Orloff, Ida

BORN 16 Feb 1889, St. Petersburg - DIED 9 Apr 1945, Tullnerbach, Niederösterreich: Egererstrasse 34
REAL NAME Weissbeck, Ida Margarethe
GRAVE LOCATION Pressbaum, Niederösterreich: Ortsfriedhof (grave not traceable)

Daughter of George Weissbeck, who worked as a brewer in Russia when she was born. Her father died when she was four years old. Her stepfather was George Siegler, Edler von Eberswald, an officer in the Austrian army. Her mother came from Heidelberg and nearly reached the age of ninety. After her mother's remarriage Ida's last name was Siegler von Eberswald.

Ida was educated at a convent in Sarajevo and - after the death of Siegler in 1905 in Riva - at the private Theaterschule Otto in Vienna. When she was thirteen she tried to drown herself. She was saved, but thoughts of suicide would return during her life. A small part in "Die Büchse der Pandora" by Frank Wedekind in a private performance staged by Wedekind and Karl Krauss in Vienna attracted the attention of Otto Brahm, who brought her to Berlin. Her mother came with her and they lived at the Thomasiusstrase in Moabit.

She had already assumed the name Ida Orloff and was often called Iduschka because she was born in St. Petersburg and spoke Russian fluently. At the Lessing Theatre in Berlin she performed in "Die Wildente" (1905), "Der Bund der Jugend" (1907) and "Baumeister Solness" (1908), all under the direction of Emil Lessing.

She also performed in "Hanneles Himmelfahrt" by Gerhart Hauptmann in 1905 at the Lessing Theatre. Hauptmann was stunned by the young girl and promptly fell in love with her. Secretly he wrote a play especially for her, "Und Pippa tanzt!" (1906). They started an affair and from Hauptmann's diary we know that he watched fascinated when she undressed for him on March 27th, 1906. But Hauptmann had recently remarried and would not leave his wife Margaretha Marschalk. He considered Ida a little devil but he found it hard to break the spell. They spent five days together at Göhren and Rügen in June, 1906 and possibly Hauptmann´s wife knew about it and tolerated it.

In 1907 the affair ended, but the image of Idinka (as he had called her) kept haunting Hauptmann and would return in his work for years. Their relationship became known to the general public only decades later and after his death, but people like Frank Wedekind, Anton Wildgans and Alfred Kerr knew about it at the time.

On July 23th, 1907 she married a friend from her youth, the lawyer Karl Satter, just to be able to enjoy more freedom without causing scandals. She divorced him on January 26th, 1908 because she had what she wanted - a married name in her passport - but against her own expectations they stayed together for ten years. She bore him a son, Heinrich, on September 27th, 1908. As an adult he looked strikingly like Hauptmann who may have been his father.

In 1910 she played the part of Hilde Wangel in an adaptation of Ibsen's "Baumeister Solness" at the Lessing Theatre. Around that time she signed a contract at the Burgtheater in Vienna, but during her time there she hardly got any parts for several years. Her appearance in the first performance of "Feuer" by Cszokor at the Ronacher Varieté during a time off period in 1912 was considered scandalous for an actress of the Burgtheater.

In 1913 she played in the Danish movie "Atlantis", based on the novel that Hauptmann had conceived during a trip to America, on which he was accompanied by Orloff and the circus artist Charles Unthan. In the contract with Hauptmann Nordisk Films had committed itself to include Orloff as well as Unthan in the movie. But Ida Orloff was unconvincing as an erotic dancer and Unthan's virtuoso act had little to do with the rest of the movie.

Because she had left for Norway without permission she was fired by Hugo Thimig, the manager of the Burgtheatre. But her contract didn't exclude appearances in movies and she received damages of 8.000 crowns. She left for St. Petersburg with her own ensemble in 1913, including Hermann Benke, Rudolf Forster, George Saiko and dramatist Franz Csoko. Their performances were appreciated, but the German colony was too small and she lost most of her money during this venture. Shortly after her return to Austria she fled with her husband to Denmark to keep him out of the army during the First World War. They had a second son there, but he died after only six weeks. In 1915/1916 she was engaged at the Thalia Theatre in Hamburg where she befriended the actress Leonore Ehn. During her third pregnancy her marriage to Satter finally broke down and she returned to Vienna alone to give birth to a son, Hermann, on March 31th, 1918.

She gave the child into the care of Satter's older sister Hanna and went to Berlin with her other son. There she returned to the theatre and played several parts before she decided to marry the critic and journalist Franz Leppman and left the stage. She had grown stout in her mid thirties and had trouble finding acting engagements. With Leppmann she had two more sons.

In the 1920s whe worked for the radio in Berlin, the first woman to read poems and plays. Her employers were Nordische Rundfunk AG (NORAG) and Funk-Stunde Berlin. She also translated books from Russian into German, among them Dostojevski. For this work ahe needed a Russian assistant. Her husband was a Jew and when the nazis came to power in 1933 they left Germany and went to Italy.

In Italy it was hard to find to work and soon she got in serious financial trouble. She asked Hauptmann to help her (he knew Mussolini), but he refused, stating that he couldn't trouble Mussolini with private affairs. Both she and her husband worked at the Landschulheim Florenz for refugee children until it was closed in 1938. In 1938 she met Hauptmann by accident in Rapallo. She hardly reminded him of the girl he had fallen in love with and she told him about her five sons from her two marriages. She and Leppmann went to England, but in 1939 - in need of money and wanting a divorce - she returned to Germany alone and after Germany declared war on England she was unable to go back.

She obtained her divorce and lived for a while with her son Hermann who was the editor of "Sportzeitung" and she also lived with her friend Leonore Ehn. In 1941 she performed once more in a play by Hauptmann, "Der rote Hahn" at the Rose-Theater in Berlin. It was to be her last success and Hauptmann and his wife Margarete came to see the last performance. They met and acted like they hadn't heard from each other since 1908 and Hauptmann kept his distance. Margarete boldly invited Ida to inspire her husband again, stating she had never had any objection to her doing so in the first place. On March 31th, 1942 she played her last part ever in "The Pillars of Society" by Ibsen.

A period of illness followed and she settled in Tullnerbach near Vienna, where she spent her last years. She met Hauptmann for the last time in 1943 in Vienna when the Austrians celebrated his 80th birthday. When the Russian army invaded Austria she was confident that she could talk to the soldiers and stop them from plundering, but when news went round that the Russians were extremely violent and raped Austrian women everywhere she committed suicide to escape that faith (possibly she was first attacked by a soldier). A few days earlier her son Hermann had fallen in the war near Vienna. Ida was buried in the garden of the house where she had lived in Tullnerbach and only in 1953 her remains were transferred to the cemetery in Pressbaum.

Her other son Heinrich Satter was the author who revealed her affair with Hauptmann to the public in 1953 in an article in the "Frankfurter Illustrierten" after Hauptmann's widow had prevented him in 1948 to publish Hauptmann's letters to Ida. Only after the death of Hauptmann's son Bevenuto in 1965, Hauptmann's diary entries about Ida were published and in 1967 Heinrich Satter published his book about the affair, "Weder Engel noch Teufel" ("Neither Angel Nor Devil"). Satter died in 1992.

Her younger son Wolfgang Leppman became an eminent germanist. He was a professor at the University of Eugene, Oregon and the author of biographies of Goethe, Rilke and Hauptmann. He was known for his wit and irony and died in 2002.

• Husband: Satter, Karl (1907-1908)

Related persons
• cooperated with Csokor, Franz Theodor
• was a friend of Ehn, Leonore
• cooperated with Reicher, Emanuel
• has a connection with Thimig, Hugo
• knew Wedekind, Frank
• was a friend of Wedekind, Tilly
• has a connection with Wildgans, Anton

29/5/1905Private performance in Vienna of Frank Wedekind's "Die Büchse der Pandora". The play was first performed at 1 Feb 1904 at the Intime Theater in Nürnberg, but banned by the German censors afterwards. Karl Kraus organised a private performance at the Trianon Theatre in Vienna. Tilly Newes played Lulu and Albert Heine played Schigolg and was the director. Adele Sandrock had the part of Gräfin Geschwitz, Ida Orloff was Kadidja di Santa Croce and Karl Kraus was Kungu Pote. Wedekind himself played the murderer Jack. [Kraus, Karl][Sandrock, Adele][Wedekind, Frank][Wedekind, Tilly]
19/1/1906First performance of Gerhart Hauptmann's "Und Pippa tanzt!" at the Lessingtheater in Berlin 
11/1/1908Premiere of "Kaiser Karls Geisel" by Gerhart Hauptmann in Berlin. Ida Orloff played Gersuid, the fifteen year old girl from Saxony who turned the head of Charlemagne. 
29/12/1913Ida Orloff's theatre group performs Csokor's "Feuer" in Mödling [Csokor, Franz Theodor]
31/3/1942Last performance of Ida Orloff in Ibsen's "The Pillars of Society" at the Rose-Theatre in Berlin. It was her last performance as an actress in a play. 


Ida Orloff during the premiere of "Und Pippa tanzt" at the Lessingtheater in Berlin.

Ida Orloff and Alfred Beierle in "Das Paradies" by Hans J. Rehfisch. (1920).

Ida Orloff as Gersuind in Berlin on 11 Jan 1908 during the premiere of "Kaiser Karls Geisel", written by Gerhart Hauptmann.

Ida Orloff.


Ida Orloff and Willi Grunwald in "Und Pippa Tanzt".
Picture by Otto Becker - Maas, Berlin


Ida Orloff in "Atlantis".


Ida Orloff.
Picture by Barasch, Breslau


Ida Ofloff in "Die Wildente".
Picture by Becker & Maass


Ida Orloff in "Die Wildente".
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maass


Ida Orloff.

Ida Orloff.
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maas


Ida Orloff and Willy Grunwald in "Und Pippa Tanzt".
Picture by Photo Otto Becker & Maas


Ida Orloff.
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maass


Ida Orloff and Emanuel Reicher in "Das Konzert".
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maass, Verlag Herm. Leiser Berlin, 4164


Ida Orloff in "Kaiser Karls Geisel".
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maass


Ida Orloff.
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maass, Berlin


Ida Orloff as Hilde Wangel in "Baumeister Solness".
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maas


Ida Orloff (as Hilde Wangel) and Mathilde Sussin in "Baumeister Solness".
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maas


Ida Orloff as Hannalore.
Picture by E. Bieber


Iad Olroff and Willy Grunwald in "Und Pippa Tanzt".
Picture by Phot. Otto Becker & Maas


Ida Orloff as Maria in "Mieze und Maria".
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maas


Ida Orloff.
Picture by A. Bender, Elberfeld, phot.


Ida Orloff in "Die Jungfern von Bischofsberg".
Picture by Phot. Becker & Maas


Ida Orloff.


Ida Orloff.

• Bakos, Eva, Wilde Wienerinnen, Leben zwischen Tabu und Freiheit, Ueberreuther, Wien, 1999
Grosse Frauen der Weltgeschichte, Neuer Kaiser Verlag, Klagenfurt, 1987
• Grieser, Dietmar, Im Dämmerlicht, Ungewöhnliche Totesfalle, Buchverlag, St. Pölten, 1999
• Hauptmann, Gerhart/Ida Orloff, Gerhart Hauptmann und Ida Orloff, Dokumentation einer dichterischen Leidenschaft, Propyläen, Berlin, 1969
• Satter, Heinrich, Weder Engel noch Teufel, Ida Orloff, Scherz Verlag, München, 1967
Wedekind: "Die Büchse der Pandora"

Ormond, Violet

Published: 01 Jan 2006
Last update: 02 Oct 2020