Conrad Veidt was drafted and served in the Army during World War I. However, after his arrival at the Russian front he became ill, and spent his recovery time acting in the Front Theaters. During World War II Veidt, in his late forties, contributed money to the British War Relief, and after moving to the United States spent time helping to popularize the Allied cause. This page will discuss these activities of Veidt's, as well as the activities of people in general on the home fronts during the wars, and the activities of entertainers who remained civilians but did their bit for the war effort (of each country). Readers are invited to submit material to this page.

World War I. The Front Theaters of Germany

Two of the Front Theaters were the Stadt Theater in Tilsit (directed by Kurt Grebin) and the Deutsches Theater in Libau (directed by Josef Dischner). Both of these theaters were in the Baltic Sea region, several miles behind the front lines. (There were also travelling troupes of actors who visited the front lines).

The Front Theaters were outstanding stage workshops. The actors were required to perform in a different play every few days. The variety of roles and plays was immense, ranging from tragedy to comedy, from ''Sitten-drama'' (plays about the customs and vices of the people) to operettas. The Theaters mounted plays by Shakespeare (very popular in Germany), Goethe, Schiller, Ibsen, Strindberg, Schnitzler and others.

Although the soldiers in these audiences (back from the front lines for a few days of rest and recuperation) preferred comedy revues and burlesque skits, they were always given a good share of classical theater as well.

Conrad Veidt On May 2, 1915, Veidt's unit was ordered from garrison duty to the Eastern Front. He later participated in the battle for Warsaw against the Russian army. During this Russian campaign, Veidt serving near Insterburg, not far behind the front lines contracted jaundice and a case of pneumonia. He was evacuated to a hospital in Tilsit, a seaport town on the Baltic Sea coast.

Veidt recuperated slowly. He was placed on light-duty status. He was informed that there was an opening for an experienced stage actor, and he applied for a position with the Libau Front Theater. He auditioned for Dischner and was accepted. Dischner requested that Veidt be released from his light duties and be transferred to Libau. The doctors agreed that Veidt was unfit for further military service and complied. By June 25, Veidt was acting on stage in Libau.

In late December, 1916 (a year and a half later) Veidt was ordered to the Tilsit hospital for a medical re-evaluation. This time the doctors decided Veidt was unfit for military service and he received his final discharge from the Army on January 10, 1917, and returned to Berlin.

Years later, Veidt wrote of his time at the Front Theater: ''...Herr Dischner was a fine, understanding man and a remarkable stage director. He not only permitted me to participate often in stage productions, but he encouraged me to do as much theatrical work as possible. He gave me the opportunity to perform in a wide variety of plays - from tragedies to comedies; from supporting roles to leading actor parts. On occassion, Herr Dischner even arranged for me to travel to the other Front Theater in the area, the Stadt-Theater in Tilsit, with the concurrence of Herr Grebin, the director there. This was done to allow me to perform in a highly desireable dramatic role in a special classic tragedy being produced there.

In this way, Herr Dischner gave me the one thing I needed most - a solid grounding in the basic craft of the theater and the experience that goes with it. I still think often of Herr Ditsch with affection and gratitude for the invaluable stage experience he gave me. His small theater produced uncommonly fine theatrical entertainment. But because I had this burning ambition, I wasn't satisfied with Libau. I wanted to return to Berlin and to Reinhardt's Deutsches Theater, probably the greatest theater in Germany. That was my dream. And Josef Dischner and his theatrical troupe helped me reach my goal, my dream.''

The information above is from Conrad Veidt, From Caligari to Casablanca. If any readers are WWI enthusiasts and wish to do research on the Front Theaters, their work will be published here. Contact us!.

Coming soon:

Veidt's work during WWII for British War Relief.

Return to the Conrad Veidt Society Homepage here.



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