During the First World War, many men reported experiencing their first homosexual encounters while serving in the German army in the trenches. But even though most soldiers returned to their homes all across Germany once the war had ended, many gay soldiers instead returned to Berlin, bringing their liberality and newfound openness with them, establishing gay hotspots all over the city. Though Germany was suffering financially in the post-war years, money soon poured into Berlin from the booming economy in the USA during the roaring twenties and with this money came the hedonistic outlets on which it could be spent. Nightclubs and bars sprung up all over the city and many of them, especially cabaret clubs, were populated by gay people.
The effects of this homosexual explosion were felt all over Berlin. Numerous gay oriented publications began to be sold in bookshops. Dress-makers began to cater for larger sizes. The Gay Community began to support each other, with gay bars and clubs beginning to advertise other businesses patronised by LGBT People: doctors, lawyers, tradesmen, dentists. There were more gay publications and establishments in 1920s Berlin than there were in existence in 1980s New York.
While Paris had become the artistic hub of the continent, there were many who found Berlin a friendlier alternative, establishing a strong, albeit brief, arts scene that sprung up in and around the bars. Painters, writers, dramatists and performers flocked to witness, participate and live this new liberal lifestyle, recording and reflecting this seemingly utopian community in their work. And while the resultant German Expressionist Cinema from the era began to be seen around the world, its low-fi cabaret alternative saw the first Queer Performers able to express themselves openly on stage and with the rise in popularity of this medium, the line between cabaret and high-brow theatre began to blur.
The Nazi glorification of manhood was fuelled by imagery reminiscent of early homoerotic literature prevalent in Berlin at the time. Subsequently, a large proportion of gay men joined the ranks of the Nazi Party. But with the schism between "butch" and "femme" still in existence, when the inherently homophobic Hitler began his persecution of effeminate homosexuals, much of this persecution was inflicted by gay people in the SS and SA who didn't identify themselves as "femme". But before long, the ranks of homosexuals populating the SA were identified by Hitler and during the "Night of the Long Knives", many prominent gay figures were rounded up, killed or imprisoned. And with the establishment of the first concentration camps in 1933, gay men were sent in their thousands to their deaths, regardless of their "butch" or "femme" assumed identity.