04 October 2012

Gusta Farer - From Galicia via Czernowitz to Constantinople

(Berlin, 30.09.2012 - 04.10.2012) Join me please for a visit to the New Synagogue Berlin - Centrum Judaicum and its exhibition "The Yellow Ticket. Taffic in Girls 1860-1930": The sex trade in Constantinople is thriving at the end of the 19th century. Many women and girls from the Russian Empire and Austria-Hungary work in the brothels of this million-strong city on the Bosphorus. They are brought to Turkey via Galati or the Black Sea port of Odessa and are sometimes resold in the Middle and Far East. This is presumambly how Galicia-born (Probuzna, 1872) Gusta Farer reached Constantinople.

But in 1907 this 35 year-old woman is suspected of being a trafficker of girls herself. She is arrested in Czernowitz, convicted of "matchmaking" and sentenced to three weeks of close arrest. In 1910, the police reopen investigations. She is then running two "whorehouses" in the Turkish cities of Brussa (Bursa) and Constantinople (Istanbul). She also owns a building in the Synagogengasse 47 in Czernowitz.

The "Yellow Ticket", a colloquial term, was the pass carried by prostitutes in tsarist Russia. Those, who applied for it, had to hand over their personal documents to the police. Reexchange of these documents was seldom possible. Many countries had special permits for prostitutes, but the "Yellow Ticket" had a particular relevance. According to contemporary reports, thousands of Jewish women in Russia were willing to take this permit and the frequent required medical examinations without ever becoming a prostitute. It was often their only legal chance of escaping the pale of Jewish settlements and moving to the large cities such as Moscow or St. Petersburg. Their fate became a popular subject matter in Yiddish plays and international films as approximately 1910.

In other countries, the special permits for prostitutes always included the result of the medical examinations, but also regulations concerning their behavior. This permit, the "Yellow Ticket", is a symbol of the predicament of many young women. They sold their bodies to survive and had to accept a new exclusion and paternalism in return.

No comments: