The Morphine Queen Who Defied the Nazis

Gertrud Gunther was born into a normal Prussian middle class family in 1881, but she made good when she married Baron Heinrich von Puttkamer and ascended to a life of high society and wealth. She took to it well, from entertaining royalty to doting on her much older husband. But she had a secret identity. The baroness wrote lesbian-themed poetry and novels, which she published under the name Marie-Madeleine. It is possible that the baron never knew about her writings in all the years they were married before he died in 1914.  

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In the following 14 years, the baroness published another 28 books, including novels. Just as lesbian love dominated her works at first, morphine started appearing in her writing beginning in 1910. It became the dominant theme after the baron’s death and for the rest of her literary career. “Her work was particularly appreciated during the decadent, dissolute years of the Weimar Republic when alternative sexual behavior and drug use were tolerated — and often celebrated,” says Gertz.

If anything, her writing became even more ecstatic and rapturous after her husband’s death. “She traveled around Europe with a male companion and fellow morphine enthusiast, living in villas in Germany and France,” says Gertz, “completely unknown as the notorious Marie-Madeleine.”

The baroness had maintained her secret identity for more than three decades, but Hitler’s Nazis eventually ferreted her out. The Third Reich wasn’t too keen on Jewish lesbian poets addicted to morphine, and despite her nobility, they wanted to erase her from history. When the Nazis starting burning books, Marie-Madeleine’s were among the first to go into the flames. Her books sold more than 1 million copies during her career, but it’s extremely hard to come by a copy of one today.

Read about the life and legacy of Baroness Gertrud von Puttkamer at Ozy.

Source: neatorama

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