In preparation for the pop-up exhibition “Queering the UL” in February this year, staff were asked to think of items that could feature in the event. This gave me a chance to take a closer look at some intriguing books that had passed through my hands, and which I was surprised to see among the very academic monographs I usually deal with. After a bit of research, I found out they were all in a series called “Bibliothek rosa Winkel,” which documents in fact an important part of German social history.
The publishing house Verlag rosa Winkel, the first dedicated to gay themes in Germany, was founded in 1975 by a group of friends in West Berlin who, wanting to set up a stand of books on homosexuality at their university, realised that they had almost nothing to sell. The expression “rosa Winkel” refers to the pink triangle that homosexuals were made to wear on their clothes in Nazi Germany. The aim of the founders was to give a chance to books dealing with LGBT themes that had been turned down by more mainstream publishers. In 1991 they started the series Bibliothek rosa Winkel, defined as being at the crossroads of history and literature, and whose focus is testimonies or other narratives documenting life as a homosexual at different points in history. As Verlag rosa Winkel went out of business in 2001, the series was taken over by the publisher Männerschwarm Verlag.
The University Library holds 36 books by Verlag rosa Winkel, the oldest one dating back to 1983 (but acquired by the Library in 1995), and 18 by Männerschwarm Verlag. 22 of these books belong to the Bibliothek rosa Winkel series. Here are a few of them:
Zwischen den Geschlechtern : Roman einer geächteten Leidenschaft (C205.d.2139), the book that eventually featured in the “Queering the UL” exhibition, was originally published in 1919 under the pseudonym “Homunkulus” (who the real author was remains a mystery). It is a novel about the rent boy milieu in Munich and deals with issues of blackmail, reputation and scandal.
Auf Bienchens Flügeln : ein Flug um den Erdball in Epigrammen und poetischen Bildern by Karl Heinrich Ulrichs (C205.d.3606) is a re-edition of a book of poetry originally published in 1875, with a transcription of the handwritten comments that the author added to his copy. Ulrichs is most known for his collection of essays Forschungen über das Rätsel der mannmännlichen Liebe (244:1.d.95.29-30, also re-edited in the Bibliothek rosa Winkel series) which he was brave enough to publish under his real name in 1864, an act for which he is seen as a pioneer of the gay rights movement.
Homosexualität in der DDR : Materialien und Meinungen (C202.d.1806) presents several historical essays on life as a homosexual in East Germany.
Das 3. Geschlecht (C212.c.2235) is a facsimile of a magazine for transvestites originally published in the 1930s.