15. The good times weren’t just for the rich; poor people also had their own bars where they tried to forget the trauma of the Great War
The popular image of the Weimar Republic is of well-dressed men and women drinking champagne and taking drugs in lush cabaret bars. And this is largely accurate. However, not everyone could afford champagne or cocaine. Nor would Berlin’s most infamous bars or dance halls let just anyone through the doors – often, clients would need either a full wallet or some useful connections in order to gain entry to the Kit Kat Club, for example. But that doesn’t mean that poorer Berliners couldn’t have fun, too. Quite the opposite, in fact. During the Weimar period, the German capital was full of bars and parties for all social classes, including the lowest.
Working-class hangouts were to be found right throughout the city. For a homosexual man, a bar close to an army barracks offered the best chance of a memorable night. Among these, the Mother Cat was the most famous – and infamous. Here, beer cost just a few cents a glass and off-duty soldiers mingled with manual laborers and bohemians keen to enjoy a different side to the city. In some, soldiers would sell their bodies for extra cash. In others, homosexual dalliances took place without any payment. Of course, when the authorities learned about what their soldiers were up to, they quickly shut down such offensive establishments. Within a few days, however, a new bar had opened up, with word of mouth or coded newspaper advertisements alerting the gay men of Berlin to its location.
It wasn’t just barred for homosexual men that were segregated along social lines. There were also lesbian bars to suit every social class, too. Some venues were largely the preserve of upper-class ladies and their friends. The Dorian Grey, for example, was notoriously hard to get into, as was the Eldorado. However, as with the men, women in the know knew where to go to find a working-class girl or perhaps a shop-girl or office girl looking to make a bit of extra money.