March 5, 1933: The Infamous Gay Nightclub The Eldorado Cafe In Berlin Closes As Nazi LGBT Persecution Begins
March 5, 1933 – Germany:
The Eldorado Cafe, aka Tanzlokale für Herrenone one of the largest gay, lesbian and transvestite clubs in Berlin is shut down nine days after a “Public Morality” directive that gay bars, clubs and cafes be closed. And so began the beginning of the end for thousands of gays, lesbians, drag queens and transvestites in pre-war Berlin.
The Eldorado in its long history featured regular performances by the likes of Marlene Dietrich, Claire Waldoff and the Weintraub Syncopators, and was widely known to be a regular venue for all genders and sexual orientations. Customers could buy ‘chips’ to exchange for dances with the regular transvestite hostesses.
Tony’s Smart Set notes:
“Berlin’s 400 or so bars were divided in tourist guidebooks according to a strict taxonomy of desire. Flush heterosexuals might choose the Kakadu, with Polynesian-style décor and caged parrots hanging over each table; when patrons wished to leave, they could tap their glasses and the bird would squawk loudly for the check. Gay men would descend on the Karls-Lounge, where the waiters and “Line Boys” all wore neat sailor’s outfits. Lesbians liked Mali and Ingel, where guests were obliged to dance with the randy owners, or the Café Olala, where some customers liked to dress in Salvation Army outfits. Male cross-dressers went to the Silhouette, female cross-dressers to the Mikado, and everyone the entire sexual spectrum over blurred at the Eldorado, where one dancer, when quizzed by a slumming grand dame as to gender, replied in a haughty voice: “I am whatever sex you wish me to be, Madame.”
In July 1932, new Chief of Police Kurt Melcher began implementing the strict catholic policies of the new Von Papen government and announced “an extensive campaign against Berlin’s depraved nightlife”. All “amusements with dancing of a homosexual nature” were now subject to an earlier closing time of 10 pm and many bars and dance halls turned themselves into private clubs in an attempt to sidestep the new laws.
In October 1932, the gay scene was dealt an almost fatal blow when the Chief of Police ordered a ban on same-sex couples dancing in public. It was the end for The Eldorado
Within two months of the Nazi’s coming to power in January 1933, and Adolf Hitler, becoming the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party (Nazi Party), as the chancellor of Germany. all Berlin gay bars remained open after except for about 15 of the best-known establishments, which which closed in the first months of their rule. Including the Eldorado.
Under enormous pressure and fearing for his family and livelihood, Ludwig Konjetschni closed the Eldorado and handed the premises over to the local Sturmabteilung (SA) – many of whom had worked for him and he placed his future in their hands. The SA turned the Eldorado into their new local headquarters.
Then, in June 1934, in part because of political infighting among Nazi leaders, the SA was purged, and Ernst Röhm and the other high-ranking leaders theought to be gay were all killed. It was then that Hitler came to fill power. It was only after that, a full 17 months into the Third Reich, that the deniability could no longer continue and it started to dawn German citizens that it was going to be in trouble if they continue to be openly homosexual.
In the fall of 1935, the Nazis put in place a more draconian version of anti-homosexual law Paragraph 175 into affect.. It was worded to make it possible for “almost anyone” to be arrested if the Nazis suspected they might be gay. “A criminal act included flirtation.
Convictions multiplied by a factor of ten to about 8,000 – 15,ooo per year. Furthermore, the Gestapo could transport suspected offenders to concentration camps without any legal justification at all (even if they had been acquitted or already served their sentence in jail). Thus hundreds of thousands of homosexual men, lesbians, and then transvestites in Nazi occupied countries were forced into concentration camps, where they were identified by the pink triangle.
The majority of them died there.
The Eldorado Club, , Tanzlokale für Herrenone played a central role in ‘ I Am A Camera’ – the 1955 film adaptation of Christopher Isherwood’s ‘Goodbye To Berlin’.