Once upon a time, Wolfgang Theis saw a costume he couldn’t forget. It was shown at Martin-Gropiusbau during the 750 years Berlin celebration. An oriental-style costume, earrings to match and three postcards of a certain Hans Anton Krotochin. All that from the year 1918. To top it all, this was allegedly shown as far away as in Constantinople! In 1988 these treasures could be bought from a private owner – thanks to the Society for Psychoanalysis. Nothing was known about who used to wear it. Then, a few years later, Lothar Fischer, cultural historian, found a folder with large photos at the fleamarket and remembered the dress that had meanwhile been shown in the Schwules Museum. That charming dancing girl in the pictures was definitely Hans Anton, former dancer of the Deutsche Oper in Berlin. It appeared he continued work as an extra till quite old and also as an usher at the opera on Bismarckstrasse. When he died, his household was dissolved.
Again at a fleamarket, Lothar Fischer found a second album with 60 smaller photos. When Theis and Fischer were discussing an exhibition, the latter said he had asked around and some neighbors remembered the old gent who collected porcellain figures and lived at the same address for a long time. A few days later, Fischer phoned the Schwules Museum. Quite excited, he told he had followed his intuition and looked in the telephone book under the name Anton. He had now discovered a sister-in-law of Hans Anton, who possessed yet another album. Sadly, the old lady cannot remember much about her relative. But her photo album also contained some documents that shed a further light on Anton’s life, even though many questions remain unanswered.
Hans Anton added Krotochin to his name after serving in World War I. He performed for the front theatre in the town of Krotochin. His name, with the added information of being employed at the Deutsche Oper, also appears in various war charity programs. As a “mysterious young lady” he performed for children, too. The costume on display stems from his much-celebrated solo dance performance in an opera, The Queen of Sheba. His stay at Constantinople can also be confirmed. Apparently Hans Otto was stationed there as a soldier for some time; nothing was found about performances in Constantinople.
Some photos allow a glance into his private life. In 1916 he visits a costume ball together with Willy Schmidtke: Willy as a gallant rococo-gent; Hans as a sweet shepherdess. The family album shows further photos of Willy, all from the year 1916. Did Willy die at the front? Had he only been a fleeting acquaintance, it seems noone would have hung on to these pictures for so long. In 1922 Hans Anton spent a holiday in Ragusa (now: Dobrovnik) where he had his picture taken, modestly dressed. Yet he took a photo of his holiday acquaintance, Baron Hasso von Bohna, sunbaking in the nude. Interestingly, this stretch of beach was still a gay favorite in the 1970s. Apart from show pictures with female dance partners in the 1920s, the family album shows a certain Lia Larsen photographed by Anton himself. According to relatives, she was a remote aunt who became his confidente. Little Hans – as the family called him – also took pictures of Elisabeth Paczynski-Tenczyn (born Nickel), coiffed and made-up by Hans, as a very fashionable lady. It is said that they used to go out together. Sadly enough, we do not know where they went dressed up like that. During World War II, Hans Anton served in the army again – one photo shows him as a Wehrmacht soldier. There are but a few photos from after 1945, no documents or letters. Tracing the life of Hans Anton is by no means finalized. Perhaps some of our visitors can tell us more?
Curator: Wolfgang Theis