Truus van Aalten

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Arnhem, Truus' birthplace, in the mid-1930s.


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Amsterdam's Dam Square was (and is) the location of the Peek & Cloppenburg department store, where Truus worked during 1926 (that's it over on the far left of the picture). Here Truus's father paced impatiently as his daughter tried to convince her boss that while she was supposed to give a month's notice, a pressing engagement to appear in a movie made it a bit impractical for her. Fleeing the store, the van Aaltens then crossed the square, racing to catch the night train to Berlin.

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Peek & Cloppenburg today.


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This is the Potsdamer Platz in Berlin - here Ufa's Head Office was located, and it was here that Truus came for her interview on her first visit to Berlin.

Truus wasn't likely to be impressed by any old city - she'd been working in Amsterdam, after all - but this was BERLIN. Suddenly she was living in a gigantic metropolis with a population of 4,000,000, its wide streets and brash, sarcastic, irreverant people a real eye-opener.

Berlin attracted artists, writers, philosophers and everyone in between. It was the home of psychoanalysis and the Dada art movement. Composer Arthur Schoenburg was living there, Albert Einstein travelled the city by bus (usually arguing with the conductor about his change), Werner von Braun and his friends were just forming their "Society For Space Travel", Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill were composing musical plays together, all in Berlin.

Exploring the city was an adventure. Beautiful parks could lead onto shopping areas filled with the most glamourous department stores in the world (Wertheim's had fountains, marble walls, eighty-three lifts - and prices that could bankrupt an Emperor). Berlin was energetic and surprising - there were prizefights and six-day bicycle races to see, astrologers to visit and official areas for nude sunbathing to try. There were galleries and museums and exhibitions. The best place for coffee and cakes was the Romanische Café, a huge place crammed with poets, authors, painters and theatre people.

After dark, restaurants, theatres, cinemas and concert halls were packed, emptying out into the late-night cafés of the Ku'damm. There was jazz to dance to, and Josephine Baker's Revue Negre had just closed, leaving audiences reeling. Theatre actors had their own favourite bar, but movie people hung out at Anna Maenze's shabby, comfortable place in the Augustburgerstrasse. Anyone seeking a racy evening (in this city where freedom of speech was guaranteed and censorship didn't exist) could visit cabarets like the "Katakombe" or the "Weisse Maus" (where dancer Anita Berber danced in the nude) - or if they were really adventurous, drop in at the "Eldorado", the "Oh La La" or the "Mikado", vibrant haunts of Berlin's gay and transvestite community. Criminal gangs called Ringvereine controlled the casinos and who-knew-what-else, and for those who wanted to find them, there were prostitutes aplenty, identifiable by their little umbrellas (while the height of their boots told you their speciality). There was a strange atmosphere in Berlin, particularly at night... why were all these people partying so hard, so self-destructively? The war was long over, yet they spent their money as if there was no future; they got drunk and took cocaine and morphine as if desperate - while the poor people huddled against the cold in crumbling slums.

Of less interest to a young film actress, Berlin was home to the Reichstag and the whole machinery of Germany's unpopular and weak Weimar government. By 1930 the Nazis would be the second-largest political party in the country - and nobody could have predicted the misery that held in store.


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The Ufa lot at Neubabelsburg was a vast site, very much like the typical Hollywood studio of the 1930s. The main buildings comprised offices, cuttingrooms, prop stores, carpentry and plasterers' workshops, the Wardrobe, Hair and Makeup departments, stills stages and processing darkrooms, orchestra rooms, lights stores, sound recording studios... and everything else needed to plan, shoot and sell a movie. Along with the actual shooting stages were the standing sets of the backlot - this photo (taken about 1932) shows a huge area of buildings, streets and facades (some of them being used as the photo was taken).



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WW2 bombs reduced large areas of Berlin to ashes, but film historian Daniel van Waalwijk has tracked down the location of Truus' 1930 address at 27 Luther-Strasse.


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Looking for old addresses in Berlin is complicated not only by the damage done during the war, but also because street-names have sometimes been changed. During 1931, Truus' "Kinderzimmer" was a 4th-floor flat at 35 Königin-Augusta-Strasse, overlooking the Landwehr canal. That street was renamed the Tirpitzufer in 1933, and it is now called the Reichpietschufer.


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During 1933 Truus lived at 77 Matthäikirchstrasse, Berlin w10. Daniel van Waalwijk has found the street (renamed the Herbert von Karajanstrasse), but Truus' building is gone, bombed during the war - all that's left is the Matthäikirch itself.


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Next time you're at a loose end in Berlin, take a tour of Truus' homes! Here's a contemporary map showing the location of the flat her friends called the "Kinderzimmer", looking out over the Landwehr canal. Truus' earlier address at 27 Lutherstrasse (in fashionable Schöneberg) is some distance further south-west (closer to the Ufa studios in Potsdam).

A big "danke schön" to Kees Kleihues van Tol for scanning this and sending it to us.



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After the war, Truus lived in Amsterdam, here at 19 Cliostraat. It's an upmarket area, and it was back in 1945 as well - an indication that Truus had somehow managed to hold onto the money she'd earned as a film star. From here she tried to find work in Dutch movies, then ventured to Los Angeles and London, hoping to re-ignite her career.


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When Truus settled in the country to run her souvenir business, she lived in this small house at 34 Kievitspark in Voorhout in the Netherlands. After she died the new owners added extensions to the side and back of the building.

The house was for sale again in 2009, when these photos were taken.

 

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