Abnormitätenschau auf dem Oktoberfest 1913

Stadtarchiv München


This object is problematic from an ethical and moral point of view because of what is depicted or because of its contents. bavarikon is displaying it in order to enable and promote a critical, sensitive examination of these depictions and their contents. As the operator of bavarikon, the Bayerische Staatsbibliothek (Bavarian State Library) expressly distances itself from discriminatory, racist, stereotyping, and inhuman representations and content.


The photograph from the holdings of the Stadtarchiv München (Munich City Archive) shows the façade of a “freak show” at the Oktoberfest in 1913. These show businesses were very popular at the Oktoberfest around the turn of the century. Physical deviations from the norm were staged as a bizarre fascination in these performances. As a result, they catered to the audience’s voyeurism. People with the most diverse physical anomalies, impairments or dubious “talents” were presented on the stages.

The human “attractions” advertised on the show business’ façade are, firstly, “The smallest married couple from the German Lilliputian town” and, secondly, “Teresia of Hungary, 18 years old, 480 pounds”. Interested festival-goers are gathered in the foreground of the photograph. On the façade painting, Teresia of Hungary is carrying the small wedding couple on a serving tray. Such portrayals were to attract attention and generate paying customers.

The façade painting shows a discriminatory illustration of being “different” and thus picks up on the contemporary strong fascination with the “unusual” and “exotic”. The people portrayed in the shows were brought to the public’s attention due to their unique physical appearance alone.