The Sexual Decadence of Weimar Germany
With this sexual revolution taking place, the Weimar Republic was basically establishing reasons for Nazi Germany:
“The numerous copies in multiple editions of [Psychopathia Sexualisand Sexual Aberrations] revealed an unintended secondary readership: other perverts. The salacious case histories of sadists, fetishists, Algolagnists, flagellants, and the like, formed a novel province in Weimar pornography.
“Under the guise of psychological research, graphic photographs and illustrations were added to still other strange biographical confessions and fantasies. Berliners seeking stronger erotic sensations and instruction for weird sex scenarios merely had to peruse Galante journals for the current ‘scientific’ offerings. Virtually every deviant practice had a layman’s society and private publishing arm.
“One ‘physician,’ Ernst Schertel, headed a hypnotic ‘Dream theater’ and several book clubs devoted to whipping and buttock fetishism.
“Schertel’s serialized periodicals explored the dark fantasy games and dramatics of animal lovers, worshippers of obese Dominas, sadistic teachers, bare-hand flagellants, incestuous necklas fetishists, urine drinkers, bondage freaks, high-heel stompers…
“German authorities attempted to shut down his Parthenon-Verlag in 1931 and Wilhelm Reich publicly opposed the perverse Dream Theater. But Schertel, working under foreign pseudonyms like Dr. F. Grandpierre, outwitted them all.”
Of course Gordon plays down the participation of Jews in the business, saying that while the Jews
“dominated certain cultural fields in pre-Nazi Berlin, especially publishing, law, medicine, theatre, graphic art, cinema, music, architecture, and popular entertainment, relatively few Jews were still involved in common prostitution with the exception of two picturesque types: Kupplerinnen (procuresses) and Chontes—zaftig whores from southern Poland.”
It is understandable that Gordon is trying to dismiss a body of scholarship, since that would eventually lead to a reevaluation of at least one reason why Nazi Germany was completely against Jewish revolutionary activity.
Gordon tells us that Wilhelm Reich, another Jewish sexual revolutionary whose work we have repeatedly examined in the past, believed that Hirschfeld’s work would advance the cause of fascism. Gordon also tells us that as soon as Hitler came to power in 1933, “the Institute of Sexology was one of his first targets.”
Nazi Germany quickly placed the graphic paintings of George Grosz, Jankel Adler, Rudolf Bauer, Cesar Klein, Max Pechstein, Ludwig Meidner, Otto Dix, Rudolf Schlichter, among dozens of others, under the heading of “degenerate art” because of their pornographic imageries.
Throughout his own work, Gordon tells us how the Weimar Republic sought to refashion Germany through sexual revolution. He argues,
“Prostitution lost its exact meaning when tens of thousands were involved in complex sex attachments, all of a commercial nature. The vaguely Wilhelmian underpinning of middle-class Berlin slowly cracked and, over time, collapsed.
“Venereal disease, not flesh-peddling, threatened the immediate well-being of the capital. Syphilis and gonorrhea spread at an alarming rate. The city fathers, once proud watchdogs of the moral code, turned to Berlin’s public officials and social workers for help…
“Public and habitual masturbation, manifestations of shell-shock, grew to epic proportions, shaking morals as well as becoming an embarrassing disciplinary problem. In the countryside, the brutal corralling and rape of foreign women, usually peasant girls, by German recruits was reported with some frequency in the early dispatches…
“The sweet qualities of Gallic porno were supplanted in Berlin studios by the psychopathic scenarios from Krafft-Ebing. Forced, intergenerational, scatological, and obsessive fetish sex prevailed…The distinct erotica of Berlin was sold in specialized bookstores and here and there on the street…
“Wild sex and all-night antics could be made anywhere. In private flats, hotel rooms, and rented halls, drug parties and nude ‘Beauty Evenings’ were constantly announced and held.
“A gala atmosphere enveloped 1919 and 1920…In postwar Paris, a traveler could engage the services of a streetwalker for five or six dollars; but during the inflation in Berlin, five dollars could buy a month’s worth of carnal delights…Sex was everywhere and obtainable on the cheap…
“Child prostitution was a searing social issue long before and after the inflation era. It involved both female and male children, sex-workers’ progeny, runaways, and troublesome adolescents. There seemed to be almost no bottom age for those seeking physical companionship with children. And virtually no end to willing girls and boys.” What was even more troublesome during the Weimar era was that sexual magic was used as a form of revival; it was viewed as a form of religion and prayer. Gordon states that sex magic was used as a
“bodily manifestation of lost esoteric wisdom, techniques of Gnostic faith, flipped transmogrifications of flesh, even divine rungs for ultimate human salvation…Sexuality was the fuse and hidden spring of Weimar Germany’s newest dogmas.”
The early part of Europe in the twentieth century was affected by the revival of occultism, with many occult groups and fringe movements springing up in order to revive old sexual practices and rituals. Occult groups seeking sexual magic were ubiquitous. A year before Hitler came to power,
“Berlin alone supported the flashy productions, seances, and publications of 20,000 itinerant telepathists, wonder-working healers, palm readers, storefront clairvoyants, Hollow-Earth adherents, alchemists, stage mesmerists, doomsday prophets, Gypsy-clad fortunetellers, and trans-performers.”
It must also remembered that it was a time where black magicians such as Aleister Crowley roamed Europe with their sexual rituals in order to gain entrance into what Crowley would later refer to as the New Aeon. It has been argued by some that Crowley was widely involved in the sex industry in the Weimar Republic.
All of these satanic sex ceremonies were done as a form of blasphemy in Berlin, where some of the participants also took drugs in order to enhance their sexual magic. In Gordon’s words, there were “dionysian-like festivities,” where hymns to Pan were chanted and a goat was sacrificed to begin the sexual ceremony. Scholar John Alexander Williams tells us that
“By 1930 an estimated one hundred thousand people took part in organizations that were either dedicated wholeheartedly to nudism or practiced it regularly. The movement of some eighty thousand hard-core nudists also became more ideologically diverse, splitting into bourgeois and socialist sectors. An umbrella organization for bourgeois nudists, the Reich Federation for Free Body Culture, was founded in Leipzig in 1924.”
Yet by 1932, the power of sexual eroticism began to decline during the rise of Nazi Germany—most pornographic publications were banned and nudist clinics such as Koch’s were shut down. By 1933, Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexology was ransacked and vandalized by SA-men and students. Archival files were destroyed, and thousands of books and manuscripts were burned. In Gordon’s own words: “Berlin’s sex industry contracted and nearly disappeared throughout the summer months of 1933.”
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A snapshot of Berlin between the world wars includes nudist magazines devoted entirely to children; glittering cabaret shows parading acres of sweaty, perfumed female flesh; and an endless supply of cafes, bars and private clubs catering to gay men, transvestites, lesbians and sadomasochists.
Inflation is so rampant that the local paper currency is good only for toilet paper. Cocaine, morphine and opium are peddled on every street corner. And more than 120,000 desperate women and girls of every age and stripe sell their bodies for a pittance, including mother-daughter prostitution teams and brazen streetwalkers well into the third trimester of pregnancy.
Such was the glory that was Weimar Berlin, a burg American writer Ben Hecht called the “prime breeding ground of evil.” Most are familiar with its reputation as a crime-ridden sewer of frenetic debauchery through period classics such as Fritz Lang’s “M” and Josef von Sternberg’s “The Blue Angel,” stage productions of Brecht’s “The Three penny Opera” or screenings of Bob Fosse’s lurid, leggy movie musical, “Cabaret.” However, very few of our assumptions about that decadent interwar wonderland are based on actual documentation of Berlin’s whorish past. And most of it has been filtered through the arid prose of academia.
Now with Mel Gordon’s new tome, “Voluptuous Panic: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin,” connoisseurs of carnal excess have the next best thing to a time machine with which to visit that era of blissfully morbid hedonism.
Drawing from his vast collection of pre-Nazi Berlin memorabilia, Gordon, a professor of theater at UC-Berkeley, has assembled an Encyclopedia Britannica of Weimar smut. This 267-page omnibus of Babylon-on-the-Spree’s demimonde is full of antique pornography, guidebooks, magazine illustrations, board games, photos of Rube Goldberg-like masturbation devices and priceless ephemera from bygone restaurants and pubs.
Gordon says his massive, wallet-busting collection began as part of a job assignment from the Goethe Institute, a program supported by the German government to promote German language and culture.
“Back in 1994, I got a grant from them to do a cabaret extravaganza in San Francisco starring Nina Hagen,” recalls Gordon. “I decided to do a real, three-ring Weimar production based on the life of Anita Berber, the great sex goddess/flapper of the age. We had a lot to go on, research-wise, except the visuals. I went to the library, and I was amazed to find nothing except old George Grosz and Otto Dix paintings and some rather tame photos which had been reprinted endlessly.”
Saturday, February 18, 2017
The Sexual Decadence of Weimar Germany (UPDATE)
Posted by ASC at 8:35 AM