A new Netflix documentary, Eldorado: Everything the Nazis Hate, revisits the brief but dazzling heyday of queer nightlife in 1920s Berlin, before Hitler’s forces robbed a visible community of their freedom.
One hundred years ago in Berlin, the decadent and hedonistic nightclub Eldorado could advertise openly. It was an epicentre of gay life in the city.
Gays, lesbians and transgender people mingled with rich and powerful guests from around the world. They were all seeking Berlin’s spirit of sexual freedom.
But as the 1920s became the 30s, the Nazi movement soon targeted Eldorado. The nightclub’s closure in 1932 symbolised a totalitarian turning point.
The Netflix documentary uses rare audio and video footage and racy recreations to trace queer players’ fates in the upheaval between the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany.
Many in the newly visible queer community, who’d only just grasped a new freedom, were suddenly targeted and murdered.
Eldorado regulars Charlotte Charlaque and Toni Ebel were trans pioneers. Both received gender-affirming surgery from gay Jewish doctor Magnus Hirschfeld.
Hirschfield would escape the wrath of the marauding Nazi youth. But he was forced out of Germany into exile.
High-ranking Hitler confidante and head of the Nazi SA paramilitary wing Ernst Röhm was another Eldorado regular.
Blonde, blue-eyed Gottfried von Cramm was a top tennis star in a gay relationship with Jewish actor Manasse Herbst.
The Nazis initially looked the other way, until Gottfried was arrested and imprisoned under Paragraph 175. The German law made sex between men a crime.
‘Freedom snatched away in tragedy’
Netflix documentary Eldorado was created by a predominantly queer team, including director and co-writer Benjamin Cantu.
“The history of the Eldorado and especially that of queer people, whose persecution did not end with 1945, was uncomfortable for the post-war public for a long time and therefore hushed up,” he said.
Benjamin said Eldorado comes at a time when LGBTQ rights are under renewed pressure in many parts of the world.
Trans historian Morgan M Page appears in the film and also describes the Weimar era’s lessons as “uncomfortably relevant”.
“The Weimar era has always fascinated me. [It’s a] moment of LGBTQ people grasping towards freedom, only to have it snatched away from them in tragedy,” Page said.
“As I watch anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ movements attack our communities across the world from Russia to Florida to England and beyond, the lessons of the Weimar era are uncomfortably relevant.”
Eldorado: Everything the Nazis Hate is streaming on Netflix now. It’s in English and German with English subtitles.
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