This photograph depicts two members of the Berlin Order Police standing guard outside a local Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA) headquarters in March 1933.1 The windows are boarded up and lined with pro-Hitler posters and Nazi flags. Only weeks earlier, however, this building had been home to the famous Eldorado nightclub2—a central location of Berlin's gay and transgender communities.3 Traces of the Eldorado remain. The nightclub's signs are still up, and a partially covered banner above the front door reads Hier ist's Richtig or "Here it's right."
Until its closure shortly after the Nazi Party's rise to power in 1933, the Eldorado had been a popular gathering place for celebrities, artists, and tourists.4 Although many valued the Eldorado Club and other similar establishments as places of freedom of expression and cultural enrichment, others saw the Eldorado as a symbol of cultural decline and the decadence of Weimar Germany. During that period, Berlin became well known for its art, film, and club scene, much of which conflicted with traditional German values. Berlin emerged as "the undisputed gay capital of the world," and German activists like Magnus Hirschfeld became important members of an international gay rights movement. But more conservative Germans regarded these developments as a threat to their vision of a German national community.5
Even before the Nazi Party rose to power in 1933, Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code had banned sexual relations between men.6 Still, the closure of the Eldorado and its replacement with an SA office pointed to radical changes to Germany's political life, urban landscape, and cultural atmosphere under the Nazi regime.7 The photo was likely taken for use as Nazi propaganda around the German federal elections of March 1933. In capturing an image of the iconic Eldorado strewn with Nazi banners, both the photographer and the Nazi Party appear well aware of the building's symbolism.
Two months after this photograph was taken, members of the SA and a Nazi student group plundered and vandalized Berlin's Institute for Sexual Science—Magnus Hirschfeld's center for academic research on sexuality and gender that was another iconic part of Berlin's gay and transgender communities—and destroyed roughly 12,000 books and 35,000 photographs, along with other literature that they considered "degenerate."8