Although Weimar Germany was known for some enlightenment regarding homosexuality, this openness was shattered in 1933 when the Nazis assumed power and enacted Article 175, making homosexuality illegal. When a postwar constitution was written in 1949, Article 175 was retained as part of the new German state.
Produced by nine different filmmakers, this powerful docu focuses on a baker’s dozen of German gays and lesbians from Hamburg who describe survival during this dangerous period when homosexuality was not only illegal but could warrant death in concentration camps; the postwar period was marked by police sweeps.
Since most of the words to describe homosexuals in German are harsh or derogatory, one lesbian in the film blushingly refers to gays as “verzaubert” (“enchanted”). This use of euphemisms is evident in many of those interviewed, who were so scarred by their experience that even today they find it difficult to talk openly. (Two even refuse to show their faces to the camera.)
Among those interviewed are Edith, who was interrogated by vice cops after her married lover committed suicide and left an incriminating letter. Rudolf describes being caught in the act at age 14; his friend was pressured by his “dishonored” family to join the army, where he was killed.
Arno discusses the three years he spent in Auschwitz for violating Article 175. When he arrived at the camp, he managed to get his status changed and even maintained a two-year relationship with a Polish POW. Perhaps the most frightening story is that of Wally, a lesbian who was raped by her stepfather and later sterilized by the state before managing to escape.
But then there are Heiner and Peter, who have lived together openly for 38 years and report no problems with acceptance by landlords or neighbors.
“Enchanted” is a fascinating glimpse into a frightening period.