One of my characters may have been a Weimar prostitute. She is cagey on this issue and certainly wouldn’t confirm or deny in a public place like this. My friend Jo had told me about the colour coding of boot laces in Weimar, and how the colour signalled what you would or wouldn’t do. It seems a strange twin to the coloured-taxonomy that was to come, when a pink triangle or yellow star spoke volumes.
So, Weimar prostitute – so far, so expected. But in contemplating prostitution in Weimar, you have to know what you’re looking for. What kind of prostitute then? Is there life after Sally Bowles? There would appear to be 16 types of prostitutes, according to Mel Gordon, whose Voluptuous Panic surveys Weimar erotica. “Grasshoppers” performed oral sex in the Tiergarten, while “gravelstones” were the physically-deformed sex workers of north Berlin. “Telephone girls” were children who could be selected by their attributes to modern film stars and ordered by phone. “Nice girls” were “demi-castors” (Franco-slang for “half-beaver”) who merely hooked part-time to feed their families.
Why so many prostitutes? This from the book: Germany’s recent defeat in World War I did its part, encouraging general disillusionment and leaving behind thousands of war widows in Berlin’s populace of 4 million with no means of realistically supporting themselves other than by prostitution. Gone were the Kaiser and the old morality, and in their place was a new liberal republic. And then there was the general economic collapse and inflation. In October 1923, German currency traded at the astronomical rate of 4.2 billion marks to the U.S. dollar. Gordon points out that “the most exquisite blow job” to be had in Berlin never cost an American tourist more than 30 cents.
Tolerated since the Middle Ages as a “necessary evil” and condoned by the police since the 19th century, prostitution even found the Nazis in the pimping business, with women servicing, however unwillingly, every camp. Having seen this list, I will certainly look at SS boots with fresh eyes…. And it’s certainly legal in Germany now. Prostitutes even pay income tax and charge VAT. Wikipedia, every googlers first port of call, cites the German population of prostitutes at 200,000. That’s a lot of laces. If you’re so inclined, you can find prostitutes in the bars, Eros centres, apartments, massage parlours, as well as partner-swapping and sauna clubs of Berlin. None of which strike me as particularly Weimar. With Weimar we want glamour and decadence, trans-gender chorus dancers, bobbed hair and whips. How to square any of that with the elegant woman disembarking on the Isle of Man in my third chapter? Well, that’s the fun part. Figuring it out.