thumb The Scharfrichterhaus (executioner’s house) in Passau, Germany, is designated as a national historical treasure and was built circa 1200. Located on “Milk Street”, it was the official residence for the Scharfrichter (executioner) of the city of Passau. It is now an important jazz and cabaret stage on which political cabaret is performed.
From early historical documents, we know that from the 13th century to the year 1443 the building was the feared “Prislig” prison. Around 1620, during the 30 years war, then executioner Kaspar would distribute small slips of paper that would make the owner invulnerable. This went into the history books as “Passauerkunst” or Art of Passau.
In the 1970s, the city of Passau was under the very strong influence of the conservatives of the Christian Social Union of Bavaria, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Passau, and the Passauer press (Passauer Neue Presse, PNP). Consequently, a counter cultural movement developed and a political cabaret was formed in Passau. The main cabaret performers in this movement were Bruno Jonas and Siegfried Zimmerschied.
In opposition to this counter culture movement, the chief editor of the PNP established a news embargo on the cabaret organization. The “Generalvikar” (high Catholic Church functionary) of the diocese took the movement to the court charging blasphemy. As a result, the city of Passau imposed a ban on the cabaret’s performances.
The Scharfrichterhaus of today was founded in March 1977 by Walter Landshuter and Edgar Liegl. It has developed quickly to be an important jazz and cabaret stage on which political cabaret is performed. In 1979, the Passauer Cabaret Days was celebrated for the first time. This is a festival for art, theatre, music and cabaret. Since 1983 the executioner’s house, in collaboration with the Bavarian TV channel and a Munich newspaper, awarded the “Executioner’s Hatchet”. This award has helped launch the career of many cabaret performers. Hape Kerkeling received this award in 1983 and promoted his successful career. Today there are no longer differences between the city and the theatre and the Scharfrichterhaus is an elementary and important component of the cultural life of Passau.
The Scharfrichterhaus, a place of cultural communication, as it names itself, is even known beyond the regional and national borders. Well-known musicians and cabaret artists offer entertainment in an atmosphere unlike anywhere else in the world. Events in the Scharfrichterhaus fill a special demand, whether it is jazz, readings, cabaret, chanson or theatre, there is always an artist in this location. Due to space restrictions, some of the events take place in the “Redoute Passau”, just a few steps away.
Since the “Deutsche Kabarett-Tage” was founded, the entire country views Passau and its unique stage in the Scharfrichterhaus as an important national contribution to culture.
Two features enrich the appeal of the Scharfrichterhaus today. The first is a cafe that is part of the house and which is modeled after a Viennese coffeehouse of the 19th and 20th century. The second feature is a restaurant with an additional wine-cellar in which selected wines and food can be enjoyed very inexpensively.
thumb The building of the Scharfrichter theater also contain the independent “Scharfrichter-Cinema”. The Passauer film operator Manfred Vesper has rented its rooms, since the 5th February, 1987. However, the initiative for it came from Walter Landshuter who turned to Vesper with the idea to furnish a cinema, fitting to the remaining program of the Scharfrichterhaus. In this intended rooms has been already tried some years to present once a week, an ambitious cinema which has not been accepted by the audience.
Today this small cinema has a steady family audience with intellectual claim which estimates the high-class cultured cinema. The specific feature of this institution is the repertory cinema. With its detailed program the cineaste knows already weeks in advance what is available. So he can choose the film exactly by day and time. This guide called "Trailer", the main advertising, would be spread out in a circulation of 6000 copies and laid out in different shops, sent by post or email. With the movies which fit into the other Scharfrichterhaus program, Vesper wants to reach a special customer circle which he would expel with the mainstream movies. The entry price amounts for the normal cinema customer 5 euro, for students 4,50 euro and for guild card owners 4 euros. On an average it is paid for a ticket 4,50 euro. That shows that primarily students and guild card owners estimate the repertory cinema.
The guild passport of the study group “guild of German cinema theaters” is the only cinema subscription which is valid all over the country. With this passport, you receive during 1 year from date of issue in all participant cinemas, tickets for the reduced entry price. The guild passport costs 6.00 euros and is available in all participant cinemas.
However, the Scharfrichter cinema has no steady budget, because this depends in the film business always on the visitor’s of the movies and differs yearly. In addition this cinema can exist economically only because the operator also owns the “promenade cinema” and the “Metropolis”. The whole cinema program is almost exclusively by Mr. Vesper.
In addition, there is also a program advisory board. It consists of Mr. Landshuter, Mr. Vesper, two professors of the university of Passau and two employees who work out together the different film rows at their regular meetings and submit them to the annual competition of the Federal Minister of the Interior for support of the cinema (Filmfoerderanstalt). Up to now every year the cinema won the price of 5000 euro. These prices must be used for instance or investments that they receive the money. These can be nevertheless used, to buy another reeltower to avoid the film reelschange, what become traditionally in the meantime during a presentation, because the projection room is too small for it. Also the hall itself has reached with its 74 seats its maximum use.