Human history is cyclical. The new Netflix documentary, Eldorado: Everything the Nazis Hate, is both a reflection of the past and a warning about the future. In the 1920s and 1930s in Berlin, the Eldorado was one of the most prominent LGBTQ clubs in the city. A haven for the queer community, it allowed for a generation to be themselves away from the more conservative pockets of society.
Doing double duty, the film shines a light on some of the more well-known patrons of the club while not shying away from persecution by the Nazis. Among the regular Jewish and non-Jewish customers whose lives were turned upside down were Gottfried von Cramm, Manasse Herbst, Magnus Hirschfeld, Charlotte Charlaque, and Toni Ebel.
The Past Is Present
Though it may seem like this period is ancient history, the truth is that it is not that it is only a century ago. At the time, Germany was a fledgling democracy that seemed to throw away the archaic political and social morays of the past. History tells us otherwise.
After twenty years in the closet, I came out earlier this year. The anxiety leading up to that day was overwhelming. Thankfully, the response was nothing but love. But not everyone is so lucky. Like Germany in that period, the appearance of tolerance and understanding was just that. Once the Nazis gained power, anyone who identified or was found to be LGBTQ was persecuted. Gay men specifically, were forced to wear a pink triangle on their outer garments.
The Recreations Are the Best Part of the Documentary
My favorite part of the documentary is the recreation of Eldorado’s heyday. The scenes looked like they had come out of a larger fictional tale that was based on the history of the club. It looked like a party I wanted to join. I’m mostly a homebody, but the people looked like they were having so much fun. Fun, after all, is contagious.
I could almost imagine that they were part of a trailer for a film similar to the 1998 movie 54. Instead of Ryan Phillippe playing a young man eager to enter Studio 54 in New York City in the 1970s, it would follow a young queer person trying to find themselves in 1920s Berlin.
There is a Nugget of Hope in This Story
Given the context of the narrative, it would be understandable if fear and darkness took over. But there is also a small nugget of hope and light. Despite the distance of time between myself and the people profiles, I felt a connection with them.
They were (at least within the walls of Eldorado), able to be themselves. There was no shame, disgust, or fear of rejection. The shackles of forced conformity were dropped. There is a supreme joy in finding your people and having a common language or experience that is already understood. I’m not much of a drinker or a bar patron, but perhaps I might have walked into one of these establishments and finally breathed the air of freedom.
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