Charlotte von Mahlsdorf
- Category : 1928-births
- Type : MGE
- Profile : 6/2 - Role Model / Hermit
- Definition : Split - Small (8,20,33,42,51,52,59)
- Incarnation Cross : LAX The Plane 1
German author, antiquarian and junk collector noted as the founder and director of the Gründerzeit Museum (a museum of everyday items) in Berlin-Mahlsdorf. Also famous as a transgender person in Germany, she wrote the 1992 autobiography Ich bin meine eigene Frau (published in English as I Am My Own Woman: The Outlaw Life of Charlotte Von Mahlsdorf, Berlin's Most Distinguished Transvestite in 1995, and as I Am My Own Wife: The True Story of Charlotte von Mahlsdorf in 2004).
Mahlsdorf was born Lothar Berfelde to parents Max Berfelde and Gretchen Gaupp. At a very young age she felt more like a girl, and expressed more interest in the clothing and articles of little girls.
Her father was already a member of the Nazi Party by the late 1920s and he had become a party leader in Mahlsdorf. In 1942 he forced Charlotte to join the Hitler Youth. They often quarreled, but the situation escalated in 1944 when her mother left the family during the evacuation. Max demanded that Charlotte choose between parents, threatening her with a gun and leaving her in a room with an hour to choose; when he came in to kill her, she struck him with a rolling pin and killed him. In January 1945, after several weeks in a psychiatric institution, Charlotte was sentenced by a court in Berlin to four years' detention as an anti-social juvenile delinquent. She did not serve the full term because the jails were opened at the end of the war.
With the fall of the Third Reich, Charlotte was released. She worked as a second-hand goods dealer and dressed in a more feminine way. She began going by "Lottchen". She loved older men and became a well-known figure in the city as von Mahlsdorf. She began collecting household items, thus saving historical everyday items from bombed-out houses. She was also able to take advantage of the clearance of the households of people who left for West Germany.
Her collection evolved into the Gründerzeit Museum. She had become engaged in the preservation of the von Mahlsdorf estate, which was threatened with demolition, and was awarded the manor house rent-free. In 1960, von Mahlsdorf opened the museum of everyday articles from the Gründerzeit (the time of the founding of the German Empire) in the only partially-reconstructed Mahlsdorf manor house. The museum became well known in cinematic, artistic and gay circles. From 1970 on, the East Berlin homosexual scene often had meetings and celebrations in the museum.
In 1974 the East German authorities announced that they wanted to bring the museum and its exhibits under state control. In protest, von Mahlsdorf began giving away the exhibits to visitors. Thanks to the committed involvement of the actress Annekathrin Bürger and the attorney Friedrich Karl Kaul—and possibly also thanks to her enlistment as an inoffizieller Mitarbeiter (an unofficial collaborator) for Stasi, the secret East German police—the authorities' attempt was stopped in 1976 and she was able to keep the museum.
Her decision to leave Germany meant that she guided her last visitor through the museum in 1995, and in 1997 she moved to Porla Brunn, an old spa near Hasselfors, Sweden, where she opened (with moderate success) a new museum dedicated to the turn of the 19th century. The city of Berlin bought the Gründerzeit Museum, and by 1997 it had been opened again by the "Förderverein Gutshaus Mahlsdorf e. V.".
Von Mahlsdorf died from heart failure during a visit to Berlin on 30 April 2002 at age 74.
In 1992, German filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim made a film about von Mahlsdorf called I Am My Own Woman (Original title: Ich bin meine eigene Frau) with von Mahlsdorf appearing in the film. American playwright Doug Wright wrote the character play, I Am My Own Wife (2003) based on von Mahlsdorf's life from his own research of her biography. Since its initial run on- and off-Broadway the play has garnered every major American theatre award including the Pulitzer Prize for Drama, Tony Award, the Drama Desk Award, Drama League Award, the Lucille Lortel Award, and the Lambda Literary Award for Drama.