Charlotte von Mahlsdorf

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Charlotte von Mahlsdorf at the CSD parade 1994 in Berlin

Charlotte von Mahlsdorf (real name Lothar Berfelde ) (born March 18, 1928 in Berlin-Mahlsdorf ; † April 30, 2002 in Berlin) was the founder and long-standing director of the Gründerzeit Museum in Berlin-Mahlsdorf and a famous transvestite in Germany.



Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was born to Max and Gretchen (née Gaupp ) Berfelde. She had two siblings. According to autobiographical statements, she was already interested in girls' clothes and "old stuff" as a child. She felt like a girl and, as a teenager, helped the Kreuzberg second-hand dealer Max Bier to clear out apartments, earning a few pieces of her wages for herself.

The father had joined the NSDAP in the late 1920s . At times he was political director in Mahlsdorf. In 1942 he urged Charlotte to join the Hitler Youth . There was often a quarrel between the two, which escalated after the mother left the family in 1944. The father told Charlotte to choose a parent and threatened with his service revolver. As a result, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf slew her father with a rolling pin . After she had spent a few weeks in psychiatry, she was sentenced in January 1945 by a Berlin court as an "anti-social youth" to four years in juvenile prison.

After 1945

With the end of the Nazi regime, Charlotte was released, worked as a second-hand dealer and dressed more feminine. "Lothar" became "Lottchen", she loved men and later became the city-famous character "Charlotte von Mahlsdorf". She began collecting household items, rescuing various historical everyday objects from bombed houses and made a living from selling furniture.

Charlotte von Mahlsdorf with young visitors to the Gründerzeit Museum (1977)

From 1946 to 1948 she saved the orphaned Friedrichsfelde Palace from vandalism by moving in with her collection, carrying out repairs on the palace, taking in refugees and displaced persons and organizing tours.

In 1959/60, the “Wilhelminian-era Museum” was created from the collection: She campaigned for the preservation of the Mahlsdorf manor house, which was threatened with demolition, and was given the entire building rent-free. In 1960 she opened her museum of everyday objects from the Wilhelminian era in the first partially reconstructed house. The Mulackritze  - the last completely preserved Berlin pub from the Scheunenviertel  - rescued it when the building was demolished in 1963 and restored it to its original state in the basement of the museum. This gained acquaintance in film, artist and gay circles ; from 1974 meetings and celebrations of the Berlins Homosexual Interest Group (HIB) took place there. In 1972 the manor was placed under monument protection. In 1974 the GDR authorities announced that they would nationalize the museum with the exhibits, whereupon Charlotte von Mahlsdorf began to give away her possessions to visitors.

The Mahlsdorf manor houses the Wilhelminian-style museum founded by Charlotte von Mahlsdorf

However, thanks to the engagement of the actress Annekathrin Bürger and the lawyer Friedrich Karl Kaul (and possibly also through the commitment as an unofficial employee of the MfS ), the action could be ended in 1976, and Charlotte was allowed to keep the museum.

Move to Sweden

In 1991 neo-Nazis attacked one of their festivals on the manor and injured several participants. At that time, she announced plans to leave Germany. In 1992 she received the Federal Cross of Merit . The decision to leave Germany ensured that she took visitors through the Gründerzeit Museum for the last time in 1995 and moved to Porla Brunn in Sweden in 1997. There she opened a new turn of the century museum.

The state of Berlin bought the Gründerzeit museum. It was founded in 1997 by the Förderverein Gutshaus Mahlsdorf e. V. reopened and has been extensively refurbished since 2008 with funds from the Lottostiftung Berlin. Today it houses the most extensive and complete collection of objects from the Wilhelminian era . In addition to the permanent exhibition, weddings and cultural events of all kinds take place in the manor house.

On April 30, 2002, Charlotte von Mahlsdorf died of a heart attack while visiting Berlin . She was buried in the Evangelical Waldkirchhof Mahlsdorf on Rahnsdorfer Straße right next to her mother Gretchen Berfelde. The grave is located in Dept. W 402/403/404.

Discussion about the inscription on the memorial stone

For her work as the founder of one of the most important collections of the Wilhelminian era, but also for her public appearance as a transvestite and self-confessed masochist, as well as for the theming of the persecution of homosexuals in the Third Reich and in the GDR, one of the "Förderverein Gutshaus Mahlsdorf" (the Förderverein of the Wilhelminian style museum) and the fundraising campaign launched by the “Interest Group for Historic Cemeteries Berlin”, a memorial stone for Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was set up in the Mahlsdorf Gutspark. The organizers wanted this to be set up on the first day of death with a plaque with the inscription "I am my own wife - Charlotte von Mahlsdorf - March 18, 1928 - April 30, 2002" . The relatives of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf turned against the inscription and demanded that it be changed. Since the question of the estate had not been resolved and the support association of the Gründerzeitmuseum was concerned that the relatives might claim the furniture back, the decision was made and the panel was given the text “Lothar Berfelde, 1928–2002, called Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. In memory of the museum founder ” .

Another honor

According to a decision by the Marzahn-Hellersdorf district office, a street in a new residential area was named Charlotte-von-Mahlsdorf-Ring on March 17, 2018 . The small street is diagonally opposite the Gründerzeit museum.

The books by and about Charlotte von Mahlsdorf

Filming of her biography

The filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim filmed her biography in 1992 in the film I am my own wife .


  • Charlotte in Sweden , short film by Rosa von Praunheim 2001
  • Charlotte , short film by John Edward Heys 2009
  • Sunday child. Memories of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf , documentary by Carmen Bärwaldt 2018

Stage plays

The American author Doug Wright wrote the play I Am My Own Wife , based on interviews with Charlotte von Mahlsdorf and her autobiography , which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the Tony Award for "Best Play" in 2004. On June 1, 2006, Doug Wright was awarded the European Culture Prize for his play I Am My Own Wife .

The performance of the American piece under the title "I Am My Own Wife" was forbidden to the American production for title protection reasons in Germany by the rights holder, the Berlin publisher Edition diá, which holds the rights to the German title, due to the risk of confusion with the original title of the autobiography.

On September 9, 2007, the German version of the American play ("I Am My Own Wife") premiered at the Berlin Renaissance Theater under the title I do what I want .

Peter Süß, who edited Charlotte von Mahlsdorf's memoirs and worked with her to compile the Berlin city guide Ab durch die Mitte , wrote his own drama on Charlotte von Mahlsdorf's vita. Like the autobiography, it bears the title I am my own wife and was premiered on March 26, 2006 at the Leipzig Theater.


Web links

Commons : Charlotte von Mahlsdorf  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. a b Sebastian Blottner: A Berlin treasure chest. Berliner Morgenpost, April 18, 2013, accessed on March 18, 2019 .
  2. Sunday child. Memory of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. In: Events. Brandenburg State Center for Civic Education, May 29, 2018, accessed on March 18, 2019 .
  3. Reinhard Wengierek: Charlotte von Mahlsdorf's lies in a dressing gown . In: Culture. World, December 10, 2007, accessed March 18, 2019 .
  4. ^ Farewell in silence - Charlotte von Mahlsdorf dead. N-tv , May 10, 2002, accessed on March 18, 2019 .
  5. Marcel Gäding: Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was buried on Friday. Berlin's most famous transvestite is dead. Berliner Zeitung, May 11, 2002, accessed on March 18, 2019 .
  6. ^ Gender struggle for Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. In: Retrieved May 3, 2016 .
  7. Charlotte von Mahlsdorf: I am my own wife. edition diá, Berlin 1992, pp. 85-91.
  8. ^ Gender struggle for Charlotte von Mahlsdorf. In: Retrieved May 3, 2016 .
  9. ^ Street for Charlotte von Mahlsdorf
  10. Street naming in honor of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf  ( page no longer available , search in web archivesInfo: The link was automatically marked as defective. Please check the link according to the instructions and then remove this notice.@1@ 2Template: Toter Link /