remembrance.[5] On the other hand, the artistic-aesthetic confrontation with the material only takes up a secondary role. Reading as a form of documentary theater does not attempt – as is usual in dramatic theater formats – to achieve a targeted emotionalization of the audience by means of aesthetic forms of expression. Emotionalization also plays a role in documentary theater; but, when based on historical testimonies, it offers a many-voiced panorama of conflicting positions, to which the audience should relate by forming opinions of their own and, in each individual case, by choosing their own position.[6]

Contrary to the name-giving impression of an objective documentary, documentary theater must even be regarded as part of political theater, since it demands a special kind of aesthetics that forces viewers to reflect on their own political position. Or to say it with the Viennese theater scholar Brigitte Marschall: “Documentary theater is a theater that strives for the formation of political will. By criticizing the veiling, the lying, the falsification of history, it wanted to influence the formation of opinion, reveal hidden approaches, correct views.”[7] The contrast to the work of historians seems obvious, since theater, as described by Marschall, would hardly be in a position to adequately convey research results that have arisen under a certain objectivity imperative. But this is only an ostensible contradiction: the confrontation of the audience with selection of sources from multiple perspectives enables an open examination of history. Even more so, it makes the way historians work transparent by presenting stories, attitudes and “facts” that do not correspond with or even contradict one another. 

The aim of the project was not only to conduct historical research on a largely unknown chapter of migration history on a regional level, but also to conduct aesthetic research: How can we stage contemporary witnesses? What aesthetic scope can be used? Which borders should not be crossed? In further developing the Bremen model, we in Heidelberg deliberately decided to actively involve students in this area of the production as well, in order to give students not only responsibility for the research aspects of the project, but also, at least in part, for the conceptual design of the mediation. From our point of view, this assumption of responsibility has, so far, rarely been part of the curricula of history degrees; however, the practical relevance of Public History offers a particular degree of space in which students can try their hand.

This two-pronged approach to historical and aesthetic research also convinced the Baden-Württemberg Ministry of Science, Research, and the Arts to support the Heidelberg project by means of the “Innovation Fund for the Arts” (funding line Cultural Education). We were able to win the “Theater Workshop Heidelberg” (Theaterwerkstatt Heidelberg) as a cooperation partner. Under the direction of Wolfgang G. Schmidt, it has been active as a theater pedagogical academy for 25 years and, together with a network of numerous theater creators, has been testing various forms of theater work. Due to their many years of involvement with museum theater, i.e. the use of theatrical means in the presentation of exhibitions, all those involved in the project have endeavored from the outset to deal sensitively with the testimonies of the past. Babette Steinkrüger, literary scholar and dramaturg, was the link between the worlds of scholarship and theater. She actively accompanied the practical project and, with great sensitivity, assembled the primary sources discovered by the students into a stage text, always taking into account their research results. I was in charge of the lectures.[8]

Teaching practice. Or: Spaces of trial and error

The practical project comprised a multifaceted package of activities: the scenic reading was to be accompanied by a preparatory theatrical pedagogical program for school classes, a public panel discussion, a film recording of the reading and an accompanying scholarly volume. At the beginning of the 2016 summer term, however, we first had to focus on the initial research phase for students. The students’ aims were (a) to gain an overview of the history of (Jewish) migration at the beginning of the 20th century, (b) to develop their own research questions, (c) to carry out independent literature and primary source research in libraries and archives, (d) to present initial findings and hypotheses at a joint workshop with the Hamburg project students, (e) to present research results and feedback in a scholarly article, and (f) to prepare these same articles for publication in a multi-stage editorial process. 

Approximately a dozen students from the BA and MA degree programs of the Heidelberg History Department chose to participate in the project, primarily because of its topicality. At the beginning of the semester, students were asked to formulate historical research questions while keeping in mind current political developments. The students then came up with different research plans based on their own questions: What sources could there be on our topic? What perspectives do we want to look at? After the discussion of selected survey texts and literature, and after a joint visit to the General State Archives in Karlsruhe (Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe), the students quickly developed their individual research foci which they wanted to explore further over the course of the project. The three title-giving categories, fledunwantedand deported, formed the overall framework.

  • Fled: In the following weeks, two students devoted themselves to the causes of flight in Eastern Europe and to (Jewish) welfare organizations, which helped refugees when they arrived in Germany. 
  • Unwanted: The focus of this category lay on the increasing radicalization of anti-Semitism in Germany after the First World War. This development was closely investigated by six students, each choosing a different facet: using the example of the anti-Semitic Privatdozent (lecturer) Arnold Ruge at Heidelberg University, the parliamentary debates in the Baden Landtag (the parliament of the Republic of Baden) and Berlin Reichstag, the national German-Jewish and Baden press, and naturalization applications.
  • Deported: In this section, two students examined the immigration law of the Weimar Republic, the practice of expulsion from Baden and the establishment of the first so-called concentration camps in Prussia, which served as internment camps for “Eastern Jews.”

Within a very short time, the students conquered the archive as the “laboratory” of historians: They got to know how to systematically use an archive, familiarized themselves with the formal language of naturalization and expulsion procedures, and dis- and uncovered historical manuscripts. Working with original primary sources is almost always the starting point for an extraordinary surge of motivation. This led to a “treasure-hunting mood” among the students, a willingness to recognize and work on contexts of fragmentary tradition accompanied by the knowledge that they were experts themselves for the chosen topic. In this phase, the project team intervened almost exclusively with supplementary and guiding questions that were intended to help the students in the conception and systematic execution of their research. The fact that it was possible to deal with some of the very wide-ranging topics within a short period of time is due not only to the great motivation of all project students, but also to the support of the General State Archive Karlsruhe, the City Archive Mannheim, and the University Archive Heidelberg, which answered the students’ questions with patience and commitment and actively helped them to find primary sources.[9]

The central finding of the students in the research phase was the partly sobering confrontation with an extremely incomplete tradition. While newspaper publications are very well preserved as primary sources and can often be easily accessed, only individual pieces of evidence could be found regarding topics such as Baden’s expulsion policy of the 1920s. The small number of these files, in turn, reflects the small degree of importance that authorities and archives attached to the subject when they decided which files were to be preserved and which were to be destroyed. The embedding of findings in contemporary and current research literature nevertheless enabled the students to analyze historical developments, trends, and the underlying political attitudes from fragments of tradition. This process of scientific embedding is particularly challenging for students in their first semesters; at the same time, there is great pressure on the project to deliver good results within the given timeframe and under the consideration of scientific quality standards.

But do the results meet these requirements? Has nothing been overlooked or misinterpreted? In order to give the students answers to these questions and a feeling of security in dealing with their research, we conducted a joint workshop with the parallel project seminar at the University of Hamburg at the end of the lecture period.[10] The students at both locations presented and discussed their primary sources, research hypotheses, and. In addition, we were able to win Miriam Rürup (Director of the Institute for the History of German Jews, Hamburg), Kirsten Heinsohn (Deputy Director of the Research Center for Contemporary History, Hamburg) and Aurélie Audeval (Ecole des hautes études en sciences sociales, Paris), who commented on the contributions of the students in the protected and appreciative framework of the workshop and provided valuable questions and suggestions. This period of reflection had a positive effect on the research results of the students. Questions and theses could be clarified and references to previously unknown literature helped to reduce uncertainties. 

By the end of the semester, the research results and contents of the lectures and talks were to be condensed into academic, yet generally understandable, articles for an accompanying volume. This presented the participants with a new challenge, as very few of them had previous experience in writing for a non-academic audience. In several editorial loops, the essays were commented on and revised by the project team and the student assistants.[11] At the same time, a selection of sources had to be put together for the scenic reading. The students presented their findings to the actresses and actors, the dramaturg, and the director. They explained what is interesting about the documents from a scientific point of view and to what extent they considered these sources to be ‘suitable for the stage.’ Babette Steinkrüger then distilled a theater text from almost 800 pages of material for almost two hours of performance. The students thus had the opportunity to accompany the artistic process from their position as scholars. They participated with numerous creative ideas and some constructive objections. The greatest challenge for all participants was the reduction of the material. In order to make a consistent and – as far as possible –entertaining production possible, the students were asked to prepare biographies of historical protagonists encountered in the sources in advance.

History in public: the presentation of documents

The scenic reading was performed six times in October 2016 and January 2017 at the Theaterwerkstatt Heidelberg. The project team prepared a small poster exhibition for the foyer of the theater to invite the audience to discuss the topics and individual biographies presented in the reading. The students were present at the book table to answer questions from the audience. The accompanying volume with 14 essays and numerous illustrations on 275 pages was finished in time for the premiere.[12]

Since the scenic reading was explicitly aimed at pupils as well, a total of ten preparatory workshops were offered, in which one of the actors from the Theaterwerkstatt worked with school classes on topics of theater pedagogy with a focus on the issues of ‘known vs. foreign’ and ‘belonging vs. excluded’..Simple exercises were meant to help in stimulating a reflection process, which would subsequently lead to a better understanding and more intense discussion of the documents presented in the reading. Additionally, this was intended to help build bridges between the past and the everyday life of the pupils.

The reading itself focused primarily on the historical language of the documents. There was no narrator and no commentary on stage. The sources spoke for themselves. In order to make the context of their origins and cutbacks transparent, some of the primary sources were projected onto a screen behind the stage. This trick also made it clear to the audience that scenes had been developed from documents and that no visualization of the past reality could be shown on stage. In certain scenes, we used music to illustrate the temporal and social contexts. The reading was opened with the Yiddish song “Tsen Brider,”, which deals with ten Jewish brothers who engage in various commercial activities and die one after the other. The increasing impoverishment of Eastern European Jews is the focus of this social criticism and was the prelude to an examination of contemporary causes of flight in the reading. In some biographical scenes, there is a leap from the 1920s into restitution files from the 1950s and 1960s. These leaps were also emphasized by musical underpinnings. In order to ensure a lasting confrontation with the subject matter, we recorded the scenic reading and made it available for free online.[13]

Special encounters: The case of the Elter family 

Among the expulsion files handed down in the archives, only a handful consisted of more than just one page with a few superficial details and no further context. One of the few more detailed files concerned the ordered but ultimately not executed expulsion of the ‘East Jewish’ shoemaker Salomon Elter from Mannheim. He was supposed to be expelled at the beginning of the 1920s because of his alleged participation in the revolutionary unrest of 1919.[14] An impressive record of Elter’s wife Lea’s visit to the responsible state ministry in Karlsruhe and her request for the expulsion to be appealed was the starting point for further research into Elter’s biography. As we followed the life of Lea, we quickly came across a memory report by her daughter Henriette, who was born in Mannheim in 1920.[15] Shortly before her death in 2015, she had written down her memories of the Nazi period in her new home, the US. Through her statements in her recollections we were able to contact Henriette’s son Marcel Polak in the United States who has been particularly interested in family history for several years already. Today, the Elter-Polak family lives not only in the USA, but also in Europe and Israel. 

The sources we had uncovered about the threatening expulsion of his grandfather were met with great interest by Marcel Polak. This episode of the family history had so far been unknown to him. He immediately offered his help for further research. As a Jew born in France with Eastern European roots and his own migration history to the USA in the early 1950s, he was particularly interested in the chapter of European migration history that we were researching. We quickly developed an extensive correspondence that also included other family members from around the world. The project students received numerous acknowledgements expressing their appreciation of the students’ interest in their family. It was an impressive experience for all those involved in the project to see the implications of their academic work: In this way, the “case of the Elter family” was transformed from a scientific study into an act of support and enlightenment. 

Marcel Polak and his older brother Raymond Polak travelled from the USA to Germany in October 2016 to experience this chapter of their family history on stage. They answered questions from the audience and the students in a public panel discussion. On this occasion, the Polak brothers emphasized their personal gratitude to the project for giving a voice to a family that had never been in the public eye. The theatrical negotiation and presentation of his expulsion turned Salomon Elter into a representative of all those expelled, deported, exiled, and all refugees – in the past as well as today. The historical example becomes a moment of pause and reflection on current political events – and thus an important building block in the self-location within today’s democracies.


The learning project was brought to a successful conclusion because all those involved were committed to its success beyond all measure. The additional demand of time and effort, mainly due to the extensive archival and library research and the editorial revision of the articles, was ultimately more than balanced by the students‘ motivation to present their research results to the public. Projects like this promote motivation for research and learning in an outstanding way, but both, teachers and students, must be aware beforehand that the time demand for all participants is considerably higher than in the case of a regular university seminar. 

The often (too) tight corset of a limited curriculum, however, frequently leads to rules specifying and standardizing the range of working hours and corresponding awarded credit points which often do not do justice to the dynamics of everyday teaching life. Nor can all students meet these extraordinary requirements or even want to. When designing practical projects, it should always be borne in mind that a project team does not only consist of a few top performers; even if, in the case of our project, such a small group, with their interest and commitment, indeed did have a stimulating and motivating effect on the rest of the participants. Just as greater freedom in the curriculum would be desirable, it is also necessary to ensure that there is enough time and opportunities for all participants to benefit from the project.

The students were particularly interested in the connection between the present and the past. On the basis of the staged historical sources, it was possible to draw parallels to the situation of refugees and foreigners in Germany in the 21stcentury. The students examined a salient topic of contemporary events in its historical dimension. They transferred questions from the current debate to the situation in the 1920s. The result was a multifaceted catalogue of questions for their own research, which not only aimed at the legal framework and its implementation, but above all focused on the social confrontation with the arrival, support and integration of refugees in the first German democracy. 

The collaboration with the Theaterwerkstatt team was a win-win situation for everyone involved. Their professional expertise, historical sensitivity, and creative approach to the research achievements of the students was stimulating and successful. Even though the parties involved looked at the documents from different perspectives, the essence was that the discussion of the human aspect remained within the framework of democratic scope. The entire team was aware of its special responsibility regarding the historical authenticity of the primary sources and the associated expectations of the audience. Theater as a form of “doing history” or performative historiography generates popular images of history. Theater makes history. It was essential to make this act of narration transparent to the audience, so that it would not leave the impression that the events on stage can depict a definite historical reality. At the same time, through the eyes of today’s makers and viewers, theater can raise specific themes and theses that inspire the audience to engage in reflexive debate. In this context, viewers are more than just spectators. They are empowered to form their own historical opinion based on a multi-perspective narrative. Historians have the task, through the selection of sources and forms of staging, to offer different interpretations to the audience – and thereby stimulate contributions to the democratic discourse of history and memory.[16]

Through their own research, the student participants of the project experienced how lively and vivid historical sources can be. In order to answer their self-developed research questions, they ‘lifted’ documents, letters, parliamentary debates, and journals from the depths of archives and libraries of the region, evaluated and classified them. By being involved in both, preparing the scenic reading and the realization of the accompanying volume, the practical project was able to make visible to them an almost forgotten chapter in the history of the country and the history of migration in Europe in the first half of the 20th century. 

Stereotypical perceptions of foreigners as well as patterns of official and social exclusion were the central signposts for the students’ research. The results of their research show that stigmatization, exclusion, and deportation of refugees occurred on a federal, state, and municipal level. The language and content of the official sources alone do not indicate that the expulsions and naturalizations were carried out under democratic conditions. The actions of civil servants, i.e. the day-to-day practice of the authorities, but also the choice of words used in official documents point to longer lines of continuity. Nevertheless, an initial comparison with the results of the projects in Bremen and Hamburg already shows that both naturalization and expulsion practices in the Republic of Baden were handled comparatively liberally. Mass expulsions or the establishment of internment or early “concentration camps” (like in Prussia) did not take place in Baden.[17] The sources show that officials in the Baden administration had a great deal of room for personal maneuver. 

The practical project also contributed to giving participating students as well as audience members at the scenic readings a direct insight into the specific conditions in Germany in the early 1920s: Weimar is not synonymous with a ‘time of crisis’ or the ‘golden twenties.’ The first German republic was characterized by the simultaneity of enormous political challenges, economic change, a gradually noticeable improvement in the social situation, and a cultural avant-garde and media-influenced mass culture.[18] The approach chosen within the framework of the project via the theater and the format of the scenic reading contributed decisively to gaining such a multi-faceted view of the first German democracy and to critically opposing the suggested and still widespread narratives of exaltation. From the scenic reading of historical testimonies, the audience could draw their own conclusions or reflect on what they had seen against the background of their own perceptions of the present. 

If one recapitulates and reflects on the underlying historical connections, the practical project raises the question of what political-historical education was like in the Weimar Republic itself. Article 148 of the constitution of the German Reich of 11 August 1919, also known as the Weimar Reich Constitution (WRV), contains a passage that explicitly demands “civic education” as a subject in public school education. The education of democratically minded citizens within the framework of “popular education”[19] became, above all, a question of school practice: civics as a separate subject and at the same time as a general teaching principle was of great importance.[20]

The same is true for today. It is still necessary, albeit with a slight shift of emphasis, to persistently discuss what a (historical-political) education can or must look like, if it is supposed to, at the same time, create, promote, and preserve democracy. Historical-political education always requires a certain degree of self-democratization. The practical project „Fled, unwanted, deported – ‘undesirable aliens’ in the Weimar Republic” has shown that writing the history of democracy is above all a question of practice. A practice that enables both the students involved in the research-based learning project and the viewers of the scenic readings to reflect on the basic questions of democratic societies themselves, to exchange views on these reflections together, and thus actively participate in shaping democracy.

[1] The project “Aus den Akten auf die Bühne” is available online at the URL, accessed September 6, 2021.

[2] The Heidelberg project was made by the Chair of Public History of Cord Arendes together with Nils.

[3] Cf. Ulrich Herbert, Geschichte der Ausländerpolitik in Deutschland: Saisonarbeiter, Zwangsarbeiter, Gastarbeiter, Flüchtlinge (München: Beck, 2001); Trude Maurer, Ostjuden in Deutschland, 1918–1933 (Hamburg Christians, 1986); Jochen Oltmer, Migration und Politik in der Weimarer Republik (Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2005); Christiane Reinecke, Grenzen der Freizügigkeit. Migrationskontrolle in Großbritannien und Deutschland, 1880–1930 (München: Oldenbourg, 2010); Kristina Heizmann, Fremd in der Fremde: Die Geschichte des Flüchtlings in Großbritannien und Deutschland, 1880–1925 (PhD diss., Konstanz: Universität Konstanz, 2015), accessed September 6, 2021,

[4] Cf. Berlin Transit. Jüdische Migranten aus Osteuropa in den 1920er Jahren, ed. Jüdisches Museum Berlin (Göttingen: Wallstein, 2012); Ludger Heid, Berliner Luft. “Ostjuden in der deutschen Hauptstadt der Weimarer Jahre,” Jüdische Allgemeine, July 26, 2012, accessed September 6, 2021,

[5] Cf. Dagi Knellessen and Ralf Possekel, Zeugnisformen: Berichte, künstlerische Werke und Erzählungen von NS-Verfolgten (Berlin: Stiftung “Erinnerung, Verantwortung und Zukunft,” 2015).

[6] Cf. the documentary theater of the present: Boris Nikitin, Carena Schlewitt, and Tobias Brenk, Dokument, Fälschung, Wirklichkeit. Materialband zum zeitgenössischen Dokumentarischen Theater (Berlin: Theater der Zeit, 2014). Under the aspect of repetition I think that needs to be rephrased; you do not speak about repetition in the main textcf. Heike Engelke, Geschichte wiederholen. Strategien des Reenactment in der Gegenwartskunst: Omer Fast, Andrea Geyer und Rod Dickinson (Bielefeld: transcript, 2017).

[7] Brigitte Marschall, Politisches Theater nach 1950 (Vienna: Böhlau, 2010), 18.

[8] Lectures “Fled, Unwanted, Deported – Weimar Republic’s ‘Undesirable Aliens” (“Geflüchtet, unerwünscht, abgeschoben – ‘Lästige Ausländer’ in der Weimarer Republik”) and “‘Undesirable Aliens’ in the Weimar Republich – a Public History Project” (“‘Lästige Ausländer’ in der Weimarer Republik – ein Public History-Projekt”) as well as the excursion “Hamburg: Migration History in the Early 20th Century” (“Hamburg: Migrationsgeschichte im frühen 20. Jahrhundert”) (all summer semester 2016).

[9] Our special thanks go to Martin Stingl from the Generallandesarchiv Karlsruhe, Jürgen Schuhladen-Krämer from the Stadtarchiv Mannheim and the team from the Universitätsarchiv Heidelberg, who always provided students with advice and support.

[10] The conference announcement of the workshop “Geflüchtet, unerwünscht, abgeschoben – Studierende erforschen den Umgang mit ‘lästigen Ausländern’ in der Weimarer Republik” is available online at the URL, accessed September 6, 2021).

[11] We would like to thank Laura Moser and Jasper T. Kauth once again for their extraordinary commitment to the project.

[12] It can be accessed via the heiBOOKS portal of the Heidelberg University Library. Geflüchtet, unerwünscht, abgeschoben. “Lästige Ausländer” in der Republik Baden (1918–1923), eds. Nils Steffen and Cord Arendes (Heidelberg: Universitätsbibliothek, 2017), DOI 10.11588/heibooks.182.241, accessed September 6, 2021.

[13] It is available online in the form of a trailer (approx. 7 min) and a complete film version (approx. 125 min). Trailer: Film version:, accessed September 6, 2021.

[14] The case of the Elter family received its own contribution in the accompanying volume of the project: Nils Steffen, “Der Fall Elter. Eine Familiengeschichte im Getriebe europäischer Migrationsregime,” in Geflüchtet, unerwünscht, abgeschoben. “Lästige Ausländer” in der Republik Baden (1918–1923), eds. Nils Steffen and Cord Arendes (Heidelberg: Universitätsbibliothek, 2017), 253–275.

[15] The Memory Report by Henriette Polak née Elter is online at the URL:, accessed September 6, 2021).

[16] This topic was also discussed at the subsequent conference “History in the Spotlight” (October 2017) in Bremen. A volume with contributions from academia and theater was published in 2020: Geschichte im Rampenlicht. Inszenierungen historischer Quellen im Theater, eds. Thorsten Logge, Eva Schöck-Quinteros, and Nils Steffen (Berlin/Boston: De Gruyter, 2020).

[17] Cf. Fabian Promotico, “Eine Alternative zur Abschiebung? Die Einrichtung der ersten Konzentrationslager,” in Geflüchtet, unerwünscht, abgeschoben. “Lästige Ausländer” in der Republik Baden (1918–1923), eds. Nils Steffen and Cord Arendes (Heidelberg: Universitätsbibliothek, 2017), 215–236. Cf. the prehistory of the National Socialist concentration camps in: Nikolaus Wachsmann, KL: Die Geschichte der nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslager (München: Siedler, 2016), 13–17. A general classification, even if the camps of the Weimar Republic are not explicitly addressed: Joël Kotek and Pierre Rigoulot, Das Jahrhundert der Lager. Gefangenschaft, Zwangsarbeit, Vernichtung (Berlin: Propyläen, 2001).

[18] Cf. Werner Faulstich, “Einführung: ‘Ein Leben auf dem Vulkan?’ Weimarer Republik und die ‘goldenen’ 20er Jahre,” in Die Kultur der 20er Jahre, ed. Werner Faulstich (Paderborn: Fink, 2008), 7–20; cf. Eberhard Kolb and Dirk Schumann, Die Weimarer Republik (Munich: Oldenbourg, 2013).

[19] Cf. Detlef Gaus, “Geisteswissenschaftliche Pädagogik, Schule, Hochschule und Volksbildung in den zwanziger Jahren,” in Die Kultur der 20er Jahre, ed. Werner Faulstich (Paderborn: Fink, 2008),71–96, especially 89–93.

[20] Cf. Matthias Busch, Staatsbürgerkunde in der Weimarer Republik. Genese einer demokratischen Fachdidaktik (Bad Heilbrunn: Julius Klinkhardt, 2015), 339–390 and 89–148.