The “Roaring 20’s” was a time of huge celebrations, advancements and economic prosperity in the major cities of the world. Berlin, Chicago, London, Los Angeles, New York City, Paris and Sydney were at the head of the class. The social, artistic and cultural dynamics were totally revamped and everything changed. 

Berlin was at the centre of this party and was at that time the largest metropolis in Europe. At this peak it had a population of almost four million residents. People flocked to Berlin from all around the world.

A bit of Boner history: Our first offices here in Berlin were in that same building on Nollendorfstrasse, just below the flat where the famous writer Christopher Isherwood lived in during the roaring 1920’s of Berlin.

One of them was a young Briton named Christopher Isherwood, who fled to Berlin together with his good friend and writer W.H. Auden, because here both could live out their lives like nowhere else. There were more than one hundred and seventy bars and clubs for gay men, a number that is much greater than today. The centre of the gay scene was located around Nollendorfplatz in Schöneberg. Auden raved about the fact that Berlin was every gay man’s dream. For Isherwood, Berlin was the biggest mecca for having fun with gay guys all the time. The pubs and bars were full of festive patrons, clients and hustlers looking for fun. Isherwood later wrote about his experiences in his famous book “Berlin Stories” which became the basis for the blockbuster Broadway musical Cabaret.

Magnus Hirschfeld (lower right with glasses) at his institute in Berlin during the 1920’s

It was indeed a seemingly never-ending party, an adventurous mixture of sex, eroticism, permissiveness and joy of life. And the boundaries blurred, heteros partied with gay boys, people met in the famous dance club Eldorado and celebrated the famous drag shows. It was possible that celebrities like Marlene Dietrich took have taken a seat at the next table. Everything seemed possible and nobody could imagine that the liberal world view could ever pass by again. The well known sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld tirelessly researched in his newly opened Institute for Sexology. Everything was full speed ahead and they believed the party would never end.

Then came the crash

All of that came to a screeching halt with the Wall Street Crash of 1929 in New York City and the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany. Overnight the party stopped and the darkness of WWII came over the world. In the aftermath of Berlin’s destruction, it took almost these hundred years for the city of to rebuild its population back to the similar numbers of the 1920’s. 

It the past, just like today Berlin remains a unique societal cultural bubble within the rest of Germany.  

What is taken for granted here is still frowned upon in the rest of the country, perhaps even throughout Europe. To this day, the city thrives with sexual permissiveness, endless parties and sex orgies. In its own special way, the German capital still maintains its appeal to gay men from around the globe.

Fast forward to the present and the “New Roaring Twenties”

Yes, they are are back! Berlin is growing and is a thriving touristic destination. Almost every weekend the gays come in droves on EasyJet and Ryan Air to party until they drop. Everyone is looking to experience that ‘Real Berlin feeling’ one more time. They just can’t seem to get enough of our city, returning again and again.

But please take note:

The American philosopher and writer George Santayana once coined the famous phrase: “Those who do not learn history are doomed to repeat it.” The question remains whether or not we homos must once again go through the purgatory of an inhuman time or whether we can now recognise and interpret the signs of the times a bit wiser and take unified actions against them. (ms)  (translated by: gt)