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Identification Card for Gerd Katter

Gerd Katter
Magnus-Hirschfeld Gesellschaft

Pioneering German sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld first coined the term “Transvestiten” (“transvestites”) in 1910. The term referred to a wide range of people who wore clothing associated with the opposite gender or expressed their gender identities in ways that differed from traditional ideas and expectations.1 People who identified as “Transvestiten” began openly forming communities in Germany during the early 20th century—particularly in Berlin during the years of the Weimar Republic (1918–1933).2 Hirschfeld helped Berlin police issue special passes often referred to as “Transvestitenschein” (“transvestite certificates”) by organizing training for the police and providing medical certification.3 These special identification cards could be presented to police in order to avoid arrest for disorderly conduct or other such charges.

The featured identification card was issued to Gerd Katter by the Berlin police on December 6, 1928. Born in Berlin in 1910, Katter was given the name Ewa at birth. But Katter identified as a man at least from the time he was a teenager. When Katter was sixteen years old, he sought gender-affirming surgery to have his breasts removed at the Institute for Sexual Science (Institut für Sexualwissenschaft), which had been founded by Hirschfeld in Berlin in 1919. The institute provided many patients with medical care and support as they explored their gender identities.

Doctors at the institute decided that Katter was too young for the procedure, but he was determined. Katter returned to Hirschfeld’s institute days later in urgent need of medical care. He had attempted to perform the procedure at home with a straight razor, and doctors at the institute performed an emergency surgery to remove Katter’s breasts and save his life.

Berlin police issued Katter this pass roughly two years after his surgery when he was eighteen years old. It is handwritten and bears official stamps. In the photograph, Katter is wearing a suit and tie, and his hair is combed in a typically masculine style. His chin appears to be slightly raised, and it does not seem that he is looking directly into the camera.

Katter trained as a carpenter, and he became a clerk for a large insurance company in Berlin after the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933. The Nazi project to reshape German society to fit Nazi ideas about race and national unity excluded many people from the so-called "national community" ("Volksgemeinschaft"). But when he was asked about this period later in his life, Katter did not recall being harassed during the years of Nazi rule—either by his neighbors or by representatives of the regime. People targeted for marginalized gender expressions were often arrested under Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code or for charges such as disorderly conduct.4 Official persecution of “Transvestiten” under Nazism often occurred if neighbors or acquaintances denounced somebody, or if the regime’s policies targeted a person as a racial or political outsider as well.5 What factors might have helped Katter avoid harassment during the years of Nazi rule?6

In the years after the war ended, Katter lived in the northern suburbs of East Berlin and tried to convince influential people in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) to honor Hirschfeld’s legacy.7

Hirschfeld supported many patients as they explored their marginalized gender identities. To learn more about Hirschfeld, see Ralf Dose, Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement, translated by Edward H. Willis (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2014).

To learn more, see Katie Sutton, "'We Too Deserve a Place in the Sun': The Politics of Transvestite Identity in Weimar Germany," German Studies Review 35, no. 2 (2012); and Laurie Marhoefer, Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis (Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015). 

Roughly two weeks before police issued Katter this card, Hirschfeld provided an official medical certificate describing Katter’s need to wear men’s clothes: "To maintain her mental well-being and her ability to work," he wrote, "it is necessary that she is enabled to wear clothing of the male gender, which corresponds to her nature." 

Paragraph 175 had outlawed sexual relations between men since the founding of the German Empire in 1871. Transgender women—whom authorities insisted on classifying as men—were often arrested for alleged violations of Paragraph 175 as well. For more information, see the Experiencing History collection, Sexuality, Gender, and Nazi Persecution.

For example, a transgender man who was also Jewish and gay would be more likely to be targeted by the Nazi regime. To learn more about intersectionality and Nazi persecution of LGBTQ+ people, see Anna Hájková, "Queer History and the Holocaust," Notches (January 22, 2019).

To learn more about transgender people’s experiences under Nazi rule, see the related Experiencing History items, Police Report on Fritz KitzingAdvertisement for "Violetta Ladies Club" and USHMM Oral History with Frieda Belinfante.

Sexual relations between men remained criminalized in Germany for decades after the end of World War II. To learn more, see W. Jake Newsome, Pink Triangle Legacies: Coming Out in the Shadow of the Holocaust (Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2022).

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Chief of Police 
Division IV

Berlin, 25 Alexanderstrasse 3–6

December 6, 1928

The worker Ewa Katter, born March 14, 1910 in Berlin, residing in Britz Muthesiushof 8, is known to go out dressed in men's clothes.

[Signature]

Detective Superintendent [Kriminalkommissar]

Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Magnus-Hirschfeld Gesellschaft
Accession Number 47076
Date Created
December 6, 1928
Language(s)
German
Location
Berlin, Germany
Document Type Official document
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