Who We Are / Wir über uns

Kulturring’s first project covering the persecution of homosexuals during the NS period began its work in 1997. We wanted to engage ourselves within the framework of, and in cooperation with, citizens movements/gay associations researching the annulment of court decisions passed during the NS time with regard to paragraph 175 of the German penal code – and the post-war consequences on the lives of affected homosexuals. Soon we discovered, in the Berlin State Archives, the registers of the district attorney as well as the court files of Berlin’s State Court that had been duly archived there. We were mainly interested in the biographies of those men affected – and their sufferings (during and post the NS period).

The consecration of the memorial stone

The consecration of the memorial stone on October 13, 2008 for the four homosexuals from Lobetal who were sentenced to death in 1943 and subsequently executed.

The first results were two books, written under the leadership of Andreas Pretzel: “Wegen der zu erwartenden hohen Strafe” – “Considering the Anticipated Harsh Sentence” (2000) and, in collaboration with the Magnus-Hirschfeld Society, “Opfer unter Vorbehalt” – “Victim, With Reservations” (2002). Berlin’s mayor, Klaus Wowereit, spoke at the book premier held at the Berlin State Archives.

Together with Gunter Demning, and in commemoration of all the victims of National Socialism, we laid an engraved cobble-stone for the two friends Walter Boldes, born August 13, 1898 in Breslau (Wrocław), executed on December 14, 1942 in Ploetzensee, and Paul Kuester, born April 17, 1908 in Berlin, executed on May 19, 1942 in Brandenburg/Goerden.

At our request, Berlin’s Chief of Police donated a commemorative plaque for murdered police officers. On April 24, 1945, in Spandau’s police custody section at Moritzstraße 10, all men under arrest were set free to take part in the Endkampf (the Battle of Berlin). Because of their homosexuality, only the police officers Otto Jordon, Reinhold Hoepfner, Willi Jenoch and Erich Bautz were excluded and taken to the police barracks in Pionierstraße, where they were shot and hastily buried.

The research by Andreas Pretzel on the life of homosexuals in Lobetal is a direct result of our project regarding the Special Court in Berlin. At the suggestion of the archivist Jan Cantow, Lobetal now has a stone commemorating Hans Festersen, born October 1, 1909 in Berlin-Friedenau, Fritz Lemme, born August 18, 1909 in Wusterhausen an der Dosse, Friedrich Riemann, born Octobere 7, 1896 in Essen, and Ernst Hirning, born May 9, 1913 in Berlin-Schmargendorf. They were executed in Berlin-Ploetzensee on the night of September 8, 1943.

Since 1997, various projects have been working on a database of Berlin’s justice system, which includes detailed information pertaining to both the persecuted victims and the perpetrators. To this end, we are also in contact with Rainer Hoffschildt whose own research covers the deportation of homosexuals to concentration camps. After final completion, so the deal goes, the Berlin State Archives will receive the database and make it available for use by the general public’s scientific research.

A major point of the project’s work is the representation of homosexual life in Berlin. With precision work, borough for borough, the various gay and lesbian meeting places are being investigated and documented, partly in collaboration with Berlin’s Gay Museum. Relevant exhibition plates from the boroughs of Mitte, Spandau, Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf, and Tempelhof-Schoeneberg are a part of Kulturring’s exhibition. The ensuing Berlin map, which subsequently arises from this information, will also be made available for the general public.

Andreas Pretzel at the opening of the exhibition

Andreas Pretzel at the opening of the exhibition “Redlined From the Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community): Homosexual Persecution During the NS Period” – Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf Town Hall. (27/08 - 02/10/2013)

2003 saw the first exhibition from Kulturring in Berlin covering our subject “‘I Have a Hunch That There’s Something Bad In the Air’ – The Destiny of Homosexuals in Berlin-Mitte 1933-1945”, put together by Ursula Meinhard. It was shown in the Mitte Museum and also, most aptly, in Moabit’s criminal court, the actual scene of the perpetrators’ acts. The exhibition was formally opened by Berlin’s justice senator Karin Schubert.

A new project, with Klaus Berndl as curator, reworked and revised the exhibition to include Berlin-wide aspects of homosexual persecution. Since then it has been continually expanded and replenished. The exhibition “Redlined From the Volksgemeinschaft (people’s community): Homosexual Persecution During the NS Period” was first shown in 2006 at the German Bundestag, then shortly afterwards at the Academy of Arts, Berlin, where it served as background information for the design proposals for the eventual Memorial to Homosexuals; and later also in other places, both in and outside of Berlin. In 2013, we were able to present ourselves at the first Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, Intersexual (LGBTI-)Congress of the Magnus-Hirschfeld Foundation. There, we showed our first exhibition-plate commemorating the persecution of a lesbian woman, Elsa Conrad. Her photo and biography were donated to us by Claudia Schoppmann. The political landscape of the homosexual victims group had altered.

Since then, our projects researching homosexual persecution during the NS period have also covered the destiny of lesbians. For this purpose, we started reading many files dealing with correctional education, welfare and justice system, and police, with some interesting biographies being presented here as a result. Our work continues, and we are now even more inquisitive than we were twenty years ago. How did transsexuals live at that time? A subject that we also seek to understand.

In future, Kulturring in Berlin’s data collection covering the persecution and discrimination of LGBTI people during the NS period will be developed as being even more versatile and extensive. It will also include much detailed information regarding the subsequent individual post-war destinies of those persecuted. These are research subjects, for which we invite interested people – male and female – to collaborate. If you wish, please do contact us via rosa.winkel@kulturring.org .

The Rosa Winkel (Pink Triangle) Work Group with Kulturring in Berlin was formed on an initiative by Carola Gerlach in 2001. It is a voluntary scientific coordinating group of time-limited LGBTI projects with a long-term perspective.

Text: Dr. Carola Gerlach

Translation: Graham George Ricketts / Ulrich Becker