Challenging Baedeker Through the Art of Sexual Science: an Exploration of Gay and Lesbian Subcultures in Curt Moreck’s Guide to ‘Depraved’ Berlin (1931)

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This article examines Curt Moreck’s illustrated Guide to “Depraved” Berlin (1931). It questions the publication’s synonymy with Weimar’s so-called sexual ‘liberation’ by exploring its ambiguous description of illegal male and female homosexual nightspots alongside the author’s significant use of Jeanne Mammen’s illustrations and his commissioning of the artist Christian Schad. By doing so, it suggests the book’s connection to erotic dealers, publishers and collectors and the importance these networks assumed in relation to sexual science and visual culture in the Weimar Republic. “Depraved” Berlin’s significance emerges from Moreck’s critique of Berlin’s mass tourist industry in a period of severe economic decline and in which homosexual subculture is portrayed as its antithesis. The guide is argued as having an important discursive function, therefore, coding bodies of knowledge revolving around tourism, sexual science, criminality and social morality, and in which homosexuals are acknowledged as active meaning makers. Moreck’s choices of illustrations are shown as deliberately challenging Baedeker guides through the author’s connections to the field of sexual science and his left-wing sympathies, both of which are examined in relation to his previous publications on sexual morality and the role of visual culture. However, “Depraved” Berlin’s complexity is further revealed through its overriding ‘heterosexual aesthetic’, as well as its constructivist emphasis on homosexuality at a time when Magnus Hirschfeld’s reputation was rapidly dwindling.


Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)231-256
Number of pages24
JournalOxford Art Journal
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2013