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Photo of the Eldorado Club

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 transgender communities.3 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 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

The different branches of the German police played central roles in the Nazi persecution of gay men, lesbian women, and others accused of violating strict binaries of sexuality or gender. To learn more, see the related Experiencing History item, "Protective Custody Order" for Herbert Fröhlich.

The club stood at the corner of Motzstraße and Kalckreuthstraße, near Nollendorfplatz, still today a center of gay culture in Berlin.

The term “Transvestit” (“transvestite”) was coined in 1910 by doctor and pioneering researcher of sexuality and gender Magnus Hirschfeld as a judgment-free scientific term. Many transgender people self-identified as "Transvestiten" at the time, but the term is widely considered offensive today by members of the transgender community.

 

 

Clayton J. Whisnant, Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880–1945 ( New York: Harrington Park Press, 2016), 94. 

See Robert Beachy, Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity (New York: First Vintage Books, 2015). 

 

Paragraph 175 had been part of the German criminal code since 1871, but the Nazi regime radically increased the persecution of Germany’s LGBTQ+ communities and expanded Paragraph 175.

Over the course of the 1930s, Nazi persecution of gay men and those accused of violating Paragraph 175 increased, eventually resulting in the imprisonment of thousands in concentration camps. To learn more, see the related Experiencing History item, Gad Beck: "Do You Remember, When?"

Led by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, the Institute for Sexual Science sponsored research and discussions on marital problems, sexually transmitted diseases, and laws relating to sex and abortion. Hirschfeld was an accomplished researcher and author who led efforts to reform laws criminalizing sexual relations between men in Germany.

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Archival Information for This Item

Source (Credit)
Landesarchiv Berlin
Accession Number Landesarchiv Berlin, F Rep. 290 Nr. II6938 / Fotograf: k. A.
Accession Number 74554
Date Created
March 1933
Location
Berlin, Germany
Still Image Type Photograph
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