Charlotte von Mahlsdorf : biography
Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (18 March 1928 – 30 April 2002) was the founder of the Gründerzeit Museum (a museum of everyday items) in Berlin-Mahlsdorf.
With the fall of the Third Reich, Lothar was released. She worked as a second-hand goods dealer and dressed in a more feminine way. "Lothar" became "Lottchen". She loved older men and became a well-known figure in the city as von Mahlsdorf. She began collecting household items, thus saving historical every-day items from bombed-out houses. She was also able to take advantage of the clearance of the households of people who left for West Germany.
Her collection evolved into the Gründerzeit Museum. She had become engaged in the preservation of the von Mahlsdorf estate, which was threatened with demolition, and was awarded the manor house rent-free. In 1960, Von Mahlsdorf opened the museum of everyday articles from the Gründerzeit (the time of the founding of the German Empire) in the only partially reconstructed Mahlsdorf manor house. The museum became well known in cinematic, artistic and gay circles. From 1970 on, the East Berlin homosexual scene often had meetings and celebrations in the museum.
In 1974 the East German authorities announced that they wanted to bring the museum and its exhibits under state control. In protest von Mahlsdorf began giving away the exhibits to visitors. Thanks to the committed involvement of the actress Annekathrin Bürger and the attorney Friedrich Karl Kaul (and possibly also thanks to her enlistment as an inoffizieller Mitarbeiter or Stasi collaborator) the authorities' attempt was stopped in 1976 and she was able to keep the museum.
In 1991 neo-Nazis attacked one of her celebrations in the museum. Several participants were hurt. At this time von Mahlsdorf announced she was considering leaving Germany. In 1992 she received the Bundesverdienstkreuz. Her decision to leave Germany meant that she guided her last visitor through the museum in 1995 and in 1997 she moved to Porla Brunn, an old spa near Hasselfors, Sweden, where she opened (with moderate success) a new museum dedicated to the turn of the 19th century. The city of Berlin bought the Gründerzeit Museum, and by 1997 it had been opened again by the "Förderverein Gutshaus Mahlsdorf e. V.".
Von Mahlsdorf died from heart failure during a visit to Berlin on 30 April 2002.
Von Mahlsdorf was born Lothar Berfelde, to parents Max Berfelde and Gretchen Gaupp in Berlin-Mahlsdorf, Germany. At a very young age she felt more like a girl, and expressed more interest in the clothing and articles of little girls. She helped a second-hand goods dealer clear out the apartments of deported Jews and sometimes kept items.
Max Berfelde, Lothar's father, was already a member of the Nazi Party by the late 1920s and he had become a party leader in Mahlsdorf. In 1942 he forced Lothar to join the Hitler Youth. They often quarrelled, but the situation escalated in 1944 when her mother left the family during the evacuation. Max demanded that Lothar choose between parents, and threatening her with a gun, and leaving her in a room with an hour to choose; when he came in to kill her, she struck and killed him. In January 1945, after several weeks in a psychiatric institution, Lothar was sentenced by a court in Berlin to four years detention as an anti-social juvenile delinquent. She did not serve the full term because the jails were opened at the end of the war.
Comments such as "Daß die Lesben und Schwulen keine Kinder kriegen, das ist doch ganz natürlich. Die Natur sucht sich ja auch aus, was sie gebrauchen kann, was sie sich vermehren läßt und was nicht. Und wenn wir's mal so nehmen: Wenn die Lesben und Schwulen nun auch noch Kinder kriegen würden, dann hätten wir heute noch viel mehr Arbeitslose" ("That lesbians and gays can't have children is after all quite natural. Nature too seeks out what it can use, what can reproduce and what can't. If we look at it like that, if lesbians and gays did have children, then we'd have a lot more unemployed people today") – a remark made during a lecture on 12 March 1997 in Berlinhttp://www.whk.de/whk1100.htm – meant that she lost friends within the gay scene as well.
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