The Mellini affair

The Mellini Theater was located in present-day Kurt-Schumacher-Strasse (known at that time as Artilleriestrasse) opposite the junction with Odeonstrasse. It was a variety theatre or boulevard theatre. During the Second World War, it was converted into a “Kraft-durch-Freude-Theater” [Strength through Joy Theatre], designed to boost morale (by inspiring a spirit of resilience and endurance) on the home front.

Hanover: Advert for the Operetta "Das Dreimäderlhaus" at the Mellini Theatre, from: Volkswille no. 241/ 1916. Historical Museum of Hanover
Hanover: Advert for the Operetta "Das Dreimäderlhaus" at the Mellini Theatre, from: Volkswille no. 241/ 1916. Historical Museum of Hanover

A risqué bare leg is flaunted in variety theatre performances

The traditional fare of the Mellini is plays that take a more liberal approach to the sexual morality prevailing at that time. A risqué bare leg is flaunted in variety performances. In June 1932, the play “Eva im Bade oder das Mädchen aus der Fürsorge” [roughly translates as ‘Eve Bathing or the Girl from the Orphanage’] is performed. The title alone hints at the intention to make a dig at the bourgeois double moral standards of the time. This play provokes a public scandal.

The church youth and the Hitler Youth: united against “filth and trash”

Members of the Protestant Youth and the Christian Boy Scouts orchestrate the deliberate buying of tickets, infiltrate performances and disrupt them by making loud raucous noise and chanting. This causes performance of the play to be abandoned. The zeal of the Protestant Youth and Christian Boy Scouts goes so far in this “fight against filth and trash” that they pay for tickets for the Hanover branch of the Hitler Youth [Hitlerjugend, abbreviated to HJ] and carry out the campaign as a joint action with them.

“Strength through Joy”

After 1939, the venue becomes a playhouse for the Nazi state-operated leisure organisation “Kraft durch Freude” [Strength through Joy], which was designed to use entertainment to help stabilise the “home front”. The National Socialist “Niedersächsische Tageszeitung” (NTZ) [“Lower Saxony Daily Newspaper”] from Hanover proudly reports in its issue from 29/30 July 1939: “The task is simple, beautiful and magnificent: Hanover’s Mellini Theatre, a place with a colourful history, filled with both bright and gloomy days, is to undergo refurbishment to transform it into a place of dignity where the National Socialist “Strength through Joy” organisation can provide the people from city and rural areas alike with pleasant and fun hours of entertainment and relaxation”.

To this end, the theatre is renovated in the style fitting of the Nazi era. Stucco and ornaments from the “Gründerzeit” [literally “founders’ period”, architecturally the period from 1870 to 1914] are replaced by a brutalist, unadorned façade. It is severely damaged in the large-scale bombing raid on Hanover in October 1943. In the post-war years, the ruins are used to stage key contemporary plays before being demolished in 1954.

Additional online information

Wikipedia entry Mellini Theatre [in German]
LEMO The National Socialist Leisure Organisation “Strength through Joy” (KdF) [in German]

Further reading:  Click here

Text: Willi Duckstein Bildredaktion: Michael Pechel