I have to tell you of the deep loneliness that came over me that winter in Berlin in 1928. I could speak some German, but my lack of proficiency in the language barred me from finding work in the shops or cafés and filled me with a depression I had never before experienced.
Not when I left home to join an all-girl revue and my mother said I was no longer her daughter. I wrote to her as often as I could, poetic postcards depicting my life here filled with the gaiety of those sparkling nights I appeared on stage before the show closed. Then I could no longer afford to mail the postcards.
What did it matter? I told myself. I knew she ripped them up without reading them.
Another day and still I couldn’t find a job. Thinking back, I shudder to think what many girls in my situation turned to in those haunting times.
I knew many girls–and young men–in early 1920s Berlin who survived by turning to the oldest profession. I can’t tell you how insane it was back then, the carnival atmosphere that could lure a vulnerable young woman to slide down her black stockings and remove her chemise to earn a few marks.
I remember walking along the streets in the slum district in the northern section of Berlin, looking for work and trying to resist the temptation of fast money. “Alex” they called the area. Alexanderplatz–where girls plied their trade in no less than 320 brothels.
I couldn’t believe it when I found out the girls were registered with the police and subjected to regular medical checkups. You couldn’t miss them in their garish costumes and page boy haircuts hanging out on the street corners and in the cafés, strutting around in their boots, a cigarette dangling from their blood-red lips.
The actual sex act was not as romantic. From what I heard, the towels and linens in the rooms in the brothels were not changed for days…and the erotic encounter lasted but a mere ten minutes.
I refused to consider the option of prostitution, but an empty belly and the threat of being tossed out onto the dirty icy streets can make a girl do strange things.
Lady Eve Marlowe