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02 January 2015

Toni Ebel (1881 – 1961) artist.

++Revised February 2022, to incorporate information about Charlotte Charlaque.

Hugo Otto Arno Ebel was raised in Berlin, the eldest of eleven children. Ebel left home because of what was taken to be homosexuality, and worked, as a woman, in a women's dress shop while studying painting in Munich. She then travelled abroad with an older man.

However in 1911 Ebel was back in Berlin and had reverted to being male. He married and they had a son – however he was not comfortable in this role and attempted suicide several times. He was able to cross-dress only in private. He was drafted into the Army in 1916. After the war he became involved with the workers' movement, painted and made a living as a commercial artist. His wife became sick.

In 1928 his wife died. Ebel became Toni again and obtained a transvestity permit. Trans woman Charlotte Charlaque introduced Toni to Magnus Hirschfeld. From 1929-33 Toni lived in the basement and supplemented the domestic staff at the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft as she was too poor to pay for treatment, but did also donate paintings. She made a formal application for a legal name change. The surgeries by Drs Erwin Gohrbandt, Felix Abraham and Ludwig L. Lenz took only two years (compared to the seven years for Dörchen Richter) and were complete in 1931.

Toni and Charlotte had become lovers. The Swedish journalist Ragnar Ahlstedt visited them at their flat at Nollendorfstraße 24 in Berlin-Schöneberg, and wrote about them in his Män som blivit kvinnor, 1933. They lived cheaply: Charlotte said that she was an actress and Toni was able to sell some paintings and drawings.

Toni converted to Charlotte's Jewish faith.   After the Nazi takeover, Toni was warned that they were under observance, and in 1934 Toni  and Charlotte fled to Czechoslovakia.  They settled in Karlovy Vary and then Prague.  Toni was by then using the name Antonia Ebelová. In 1937 they moved to Brno. However they had to report to the police every fortnight and were advised to leave. 

In March 1942 Charlotte was arrested by the Czechoslovak Aliens Police and jailed for being a Jew. Toni managed to persuade the Swiss consul that Charlotte was a US citizen, and she was interned and then deported.  They continued to correspond, but apparently never met again.
Portrait by Josef Brück, 1952.

After the Second World War, Toni was able to claim compensation from the German Democratic Republic as a victim of Nazism. She was a minor painter and was recognized at the Akademie der Künste in East Berlin.

She died at age 80.
  • Felix Abraham. "Genitalumwandlungen an zwei männlichen Transvestiten". Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft und Sexualpolitik, 18, 1931: 223-226. Translated as "Genital Reassignment on Two Male Transvestites". The International Journal of Transgenderism, 2,1, Jan-March 1998. Online.
  • Sander L. Gilman. Making the Body Beautiful: A Cultural History of Aesthetic Surgery. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1999: 276.
  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Geschlechts. Transvestitismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag 2005: 203-4.
  • Ralf Dose. "Ralf Dose, Magnus Hirschfeld Gesellschaft, Berlin, Germany: Thirty Years of Collecting Our History - Or: How to Find Treasure Troves". LGBTI ALMS 2012: The Future of LGBTI Histories, 2012.06/18.
  • Julie Nero. Hannah Höch, Til Brugman, Lesbianism, and Weimar Sexual Subculture. PhD Thesis, Department of Art History and Art, Case Western Reserve University, 2013: 269. PDF.
  • Ralf Dose. Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement. 2014: 55.
  • Přehled Historických Událostí Vztahujících Se K Tématu. (Overview historical events related to the topic) [Czechoslovakian Artists]:101. PDF.
  • Raimund Wolfert. “ ‘Sage, Toni, denkt man so bei euch drüben?’ Auf den Spuren von Curt Scharlach alias Charlotte Charlaque (1892 -?) und Toni Ebel (1881-1961)”. Lesbengeschichte, 3/2015. Online. And also at   Online.
Kunst in der DDR    Deutsche Digitale Bibiothek    Deutsche FotoThek


Karl Giese, Hirschfeld’s lover, also fled to Brno, where he committed suicide after the German occupation.   It is not known whether Toni and Karl were in contact.

The document on Czechoslovak artists is not sure whether Toni was Jewish or Protestant.  

We do not know how she survived after Charlotte being deported until the creation of the German Democratic Republic in 1949.

1 comment:

  1. what's the source on Ebel's birth year? according to a 1930 surgical document by Dr Felix Abraham ( Toni Ebel was 52 at the time of the operation, which would make her born in 1878

    this document also suggests Dora Richter's birth being in 1890, rather than 1891


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