The Eldorado, Motzstraße 24, 10777 Berlin, Germany
Manasse Herbst (1 November 1913 in Galicia, Austria-Hungary – 3 January 1997 in Hallandale, Florida, US) was a German-speaking silent movie actor, child-actor, theater actor and singer. He participated in 416 sold-out performances of the operetta White Horse Inn between 1930 and 1932 in Berlin. During the first half of the 1930s Herbst had a relationship with the German Baron Gottfried von Cramm, one of the most popular tennis players of the time. Because of this, von Cramm was sentenced in a Nazi propaganda trial which was recognized all over the world. Due to his Jewish background and the Nazi prohibition to perform his job Herbst had to flee from Germany in 1936. Later he became a US citizen.
In 1920 Manasse Herbst participated in the silent movie "Papa Haydn", where he performed as the young son of the composer Joseph Haydn. In 1926 he acted a part in the silent movie "The Son of Hannibal". Between 1930 and 1932 he performed 416 times within eighteen months in the always sold-out operetta "Im weissen Rössl" ("White Horse Inn") in the so-called "Theater of the 5,000", the Großes Schauspielhaus of Berlin, near Schiffbauerdamm. It was described as a cultural highlight in the Weimar Republic which antagonised the Nazis who prohibited it as degenerate art (in German: Entartete Kunst) as soon as they came to power in 1933.
In 1931 seventeen-year-old Manasse Herbst met the already married twenty-one-year-old Gottfried von Cramm in the Berlin nightclub "Eldorado" when he was at the beginning of his world career as a tennis champion. They were close friends until Herbst's forced emigration. It was sponsored by von Cramm which was highly illegal at that time. Furthermore, Herbst and von Cramm tried to stay in contact which was hard due to Gestapo and World War II.
Manasse Herbst went to Lisbon, Portugal, where he could not find work since he had no knowledge of Portuguese. In 1937 he managed to travel to Paris, France, where he was able to live with his brother. From there he contacted von Cramm who received the letter in Australia where he was participating in a tennis competition. Gottfried von Cramm hoped to meet Herbst in 1938 when he himself was scheduled to travel to Paris to take part in the French Open; this did not happen.
In April 1937 von Cramm was interrogated by Gestapo about his intimate relationship with Herbst. A rent boy had denounced him and others from hearsay of Berlin's gay scene, some falsely. For the Nazis the denunciation of von Cramm was just a minor offshoot of the big Blomberg-Fritsch Affair. In an effort to minimise his sentence von Cramm tried to reduce the duration of his liaison with Herbst to the time before the aggravation of the anti-gay laws which took place in 1935. In an exculpatory statement he also claimed to be blackmailed by Herbst in order to avoid a harsh sentence for a breach of exchange control regulations. Gottfried von Cramm was sentenced to one year in jail but came out on probation after seven months. His mother had intervened and met Hermann Göring who was a member of the Rot-Weiss Tennis Club where von Cramm originated.
After WWII Herbst, meanwhile married, visited Germany to thank von Cramm personally for saving his life. Manasse Herbst later lived in Hallandale, Broward County, Florida. There he died in the age of 83.
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