Weird History Insane Facts About the Free-For-All Sexual Culture of Weimar Germany  

Lea Rose Emery
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The Weimar Republic, also known as interwar Germany, lasted from 1919 and 1933, and was basically a sexual free-for-all. In terms of sexual liberation and divine decadence, there was nothing more in-your-face than the Berlin sexplosion of the '20s. So what was really going down? You've probably seen it immortalized in films like Cabaret, but these real life stories of Weimar decadence are even better. Hell, they make Liza's dance moves in look downright tame. 

Sexual liberation and bold, progressive art movements like expressionist cinema, Dada, and Bauhaus exploded in post-war Germany, though the restrictive terms of the Treaty of Versailles, imposed on Germany at the end of World War I, created numerous social and political problems. As author Mel Gordon puts it, this drug-and-sex fueled cultural Renaissance was born of deep anxiety instilled by WWI: “It wasn’t just sex the way, say, the French would have enjoyed it, like a good meal or music. Rather, it was sex that was always mixed with something else, like danger, power or death.”

Conservative backlash to the new artistic and sexual progressivism, which was blamed on Jews, coupled with obscene inflation and social unrest, created the perfect Vitamix in which to blend the vile soup of Nazism, and so died the beautiful chaos of the Weimar Republic. 

But while it was good, everything was happening in the Weimar Republic, a swirling orgy of modern life. It was a time of gender bending and cross- dressing, basically a nonbinary sexual free-for-all. And sex in Weimar Germany was everywhere. Homosexuality, nudity, prostitutes, and orgies were easy to come by, as were drugs and alcohol. Think coked up sex binges mixed with Cabaret and you'll start to get there. Add on top of that the rising tide of Nazism and you have the makings of a salacious, button pushing bonanza of ribald naughtiness. Sounds like a damn good time. 

So take a look at these real-life accounts of what was going down in the Weimar Republic— you'll never look at Germans the same way again. 

Weimar Berlin's Omnisexual Erotomania Was Fueled by a Cocaine Craze


Weimar Berlin's Omnisexual... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Insane Facts About the Free-For-All Sexual Culture of Weimar Germany
Photo: Photographer UnknownNo Known Copyright Restrictions

Recreational cocaine use started creeping around Germany in the lead up to the First World War. As Carl Ludwig Scheilch wrote in his paper "Cocaineism" in 1921, "In the mobility mania that seized the whole of our modern culture before the war there was an ecstatic longing for intesitification." This need was satisfied by cocaine. As the violent fervor of the war subsided, the German need for stimulation traveled to the nightclubs of Berlin, where cocaine use exploded: "... illicit cocaine use became a notorious feature of Weimar nightlife."

Coke was pretty much everywhere in Weimar Berlin, so much so poet Carl Zucherson  lyrically wove it into the air he breathed: "The air was always fresh and spiced up, One did not need much sleep and never got tired.” A book on Berlin from the time, Children of the Night. Images from the Thug Life contained a section called “Night Figures of the City," in which it's written

"The sausage seller sells not only his sausage treats but offers his customers the chance for other, forbidden pleasures as well. For on the side he also does a booming retail trade in cocaine, the poisonous white powder, and in this connection his clientele might well be much more extensive and loyal. One has no idea how quickly the vice of cocaine has made its home in Germany; broad groups of the population have fallen hopelessly into its clutches. One can estimate that thirty percent of all prostitutes, gamblers, and pederasts are cocaine users, and in other callings as well, in particular among artists, cocaine has found its loyal slaves."

The constant blizzard of Berlin was aided by E. Merck, the world's leading producer of pharmaceutical cocaine, located in Germany. Cafes served coke to patrons, who sniffed it openly from tables. You could also order opium, hash, marijuana, and even glue to sniff. As Barbara Ulrich shows in her book The Hot Girls of Weimar Berlin, cocaine use went hand-in-hand with sexual hedonism and experimentation. As a contemporary writer noted,  "cocaine is said to heighten the libido, the potency and the inclination to all sexual activities" and could "arouse the latent homosexual tendency in a woman, and make her the lesbian heterosexual for a time." So, lesbianism, bi-experimentation, or bi group sex fueled by coke must've been happening. 

Pervasive cocaine use in the Weimar Republic fed the era's "erotomania... cabarets, S&M clubs, brothels... and status as mecca for out-of-control foot fetishes..." and "rampant depravity." In Berlin, "... the city's very air seemed to transport its inhabitants to a state of near-constant sexual frenzy." Group sex between people of all genders, sexes, tendencies, and orientation were fueled by coke, alcohol, and other drugs in "... the non-stop orgy that was Weimar Berlin." 

The Debauchery and Freedom of the Cabaret, an Androgynous, Pansexual Free-for-All


The Debauchery and Freedom of ... is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Insane Facts About the Free-For-All Sexual Culture of Weimar Germany
Photo:  Kino Lorber

Cabarets were the center of cultural nightlife in Weimar Berlin, a swirl of alcohol, drugs, sex, fashion, and performance art. Seminal playwright Bertol Brecht once took to the stage of a Berlin cabaret to perform Ballad of the Dead Soldier, a pitch-black satirical ballad in which the German army dug up the corpses of soldiers and sent them back to the front, which was probably a disorienting downer for people blowing lines and fornicating in the audience.  

In addition to cabarets, Berlin had hundreds of bars, which were highly specialized, catering to straight men, gay men, lesbians, male cross-dressers, female cross-dressers, and the occassional nonbinary pansexual bonanza. One slinky androgynous performer once replied to an esteemed guest's inquiry about their gender, “I am whatever sex you wish me to be, Madame.”

In this joyous, bacchanal milieu, Berliners could also find a special show called Beauty Nights, an absurd cocktail of night at the opera and sordid jaunt to a nudie bar. As described by Tony Perrottet in Drexel University publication The Smart Set, "Many other 'cabarets' were simply strip clubs or erotic pageants euphemistically known as Beauty Nights, where seedy patrons sat with opera glasses even though only 15 feet away."

Every. Nook. And. Cranny. Gettin' up in it with your eyes. 

Silver Screen Legend Backstage Cunnilingus Fun


Silver Screen Legend Backstage... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Insane Facts About the Free-For-All Sexual Culture of Weimar Germany
Photo: German Federal Archives/Bundesarchiv, Bild 102-14627/CC-BY-SA 3.0

Marlene Dietrich earns two spots on this list, which makes sense, given she was once described as "perhaps the busiest and most passionate bisexual in theatrical Berlin". What a title. Of course, many Americans know the German actress for roles in classic films like Shanghai Express, Touch of Evil, The Devil Is a Woman, and Blonde Venus, but before she landed in Hollywood, Deitrich was a controversial atomic sex bomb of the German stage and screen. 

Dietrich's backstage dalliances in Berlin's wild Weimar theater scene are particularly fascinating. She was known for her rapacious sexual appetite, which manifested itself in all manner of buckwild ways, including an impromptu, semi-public vaginal feast with fellow thespian Edith Edwards. Noted (and batsh*t insane) German actor Klaus Kinski, who dated Edwards many years after the Weimar Republic collapsed (and was 27 years younger than her), relates the following tale in his autobiography: "Marlene tore down Edith's panties backstage in a Berlin theatre and, using just her mouth, brought Edith to orgasm".

Hot damn. 

Anita Berber, Priestess of Depravity, Who Drank Toxic Chemicals to Get Turnt


Anita Berber, Priestess of Dep... is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Insane Facts About the Free-For-All Sexual Culture of Weimar Germany
Photo: Waldemar TitzenthalerPublic Domain

When someone writes a book called The Seven Addictions and Five Professions of Anita Berber: Weimar Berlin’s Priestess of Depravity, you know the subject was as licentious as they come. A professional dancer, Berber was also called a “totally perverted woman,” the “Countess of Sin,” “a living embodiment of sin,” and “an incarnation of the perverse." There are people in the world who would kill for a title like Priestess of Depravity, which begs the question, how did she earn it?

Berber was an extravagant hedonist, engaging in drugs and alcohol with abandon. One of her favorite 'cocktails' was chloroform and ether mixed in a bowl, which she would stir with white rose petals. This undoubtedly got her twisted af, though probably also killed a fair few brain cells. She also like coke, morphine, and opium.

Above and beyond her propensity for imbibing lethal chemicals to get turnt, Berber was most known for her sexual conquests. Rumor was she dabbled in BDSM, and she was famous for breaking sexual and gender boundaries in nude and androgynous burlesque performances. As with her drug use, Berber was overt in her libidinous bisexuality, which often flaunted a complete disregard for public vs private spheres. Take, for instance, this tale:

"As the evening’s petty flirtations turned to suggestive whispers and drunken groping, Anita stood up and enacted a passionate tango with Mia, an attractive strawberry-blonde and the partner of a notorious lesbian named Ellen. While the crowd gathered around the inebriated dancers, Anita methodically palmed the girl’s nipples until the giddy blonde nearly collapsed in orgasmic surrender. Ellen rushed to support her unsteady lover and commanded Anita to sit down. The air crackled with tension and sexual provocation."

Or there's this tale, of Berber at 16: "In a flash, she shed her dress and sauntered naked to his bedroom. Walter meekly followed. There the child-vixen unbuttoned the writer’s jacket and shirt. She spread her china-white body over the bed and he covered it with a row of kisses."

Perhaps Berber is most succinctly summed up by the contemporary who described her as “the most remarkable spirit that I ever met in the weird underworld of human sexuality.