Laterndl Exhibition Opening Slide

‘A Light in Dark Times’ is a new online exhibition tracing the history of the Austrian Centre in London and the little-known Laterndl [Little Lantern] theatre, which played to audiences from 1939 to 1945. 

Between the annexation of Austria in March 1938 and the outbreak of war in September 1939, around 30,000 out of the 200,000-strong Jewish population of Austria succeeded in escaping to Britain. 

Set up in March 1939 to support those refugees, the Austrian Centre offered a range of facilities including a café, hostel, library, performance space, weekly newspaper as well as tailoring and shoe mending services. Cultural and educational activities included lectures, theatre and cabaret, and music. For many of the refugees, the Austrian Centre and the Laterndl provided not only support and a sense of community, but a beacon of hope in the fight for a free and democratic Austria. 

The Laterndl was the first and largest of the German-language theatres run by exiles in London, reuniting actors, friends and colleagues who had worked together in Vienna in the run-up to the annexation. Taking the Viennese Kleinkunstbühne (political cabaret) as its starting point, the theatre’s repertoire responded to political developments, with members of the theatre company writing their own material and turning their hand to performing plays by internationally known playwrights. 

Sadly, very few documents survive from the time, but the Martin Miller and Hannah Norbert-Miller Archive at the University of London contains one of the most complete sets of records of the Laterndl in existence. Exhibition curator and Martin Miller and Hannah-Norbert Miller Archivist, Kat Hubschmann, has supplemented these records with material from other sources to weave together the story of this unique theatre. 

The exhibition includes a selection of online resources as well as suggestions for further reading, and ideas for discussions and projects for teachers. 

The exhibition can be viewed at: