Georg Bruni: Forger, Gambler, Adventurer

The Forger

Georg was born in 1898, his mother & father were performing with The Gropius Trapeze Troupe in The State Circus. His sister Helga was born in 1903

Circus fun
The Forger

10 days later they were forced to leave after Georg set fire to the Big Top

The Forger

The family settled in Berlin were his father gained employment as a doorman at 'Die Krypta' - a nightclub notorious for criminal activity

Georg Brun 1916
The Forger

After the loss of most of his comrades in their first action, Georg and the remainder of his class secured a transfer to the transport and supplies corps where he discovered his talent for gambling.

Georg Brun 1916
The Forger

Skat, a card game favoured by soldiers became Georg's most addictive pastime - a task he excelled at, and with the addition of dice (his dice were rumoured to have been carved from the bones of dead soldiers from the battlefields of France) he became a major character in his unit.

The Forger

With his new job in charge of the Donkey train supplying the forward trenches Georg gained the nickname 'die esel konig' (the donkey king) which soon became synonymous with his prowess at the gambling tables.

The Forger

His growing reputation amongst his comrades caused him to disguise himself in order to gain entry into games, often dressing as an officer to in order to fleece them of their money.

The Forger The Donkey King's Dice

Georg's enjoyment of gambling wasn't driven by a desire for money but rather the excitement of winning and his growing interest in hiding behind the 'masks' of the characters he became in order to gain entry to the games, It would be this masquerading that would change the course of his future.

The Forger A sketch from the Skat Klub 1916

Bruni's lack of interest in money became evident when one day he started drawing on one of the banknotes - a satirical cartoon of his friend and fellow soldier Fritz Klein who had become enamoured with a French girl in the local town - 'Lovesick Fritz' gained Georg the attention that he desired and provided the chosen form of recording his life.

The Forger

Christmas 1916
Winter 1916 Bruni volunteered to help organize his regiments Christmas party - under the command of Corporal Adolf Hitler (Dictator in waiting).

Christmas party organizers 1916 - Hitler far right

Bruni enjoyed his time working towards the party, he even found Hitler easy going and amenable - as long as he stayed off certain touchy subjects.
But things were to take a disastrous turn during the party, when Georg heard about a select card game attended only by high ranking officers where there would be no limit on the bets - he couldn't let this opportunity pass.

The Forger

On Boxing Day dressed as a colonel, Bruni infiltrated the game and made a fortune - unfortunately for him Corporal Hitler recognized him and reported him to his unit commander Captain Muller.
The following morning he was arrested for impersonating an officer and prepared for a court martial.

Bruni awarded prize for rat catching 1916 The Forger

The night before his appearance in court two of his friends helped him escape, and applying one of his masks he joined a touring circus that had recently performed in the local town - the war was over for him.

This photograph of him with his friends receiving an award for the best rat catcher was taken two days before Christmas and is the last image of the original Georg Bruni; from now on he would hide behind his masks.

The Forger


Bruni's Berlin:
The Weimar Republic

The journalist Sylvia von Harden

The Cabaret

Wiemar Germany is renowned for it's lively & eccentric cabaret scene between the wars.

Still from Fritz Lang's 'M'

The Cinema

during the 1920's Berlin developed an agressive and original art scene with artists: George Grosz, Otto Dix, Max Beckmann....

Artistes from 'Die Krypta' Cabaret

The Political Scene

The turbulent political life of the German capital influenced all walks of life - defining an era that would result in the catastrophy of National socialism and WW2 .