In what looks like a text for a press release, the BE noted that its performances at the Venice Biennale scheduled for September 1961 had been cancelled.
The Italian authorities had withdrawn entry visas at the last minute ‘to our great astonishment’. The BE, and indeed any GDR theatre, had to negotiate two hurdles in order to tour non-communist Europe: the West Berlin ‘Travel Board’, the gateway to the West administered by the three remaining allies, and the host country's own immigration departments.
According to the responses, the Berliner Ensemble submitted its twenty-seven names sometime in June.Today it is clear that the Ministry was pre-emptively assessing the impact that the closure of the border would have on the GDR's ability to keep its venues open.Yet it is difficult to ascertain who knew the ends to which the information was to be used.Kurt Bork was aware that something significant was afoot because the document to which I have referred notes concern about how the Staatsoper and the Komische Oper were to play on, considering the large numbers of West-dwelling staff at those institutions.With hindsight, it might seem that the GDR authorities had telegraphed the building of the Berlin Wall to the cultural sector.
In the field of the performing arts, the Ministry of Culture surveyed theatres, opera houses and other institutions for the number of staff who were living in West Berlin in May 1961, three months before construction started on 13 August.
By early September, the BE still hoped to convince Palitzsch to return.
A memorandum of a meeting with Minister Hans Bentzien records that the GDR press should be instructed to refrain from making any mention of Palitzsch, lest it prevent him from reconsidering his position.
Yet by November, Wekwerth was referring to Palitzsch's decision as treachery.), that reproached him for leaving the country in which the ‘[Arturo] Uis’ had been politically and economically disempowered and concluded in trenchant style: ‘we have suffered losses. While he acknowledged that he had not yet discussed contracts with all West Berliners, he could establish that the company had lost nineteen staff, including four instances of ‘Republikflucht’ (‘flight from the Republic’), which included Palitzsch and Weber, and two actors. The company was planning to employ four new actors in the 1962/63 season, including Gisela May, who went on to enjoy an international reputation as a chanteuse singing Brecht's songs, and Renate Richter, who would marry Wekwerth and become one the BE's leading actors later that decade and again when her husband was appointed Despite the relatively modest damage done in terms of lost ensemble members, the repertoire was nonetheless in trouble: the company needed to rehearse new actors to replace those who stayed in the West, and deal with bouts of illness.
However, the BE took pains to avoid the Western media attributing the disruption to the Wall, something that could be ‘interpreted maliciously’.
The theatres and opera houses probably thought that this was just another bureaucratic hoop through which they were required to jump.