Berlin, Germany: Rainbow District
January 1, 1970
by Yuk Yu
What to do in Berlin, Germany? You can find out something that is easily forgotten from Rainbow District.
Frederick the Great, a gay king in 18th century
When we talk about Berlin’s queer history, the dark history under the period of Nazism always pops up in our mind. But we should also have to remember Frederick the Great. His experiences and interests during his youth may help to shape and cultivate Berlin to be a freedom city. He is a gay man and art and philosophy lover. When he was young, Frederick was forced to watch his gay lover’s decapitation. Under his governance, Prussia was a modern and enlightened country in 18th century through reforming political systems, tolerating all religions, setting independent judiciary and making Prussia as a hub of culture and learning. If you would like to know more about his life and contributions, you are strongly recommended to spend a day to visit his palaces and gardens located at Potsdam.
Back to 2016, to enjoy the blossom of LGBT+ in Schöneberg
If you want to visit Berlin’s rainbow district, you cannot miss Schöneberg. It is an international renowned Rainbow district since 20th century. Take U1/U2/U3/U4 to Nollendorfplatz. Outside the U-Bahn Nollendorfplatz, you will find a landmark called Rainbow Column (Die Regenbogenstele) which is not only an indicator of the gay and lesbian district, but also a symbol of the growing self-consciousness of homosexuals. Remember to walk around Motzstraße, Nollendorfstraße, Eisenacher Straße and Fuggerstraße. There are numerous gay and lesbian-friendly pubs, restaurants and cafés, hotels and shops.
Prinz Eisenherz, a best choice besides gay friendly bars and pubs
Rainbow district is always associated with pubs and bars, but there is also a comprehensive and relaxing queer bookstore with gallery, film corner and information area on Motzstraße. The book categories are diverse and comprehensive, ranging from magazine, comic, novel to academic analysis in German and English. The exhibitions in the gallery change time to time. DVDs are included gay and lesbian movies and pornography. If you are not a party man, this is a best choice to spend an afternoon, even a day there.
Prinz Eisenherz // Motzstraße 23, Schöneberg // Mondays to Sundays 10am to 8pm// Free admission // +49(0)303139936 // http://www.prinz-eisenherz.com
Please don’t forget how hard we fight for our right and freedom!
After having fun in the rainbow district, please come back to U-Bahn Nollendorfplatz and look for the Gay Pink Triangle (Rosa Winkel). It is a commemorative plaque on the wall outside the station. Under Nazism period, every prisoner in concentration camps had to wear a downward-pointing triangle on their jackets. Pink triangle was used to identify prisoners who were sent to concentration camps because of their homosexuality.
Other Rainbow areas besides Schöneberg
If you have more time and can stay at Berlin longer, you are highly recommended to visit Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism and Schwules Museum* (Gay Museum) as well.
Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism (Denkmal für die im Naionalsozialismus verfolgten Homosexuellen)
Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism has been decided to construct on 12 December 2003 and was opened on 27 May 2008 which is 3.6 meter high and 1.9 meter wide made by concrete standing on the edge of the Tiergarten to remember the homosexual victims of National Socialism. This Memorial was designed by Michael Elmgreen (Denmark) and Ingar Dragset (Norway). When you are walking towards to the memorial, you will see a building looks like a giant square stone in front of a park. This cuboid is exactly the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted under Nazism and in the front of the cuboid is a window where visitors can see a short film of two kissing men.
Most of the visitors do not notice that there is a video inside the cuboid and just very easily by pass it. The images of two kissing men are looping. The idea of the video came from the regulation – under the section 175 of the criminal code in 1935 which was remained in force without amendment until 1969 in the Federal Republic, all male homosexuality and homosexual behavior included a kiss were regarded as crime and prosecuted while female homosexuality were forced to conceal their sexuality. More than 50,000 convictions were dead of hunger, disease and abuse in the concentration camps under Nazism.
– Take S25/U2 to Potsdamer Platz.
– Behind the Memorial is Östlicher Tiergarten.
– Opposite street of the Memorial is Holocaust Memorial.
– Further visit Schwules Museum* which is located at U1 Kurfürsten str.
Schwules Museum* (Gay Museum)
Schwules Museum* was founded in 1985. “Schwules” is a German word means gay. The sign * represents the diversity of sexual orientations and concepts of gender. As its name is Gay Museum, it is certainly a museum to tell you how LGBT+ community lives in a reality through the representation of different art forms.
The themes of exhibitions in the five areas are regularly changed. Generally, an exhibition is last for three to six months. Artworks are not only from Berlin, but also from all over the world which can reflect queer history and culture. Before visiting there, please visit their website to check the current exhibitions and you may also find the schedules of guided tours and talks. Due to Schwules Museum*’s 30th anniversary, there is a section currently to review their direction of art collection which may help you to know more about the development of queer culture in Berlin.
Gay Museum is different from the museums in Museum Islands. It is not just a place to attract art lovers, but also a base to gather a group of people who share similar value and belief. The operation of Schwules Museum* depends on the large proportion of donations and the efforts from volunteers. When you enter the museum, you will meet the volunteers in the reception, shop, café, exhibition areas and library. Don’t be afraid to talk to them. You can also know more about the local queer life from them.
Schwules Museum* // Lützowstraße 73, Schöneberg// U1/U2/U3/U4 Nollendorfplatz, U1 Kurfürstenstraße // Opening hours 2pm-6pm (Sun/Mon/Wed/Fri), 2pm-8pm (Thu), 2pm-7pm (Sat) // regular price 7.5 EUR, reduced 4 EUR, cafe and museum shop free admission // +49(0)3069599050 // www.schwulesmuseum.de