Located at the corner of Motzstraße and Kalckreuthstraße in Berlin's Schöneberg district, the Eldorado was a popular destination during the 1920s and early 1930s for lesbians, homosexual men, transvestites of both sexes and slumming tourists. The nightclub featured cabaret shows, dancing and drinking in a stylish atmosphere.
One of the most famous destinations for queer nightlife in Berlin during the Weimar Republic, the Eldorado merited several pages in Ruth Margarete Roellig's 1928 book Berlins lesbische Frauen ("The Lesbians of Berlin") and was the setting for a major watercolor by expressionist painter Otto Dix.
The Eldorado was one of the first homosexual establishments padlocked by the police when Hitler came to power -- several weeks before the sacking of Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Science. In what was no doubt an act of deliberate sarcasm, the Nazis transformed the Eldorado into a Party propaganda center.
The photo on the left shows the facade of the Eldorado hung with enormous swastikas and banners urging "Vote for the Hitler Ticket" -- undoubtedly as part of the Nazi campaign in the March 1933 parliamentary elections that Hitler called to consolidate his power shortly after being named Chancellor.
A similar photo was published in the May 1933 issue of the Viennese magazine Die Notschrei as part of a montage showing "a string of immoral bars" ordered closed by Berlin's Nazi police chief. (The Notschrei photo depicts a slightly wider view. As in the photo shown here, the street is rain-slicked, but the police officers are not present.)
The Motzstraße area survived the bombing of Berlin during World War II and is now one of the most concentrated enclaves of gay male life in the city -- a neighborhood that is home to several gay bars and shops and to the Mann-O-Meter gay information and referral center. The premises of the Eldorado have been converted into a local supermarket ; the building that housed the famed club is again the location of a gay bar (see picture below).
Text: Gerard Koskovich
Pictures: (top) The Eldorado as it looked during its heyday around 1930. Reproduced from Andreas Sternweiler, et al. (eds), Goodbye to Berlin? 100 Jahre Schwulenbewegung (Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1997), page 127; (middle, left) The club as it appeared around February-March 1933, after it was closed by the new Nazi government. Reproduced from Claudia Schoppmann, Days of Masquerade: Life Stories of Lesbians During the Third Reich (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996), page 3; (bottom, right) The Eldorado today: a local supermarket. (Additional pictures by Gerard Koskovich and Franck Dennis.)