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Elsa Conrad’s trajectory
The Nazi rise to power in 1933 led to a campaign of anti-homosexual repression that put an end to a period of relative freedom, during which a lesbian subculture had developed. The regime toughened the law, supplementing section 175 which was already criminalizing homosexual acts between males. As a result, gay and lesbian community life was wiped out within a matter of few weeks. Well-known lesbian clubs, like the “West Monbijou”, held by Elsa (also known as Igel) and her partner Mali, and the weekly lesbian magazine Die Freundin were shut down.
What happened to those who were running those clubs? What was the destiny of whose who wrote and read lesbian magazines? What happened to Elsa Conrad? She was arrested and imprisoned in 1935. Three years after, in 1938, she had to choose between either staying in prison or leaving Germany.
Elsa Conrad was not deported, but she embodies the persecutions and arrests which were carried out against those who were notoriously known as lesbians or who lived openly with women. Since they were exposed to the risk of denunciation, they had to seek multiple strategies to escape repression.
We barely know Elsa Conrad’s life. Like thousands of other people who have stories that were never passed down to us.
Information about this trajectory:
We only have fragments of Elsa Conrad’s trajectory, which were gathered by the articles written by Claudia Schoppmann. We are missing the exact location of her arrest and her life in Nairobi.
That is the reason why we decided to put on our map the addresses of the existing public libraries in Berlin and Nairobi, hoping that we will get more specific information one day.
Homophobie und Devianz, published in 2012, gathers various interventions from the eponymous conference held in Ravensbrück in 2010. In this book, Insa Eschebach, director of the Memorial, speaks about “Homophobia, deviance and female homosexuality in the Ravensbrück concentration camp” and Claudia Schoppmann presents the portraits of Elsa Conrad, Henny Schermann, Margarete Rosenberg and Mary Punjer
Some bibliographich resources
- Claudia Schoppmann, “‘Die weitaus interessanteste Vereinigung lesbischer Frauen Berlins’: Die Clubwirtin Elsa_Conrad (1887-1963),” Spurensuche im Regenbogenkiez: Historische Orte und schillernde Persönlichkeiten, MANEO-Kiezgeschichte vol. 2 (Berlin: Maneo, 2018): 102-119.
- « Homophobie und Devianz » Weibliche und männliche Homosexualität im Nationalsozialismus. Insa Eschebach (Hrsg). 2012, Metropol Verlag, Berlin.
- Another resource: the work of Florence Tamagne, History of homosexuality in Europe. Threshold, 2000
- Other resources on our Internet site www.queercode.net
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