Wolfgang Jansen’s New Biography Of Willi Kollo (1904-1988): How Much Nazi History Will He Adress?

Kevin Clarke
Operetta Research Center
11 March, 2020

It took Berlin based musical theater researcher Wolfgang Jansen a while, and it took the various legal departments even more time, to get the manuscript for this Willi Kollo (1904-1988) biography ready for printing. But now it’s coming out in March 2020. And it will be interesting to see what Mr. Jansen has to say about Walter Kollo’s (in)famous son and his association with the Nazi regime after 1933, not to mention his political activities and beliefs after 1945. (And while he’s at it, he might also discuss Walter Kollo’s politics.)

The cover for Wolfgang Jansen's Wlilli Kollo biography. (Photo: Waxmann Verlag)

The cover for Wolfgang Jansen’s Willi Kollo biography. (Photo: Waxmann Verlag)

The official press announcement of publishing company Waxmann, who take to risk to release this manuscript and incite the wrath of the Kollo children René and Marguerite, phrases it like this:

The prospering German theater scene of the second half of the 19th century created a work environment with great economic dynamics which surprised even the most liberal representatives who had made it possible in the first place with their politics. Within a few decades an infrastructure evolved that made a theatrical life of great variety possible. [With Berlin as one of its centers.]

The industrialization and the arrival of many people from the country side in the big cities created new performances being offered and a democratization of culture and entertainment previously reserved exclusively for members of the nobility. New audience groups wanted to be addressed, and new types of artists emerged, lured by phenomenal salaries. Once commercial recordings and film entered the scene, money-making opportunities expanded once more.

This was the environment – dynamic and constantly changing – that Willi Kollo lived and worked in as an author and composer of operettas, revues, cabarets, films and pieces created in the early days of television, starting right after Word War 1 up until his death in the Eighties.

With such diversity his biography is almost ideal as an exemplary guide through the various popular mediums of the 20th century.

Of course that’s a rather vague announcement. It evades the crucial political aspects, and also the role the world-famous father Walter Kollo (1878-1940) played in the story, and what part the children played in covering up “problematic” political evidence and promoting a “new” and “harmless” image of Kollo Junior and Senior – and operetta, for that matter – in later years. They created their own homepage in which they present Willi Kollo as a kind of resistance fighter. It shall be interesting to see how Mr. Jansen counters that, and what evidence he shall present.

The book will unveil that story on 394 pages. It’s available as part of the series “Populäre Kultur und Musik” for 39,90 Euros.

For more information, click here.