This is a rare photograph taken at an unidentified gay bar in Berlin, Germany, sometime prior to 1933. It was an ominous time to be gay and German. On May 6, 1933, Nazis ransacked the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin and thousands of books pertaining to homosexuality were deemed “un-German” and were removed from the Institute’s library and thrown into a huge bonfire as part of a public ceremony. Hitler had condemned homosexuals shortly after taking power and viewed gay people as being “socially aberrant” and counterproductive to the Nazis’ desired goal of purifying German society and propagating an “Aryan master race.” Germany had once had a vibrant gay club scene that flourished in many cities such as Berlin and Hamburg during the 1920s but Hitler banned all gay organizations and gathering places. The Sturmabteilung (Nazi Brownshirts) soon began raiding gay clubs and arresting anyone suspected of homosexuality.
During 1933-1945 over 50,000 men were sentenced for the crime of homosexuality in Nazi Germany. Most of the men served their time in regular prisons, but an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 were sent to concentration camps. All prisoners within the camps wore marks of various colors and shapes on their uniforms to allow the guards to identify them by category. Homosexual prisoners bore the mark of a pink triangle (which would later become a symbol of the modern gay rights movement). Conditions in the camp were terrible for all prisoners but were known to be particularly brutal for gay inmates. It is estimated that over sixty percent of the men sentenced to concentration camps for homosexuality, died while in captivity. To add insult to injury, the fortunate few that managed to survive their imprisonment were not acknowledged as victims of Nazi persecution, and they were denied reparations. Even worse, under the Allied Military Government of Germany, some gay men were even forced to serve out their remaining terms of imprisonment, regardless of the time spent in concentration camps. (Photo: From the collection of Gerard Koskovich, posted with permission)
Update: Although the original date when the photo was taken is unclear, the image was published in the April 22, 1933, issue of the French weekly Voilà, l’hebdomadaire du reportage, as an illustration to an
article by the novelist and journalist Georges Simenon.