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15 September 2022

Transvestitenschein - Part II Third Reich

Part I: Weimar Republik

Part II: Third Reich

 BackgroundWhile the Nazi party was - with a few exceptions such as Ernst Röhm, leader of the Sturmabteilung [SA] - mainly anti-queer, its persecution was mainly aimed at gay men. Some trans persons were sucked into this persecution and were imprisoned and died. However others managed to get their Transvestitenschein approved or renewed. A very small number managed to gain legal name changes and even gender-affirming surgery. In this and other ways the Third Reich was inconsistent, both in its tolerance and in its murderousness.

30 January 1933: New Cabinet sworn in, with Adolf Hitler as Chancellor.

Hermann Goering was appointed Minister of Interior. He ordered the closure of gay bars. He sacked senior police officers in order to replace them with key Nazi supporters, and recruited 50,000 members of the SA to work as Auxiliary Police (this later became the Gestapo). Thus the police acceptance of the non-criminality of queer persons which had been hard-won during the Weimar-period was lost.

27 February. The Reichstag fire. Immediately before the federal election of 5 March. Nazi organisations monitored the voting, and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) gained a majority.

21 March. The Malicious Practices Act (Verordnung zur Abwehr heimtückischer Diskreditierung der nationalen Regierung) enabled "protective custody" (Schutzhaft - internment without trial on the pretence of protection from ‘the righteous wrath of the population’) of paupers, homosexuals and Jews.

24 March. The first concentration camp was opened close to Dauchau, near Munich. The Reichstag passed what became known as the Enabling Act which allowed laws passed by the government to override the constitution.

6 May. The Deutsche Studentenschaft made an organised attack on the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft.

10 May. Part of the Institut's library and archives were publicly hauled out and burned in the streets of the Opernplatz.

Gerd Winkelmann was working for the post-office in Berlin in 1933 when he first obtained a Transvestitenschein.

Gerd Kubbe had his Transvestitenschein withdrawn.

Toni Simon’s one-year Transvestitenschein was cancelled by the new regime. After a short prison sentence, Simon left for Spain.

Ossy Gades, who had previously worked as a taxi-dancer at the Eldorado but was then working as a man, was arrested several times and beaten for having dressed in women’s clothes. He explained that he was not homosexual, and went out en-femme only when accompanied by his wife. He was still regarded as homosexual.

1934 Toni [not Ebel] was allowed to take that name, and allowed to wear women's clothes. In the following years she felt 'balanced and happy'.

The number of men sentenced to prison under § 175 increased from 464 in 1932 to 575 in 1933 and 635 in 1934. There was as yet no systematic persecution of individual homosexual behavior, and until 1935, convictions remained below the high of 1,107 convictions set in 1925.

21 June. The Night of the Long Knives. The murderous purge of Ernst Röhm and other gay men in the ranks of the SA wing of the Nazis.

Toni Ebel and Charlotte Charlaque fled to Czechoslovakia.

October. Reinhard Heydrich, director of the Schutzstaffel (SS),ordered the police of all large cities to make a list of homosexuals. A separate Gestapo department, the Special Commission for Homosexuality in Berlin, was set up. In late 1934, the Gestapo targeted Berlin and Munich, raiding surviving gay bars and making mass arrests of homosexual men. Many accused of homosexuality admitted to acts that were not punishable under Paragraph 175 and expected to be released; instead, they were mistreated and held in protective custody (Schutzhaft) in Columbia-Haus, Lichtenburg, or Dachau concentration camp.

1935 Gerd Winkelmann applied for an extension of the Transvestitenschein. Winkelmann pleaded that the discrepancy between the name on his papers and his appearance prevented him from getting a job, and that he could not wear female clothing because he was always taken to be a man. He stressed that he was not a lesbian. Three officials found his case to be plausible in that he looked like and passed as a man. They ordered the police to keep an eye on him.

By early 1935, 80 percent of the prisoners held in 'protective custody' (Schutzhaft) in the concentration camps were there for alleged homosexuality. To convict these men, it was decided to change the criminal code.

Paragraph 175 was amended. The new version of the law punished all sexual acts, defined broadly; "objectively when a general sense of shame is harmed and subjectively when there exists the lustful intention to excite either of the two men or a third party". In theory, it became a crime to look at another man with desire. Men were convicted for mutual masturbation or simply embracing each other and in a few cases when no physical contact had occurred. Under the new law, typically all participants were viewed as equally guilty whereas under the previous law, the "active" and "passive" participants were differentiated. The new law made it much easier to arrest and convict homosexual men, leading to a large increase in convictions. Under a new section 175a, the law also introduced harsher penalties for male prostitution, sex with a man younger than 21, or sex with a student or employee. The change in the law was not publicized for fear of spreading knowledge of homosexuality. Most Germans were unaware the law had changed and many of those arrested under the new law had no knowledge they were committing a crime. The law was also applied retroactively.

Trans persons were then under more pressure to prove that they were not homosexual and not sex workers.

Ossy Gades was arrested again, and sent to Lichtenburg concentration camp. This camp was one of the first and housed mostly political prisoners and gay men. He died there a year later.

1936 In April the case re Gerd Winkelmann was passed to the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo), who requested a report from Professor Dr. Müller-Heß of the Berlin Institute for Forensic Medicine (Psychiatric division).

Mathias Robert S moved from Vienna to St Pölten, Lower Austria having had an operation to remove his internal female organs. He applied to have his first name changed. The Regional Sanitary Directorate argued his case as Hirschfeld had done for similar cases. However after a medical examination the request was declined. The Provincial Government emphasised that according to "current customs, the wearing of masculine dress by women occurs often enough, especially in the countryside and in spas and bathing resorts, and there are no police regulations against it. The application for a change of first name was therefore not granted in 1937 for lack of "merit"(rücksichtswürdigen).

Establishment of the Reich Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion (Reichszentrale zur Bekämpfung der Homosexualität und Abtreibung), which oversaw the registration of transvestites. It worked with Gestapo Special Bureau II S.

Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron; SS), was quoted in 1937 that it was a “catastrophe if we masculinise women in such a way that the difference between the sexes, the polarity, disappears over time” and "all things that move in the sexual sector" not to be a "private matter for an individual, but they mean the life and death of the people”.

1937 In England, a clergyman and his wife consulted psychiatrist and Hirschfeld associate Norman Haire and asked him to make an application to the Home Office for a transvestism permit such as had been available in Germany. Haire asked a Cabinet Member (and husband of another of Haire’s patients) to make the request. The reply was that it was quite impossible to issue such a permit because it was not illegal to go about in public in the clothes of the opposite sex, and the Home Office could not issue a permit to condone behaviour which was already quite legal.

Hertha Wind was called up for reserve training with the Navy. On arrival she was assumed to be Frau Wind who had called to collect her husband’s papers. By luck the former captain of the battleship Friedrich der Grosse (on which Wind had served) was in the building, and Wind was able to explain to him, and he got the situation put right.

Between 1937 and 1939, nearly 95,000 men were arrested for homosexuality—more than 600 per week—representing a major investment by the Nazi police state. From 1936 to 1939, nearly 30,000 men were convicted under Paragraph 175. Unlike in the past, these men were virtually guaranteed to receive a jail sentence. The length of sentences increased; many men were sentenced to years in jail. Prosecutors, judges, and others involved in the cases increasingly cited Nazi ideology to justify harsh punishment, adopting the regime's rhetoric of "stamping out the plague of homosexuality". The use of concentration camp imprisonment increased; after 1937, those considered to have seduced others into homosexuality were confined to concentration camps.

24 January 1938 when "on the basis of § 1 of the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and the State of 28 February 1933” Gerd Kubbe was arrested for wearing men's clothing in public till recently, although her permission to do so had been withdrawn in 1933. Kubbe was incarcerated in the Lichtenburg Concentration Camp.

4 March. Mathias S formally applied to the Provincial Governor's Office for "written police permission to wear male clothing" - although this was still not required under Austrian law - and for "entry of the writer's name Mathias Robert S[...] in his passport or in a police identification document"

13 March. With the Anschluß Österreichs, the annexation of Austria, some German law was applied in Austria. That is Transvestitenscheins could now be issued, but Austria unlike Germany retained its own law against lesbianism.

Hertha Wind’s papers were still those of a man despite it being seven years since her completion surgery. Her doctor urged her to stage a showdown. She went to the public baths in Frankfurt and attempted to enter the men’s section, showing her id that said that she was a man. The kerfuffle seemed to be going nowhere, but a few months later she did receive official permission to wear women’s cloths, and the next year new identity documents but as Fraulein, not Frau. And she became Frau a year after that.

Kubbe was released on 12 October that same year, with a temporary permit, and instructed to report to the Berlin Gestapa Department II D. Kubbe was granted permission to wear men's clothing under the condition that she may not go to public places of need, baths and the like in men's clothing. In addition to the Transvestitenschein, Kubbe was allowed to take the gender-neutral first name of Gerd. In addition police surveillance was ordered.

Mathias Robert S again submitted an application to the competent authority for a change of documents or a change of the first name. S. then contacted the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Vienna where a professor agreed to provide an expert opinion free of charge. This led to provisional re-registration in November.

December. Rudolf K appeared “in men’s clothes” at the Vienna Criminal Police Headquarters. He explained that he had worn men’s clothes since 1920 "partly out of disposition, partly for the sake of easier advancement". He was actually using his brother’s papers and was registered with the police as a man. In November he had received a request from the military district command to present "for examination". However, since he knew everyone in his small town, he had "shied away" from complying with this request and turned himself in to the police. He had not applied for a Transvestitenschein, was employed as a photographer’s assistant and was supporting his blind elderly foster mother. On K’s behalf, a lawyer filed an application for a Transvestitenschein and for a legal name change.

Liddy Bacroft, who had had a Transvestitenschein in the early 1920s, but had served time for theft and ‘unnatural fornication’ was released from prison but later was re-arrested for solicitation. A few months into her new sentence, Liddy applied for "voluntary castration" in order to be cured of the "morbid passion that led me down the path to prostitution". She was forensically examined by a medical councillor who recommended subsequent preventive detention.

1939 The police surveillance of Gerd Kubbe was discontinued 25 February.

April. Rudolf K’s application was supported by an official medical certificate.

May. Rudolf K’s case was referred to the Reichsführer SS. The Reichskriminalpolizeiamt supported the application. In July the application to wear mens’ clothes was approved but with a caveat that K be instructed not to go to public places of need, baths and the like. In August the local police approved the change of name. However the Provincial Governor's Office disagreed. The the Ministry of the Interior and Cultural Affairs of the Province of Austria declined to decide and the case was submitted to the Reich Ministry of the Interior in Berlin.

June: “Agnes S” was detained in Berlin for wearing a man’s suit without a Transvestitenschein. S. feared losing his livelihood (selling fruit from a barrow).

August. The Regional Sanitary Directorate again applied for Mathias Robert S to be definitely assigned to the male sex based on the report from the Institute for Forensic Medicine. This was accepted three days later.

Toni [not Ebel] expressed a "wish for a functional vagina". In the same year, the penis was amputated, the urethra was implanted in the perineum, and "vaginoplasty by means of skin folds from the remaining scrotal skin and finally, in 1940, the creation of a vagina artificialis".

1940 February. Gerd Winkelmann’s application was reprocessed. However it was announced that Winkelmann was a woman and must dress accordingly. A change of first name from Gertrud to Gerd would not be allowed. Winkelmann attempted to live as a woman, but met great humiliation.

26 February. The Reich Ministry of the Interior in Berlin approved Rudolf K’s name change.

Mathias Robert S married.

August: “Agnes S” arrested again, but released after promising to dress as female.

Elisabeth and Hertha Wind applied to adopt a baby girl. After Hertha took a four-month Mothers’ Course and gained a diploma, they were permitted to do so.

It was later reported that in 1940 in the town of Gladbeck, North Rhine-Westphalia, two persons previously regarded as women, were declared to be men, and one of them joined the marines.

1941 The Standesämter persevered in the case of Alex Starke, arguing that it was not a private case but a matter of interest to the state. The Interior Ministry issued a ruling in May 1941. They ruled that as Starke had lived as a man since 1920, it would be an ‘unjustifiable hardship’ and maybe even ‘impossible’ for him to have to start living as a woman. The name change was not to be rescinded, however he was not to be allowed to marry.

1942 Henriett B. on completion of her sentence for draft evasion, requested castration. The health department went further and, as a matter of eugenics, did a penectomy. After returning to Hanover B. applied to change her first name from Hinrich to Henriett. No objections to this were raised.

1943 Mathias Robert S and his wife fostered a baby girl. A few years later they adopted her.

Liddy Bacroft completed her prison sentence. She was then transferred to the Mauthausen concentration camp where she was murdered.

1945. WWII ended 8 May. The concentration camps were liberated, and most surviving inmates freed. However queers, convicted under either the original § 175 or under the revised more inclusive § 175 of 1935, were transferred to regular prisons to complete their sentences.

20 September. The Malicious Practices Act, 1933 was repealed by the Allied administration.

1948 Toni [not Ebel]: Although the approval for the change of first name had been granted in October 1934, it was not until 1948 that the "rectification of the registry office records" took place, according to which the applicant was retroactively assigned to the female gender on the basis of a "medical determination". Now she also applied for "rehabilitation" and sought "judicial prosecution and punishment for the crime committed against me in 1933".

1949 After the founding of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR - East Germany) an omnibus bill was passed to repeal all Nazi legislation, thereby reverting to the original 1870 § 175. The Bundesrepublik (BDR - West Germany) retained most Nazi legislation including the revised § 175 of 1935.

1951 Toni Simon’s Transvestitenschein, cancelled in 1933, was restored.

1956 West Germany’s Bundesentschädigungsgesetz (BEG - Federal Compensation Act) offered compensation to victims of Nazism. However it specifically excluded Sinti/Roma/Gypsy/Tsigani, those who were considered asocial under the Nazi regime or men convicted under § 175 . In practice trans persons and female impersonators were also excluded.

Toni Ebel living in East Berlin applied to the DDR for and was granted compensation as a victim of Nazism.


The following were consulted:

  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Geschlechts. Transvestismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft. Giessen, 2005: .

  • Jane Caplan. “The Administration of Gender Identity in Nazi Germany“. History Workshop Journal, 72, Autumn 2011.

  • Katie Sutton. “ ‘We Too Deserve a Place in the Sun’: The Politics of Transvestite Identity in Weimar Germany”. German Studies Review, 35,2, 2012.

  • Ilse Reiter-Zatlaukal. “Geschlechtswechsel unter der NS‐Herrschaft”. Beiträge zur Rechtsgeschichte Österreichs, 2014.

  • Eva Fels. “Transgender im Nationalsozialismus”. 2014. Online.

  • Natasha Frost. “The Early 20th-Century ID Cards That Kept Trans People Safe From Harassment”. Atlas Obscura, November 2, 2017. Online.

  • Lisa-Katharina Nader. "Ein Mann in Frauenkleidern": Männliche Transvestiten in deutschsprachigen Printmedien der Habsburgermonarchie und der Österreichischen Republik 1895 bis 1934. Mag. phil, Universität Wien, 2017: 25-8. Online.


GVWW(La Préfecture de Police, Paris, and permissions de travestissement)

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