Berlin and the sins of the flesh: sex, drugs and homosexuality

Art, Special

“Let the person among you who is without sin be the first to throw a stone at her.” – so it says in the Bible (St. John 8:7). In Berlin it could not be different: sin ruled in the 1920s.

Those who read about Berlin in the times of the “New Objectivity“, or the famous golden decade of 1920, know that the city has gone through a massive revolution, cultural and political change, when everything has become possible and feasible, and everything came to the surface: nightlife in cabarets and nightclubs, the explosion of expressionist art made by the proletarian, the homossexual caming out of the closet, the rise of the new woman, and with it the clear appearance of the world’s oldest profession: prostitution.

At this time Berlin had a “b side”: sexual promiscuity, homosexuality, transsexuality, prostitution, power relations between the sexes, appearance of drugs like opium and cocaine as a symbol of status and power, especially among the new woman, the one would promote herself as the “flavor of the month”.

The sinful Berliner Bohemia attracted young tourists from all over the world, especially the United States and France, which have inspired the  lifestyle in Berlin at the time. Even nowadays some nightclubs have this fetishistic atmosphere of that time, such as the Club Insomnia or the Kit Kat Club.

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Professor and Ph.D in theater history from the University of New York, Mel Gordon, wrote a series of books about the Golden Age and this time Berlin, and among them the most known is “Sündiges Berlin – Die Zwanziger Jahre: Fri, Rausch, Untergang “(Index Publishing, 279 pages). It narrates the erotic and treacherous world of sex and drugs at the time. A work that is really worthwhile  reading, and it can be found, not only in German but also in English.

Today Berlin still bears the same atmosphere, but a little bit more hidden, like any good old world metropolis.

Below is a selection of four videos that show some of  Mel Gordon’s work  and portraits of the 1920’s Berlin:

Part 1:

 Part 2:

 Part 3:

Images from the Book: “Sündiges Berlin – Die zwanziger Jahre: Sex, Rausch, Untergang” (Index Verlag, 279 pages)


Vivi Gnutzmann

Visual Merchandiser and Window Displayer by choice, Vivi is graduated in Fashion Design, Literature and German. Nowadays she works with Online Marketing, Social Media and as a translator. A handywoman is a way to define her, who is still studying, even though she doesn’t know exactly where that will take her in the future. In her personal blog, writes about bathrooms but wishes to do it more frequently because writing is one of her passions. If she had to pick a soundtrack for her life at this moment would be from Drive’s OST, who recently has replaced “Echo & The Bunnymen”. Is passionate about music, art, german literature, cinema and Berlin, the city she calls home these days.

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