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 hosted the Eldorado nightclub2—a central location for Berlin's gay and trans nightlife. The only visible remnant of the former venue is the banner above the front door, reading, Hier ist's Richtig or "Here it's right."
Until its closure shortly after the Nazis’ rise to power in 1933, the Eldorado had been a popular gathering place for celebrities, artists, and tourists.3 Although some Germans valued the Eldorado Club as a place for freedom of expression and cultural enrichment, others saw it 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.4
Even before 1933, Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code had banned sexual relations between men.5 Still, the closure of Eldorado and its replacement with an SA office point to radical changes to Germany's political life, urban landscape, and cultural policy under the Nazi regime.6 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 also raided Berlin's Institute for Sexual Science—a center for academic research on sexuality, disease, and "homosexuality"—and destroyed 12,000 books and 35,000 photographs, along with other literature that they considered "degenerate."7