Schildkraut / Meir Collection

Karl-Heinz Meier studied theater science and began his PhD-thesis in the mid1960s. He died at the beginning of 1970 without having completed it. The collection provides an insight into Meier’s research on Rudolf Maximilian Schildkraut, who was born in Galatz, Romania on April 27, 1862 and died in Los Angeles on July 15, 1930. His work reveals fascinating facts about the theatre world in Germany and Australia at the turn of the century as well as the American motion picture scene of the 1920s.

When Karl-Heinz Meier began his research on Rudolf Maximilian Schildkraut, the actor was hardly known among theater studies. His Jewish parents – his father Ignatz Braunstein, born in Burstin near Lemberg / Galicia, and his mother, born in Istanbul – had run a hotel in Galatz. After the death of her husband, the widow married an inn-keeper. In 1880, a law was passed prohibiting Jews from running a tavern, and the family moved to Argentina (Buenos Aires): Rudolf Maximilian Schildkraut, who, in addition to Romanian, spokes German, Spanish, French and Turkish, always tried to conceal his Romanian-Jewish origin.

In 1880/81, he attended the “Drama School of the Viennese Conservatory” gaining his first experience with Hungarian-Austrian touring groups and later with music halls. At the height of his career he was, between 1905 and 1915, a member of the “Max Reinhardt Ensemble”, where he played more than 35 roles. It is partly thanks to him that the Deutsche Theater Berlin and the name of Max Reinhardt attained a growing reputation and world-wide significance.

In the first two decades of the 20th century, Schildkraut became one of the most important character actors on the German stages. His interpretations of Shylock and King Lear were enthusiastically praised by critics of the time. After his guest appearances in New York (1911 – 1913) the actor moved to the States permanently and joined the Yiddish Theater. In 1925, he founded his own theater [Schildkraut Theater] in the Bronx (New York), dedicated to Yiddish performances. Rudolf Maximilian Schildkraut died in Hollywood on July 15, 1930.

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