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23 March 2022

Gerda von Zobeltitz (1891 – 1963) tailor

Original version November 2014.  Revised March 2022.

G. von Zobeltitz from Weißensee, Berlin, a scion of one of Germany's old noble families with ties to the Hohenzollern court, was making a living in Berlin as Gerda, a women's tailor, by 1910, and she was also sometimes a dancer.

In 1912 she was counselled by Magnus Hirschfeld and his colleague Ernst Burchard, and submitted a request for a Transvestitenschein, which would allow her to legally wear female clothing.  Later that year she was arrested in Berlin for public cross-dressing, as reported in the Berliner Tageblatt: "the alleged culprit was soon released once it was determined that it was a case not of disorderly conduct but instead of transvestism". 

Within a year Gerda had acquired the  Transvestitenschein in Potsdam, and when called for military recruitment in 1913, she appeared as Gerda and was deemed ineligible.

However in 1916 she lost her Transvestitenschein after a grand uncle's denunciatory intervention.

Despite this she did survive the Third Reich, possibly because she married a woman and therefore could not be accused of 'homosexuality'.  She had three wives throughout her life.

At the age of 72 Gerda was run over by a car on the Kurfürstendamm in Berlin. She is buried in the  Friedhof Kaiser-Wilhelm-Gedächtniskirche.

  • Berliner Tageblatt, 106, 27 February 1912.
  • Jens Dobler. Von anderen Ufern. Geschichte der Berliner Lesben und Schwulen in Kreuzberg und Friedrichshain. Berlin: Bruno Gmünder Verlag 2003: 75.
  • Katja Koblitz, : „In ihm hat die Natur das berühmte dritte Geschlecht geschaffen“. Gerda von Zobeltitz, ein Transvestit aus Weißensee. In: Sonntags-Club (Hrsg.): Verzaubert in Nord-Ost. Die Geschichte der Berliner Lesben und Schwulen in Prenzlauer Berg, Pankow und Weißensee. Berlin: Bruno Gmünder 2009: 58-80; 
  • Letzte Änderung. "Verzaubert in Nord-Ost". Übersicht von Invertito 12, 31.07.2012.
  • Robert Beachy. Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity. Knopf, 2014: 172.
  • “Gerda von Zobeltitz”. In: Persönlichkeiten in Berlin 1825 - 2006. Erinnerungen an Lesben, Schwule, Bisexuelle, trans- und intergeschlechtliche Menschen. Senatsverwaltung für Arbeit, Integration und Frauen, Berlin 2015: 82-3. PDF.

We know of Gerda 1912-16, and of her death in 1963.   But what in-between?   In particular, we know very little of how she survived two world wars and the Nazi regime?

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