Born in Leipzig to divorced bohemian parents (a cabarét artist and a violinist), she was raised mainly by her grandmother in Dresden. By the time she was 16, she had moved to Berlin and made her debut as a cabaret dancer. By 1918 she was working in film, and she began dancing nude in 1919. She was scandalous, androgynous and infamous, quickly making a name for herself on the Berlin scene. She wore heavy dancer’s make-up, which on the black and white photos and films of the time came across as jet black lipstick painted across the heart-shaped part of her skinny lips, and charcoaled eyes.
Her hair was cut fashionably into a short bob and was frequently bright red, as in 1925 when the German painter Otto Dix painted a portrait of her, titled "The Dancer Anita Berber". She danced together with Sebastian Droste to whom she was also briefly married to. Neither of them wore much more than loincloths and Anita occasionally a corsage worn well below her small breasts.
Berber's cocaine addiction and bisexuality were matters of public chatter. She was allegedly the sexual slave of a woman and the woman's 15-year-old daughter. She could often be seen in Berlin's hotel lobbies, nightclubs and casinos, naked apart from an elegant sable wrap, with a pet monkey and a silver brooch packed with cocaine. Besides being a cocaine addict, she was an alcoholic, but at the age of 29, gave up both suddenly and completely. According to Mel Gordon in The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber, she was diagnosed with galloping tuberculosis while performing abroad. She died on November 10, 1928 in a Kreuzberg hospital and was buried at St. Thomas cemetery in Neukölln.
A 1987 film by Rosa von Praunheim titled Anita - Tänze des Lasters centres around the life of Anita Berber.
|1918||The Three Girls' House (Das Dreimäderlhaus)||Grisi|
|The Story of Dida Ibsen (Dida Ibsens Geschichte)||Dida Ibsen|
|1919||Prostitution (Die Prostitution, 1. Teil - Das gelbe Haus)||Lola, dessen Tochter|
|Die Reise um die Erde in 80 Tagen||Aouda|
|Different from the Others (Anders als die Andern)||Else|
|Peer Gynt - 1. Teil|
|Peer Gynt - 2. Teil|
|Unheimliche Geschichten||various roles|
|1920||Yoshiwara, die Liebesstadt der Japaner|
|Der Graf von Cagliostro||Lorenza Cagliostros Skalvin|
|Der Schädel der Pharaonentocher|
|Der Falschspieler||Tänzerin Asta|
|Die Nacht der Mary Murton|
|Die goldene Pest|
|Die vom Zirkus||Die Zirkusdiva|
|Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler - Ein Bild der Zeith||Taenzerin im Frack (uncredited)|
|Im Kampf mit dem unsichtbaren Feind||Bessie Freds Freundin|
|Lucrezia Borgia||Gräfin Julia Orsini|
|1923||Vienna, City of Song (Wien, du Stadt der Lieder)||Mary Cullen|
|Die drei Marien und Herr von Marana|
|Irrlichter der Tiefe|
|Tänze des Grauens, des Lasters und der Ekstase||herself|
|1925||Ein Walzer von Strauß||Tänzerin|
- Capovilla, Andrea. "Berber, Anita." Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From Antiquity to World War II. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. New York: Routledge, 2001. 50-51.
- Fischer, Lothar. Tanz zwischen Rausch und Tod: Anita Berber, 1918-1928 in Berlin. Berlin: Haude und Spener, 1996.
- Funkenstein, Susan Laikin. "Anita Berber: Imaging a Weimar Performance Artist." Woman's Art Journal 26.1 (Spring/Summer 2005): 26-31.
- Gill, Anton. A Dance between the Flames: Berlin between the Wars. New York: Carroll & Graf, 1993.
- "Legendary Sin Cities [series]--Berlin: Metropolis of Vice." Canadian Broadcasting Corporation. www.cbc.ca/documentaries/sincities/berlin.html
- Richie, Alexandra. Faust's Metropolis: A History of Berlin. New York: Carroll and Graf, 1998.
- Toepfer, Karl Eric. Empire of Ecstasy: Nudity and Movement in German Body Culture, 1910-1935. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.