Christa Winsloe (1888-1944) was a 20th-century German novelist, playwright and sculptor, best known for her play Gestern und heute, filmed in 1931 as "Mädchen in Uniform".


Born in Darmstadt, she entered the Potsdam boarding school Kaiserin-Augusta-Stift as a pupil after her mother's early death. In this institution, young noble girls were drilled to become mothers of soldiers and to learn discipline and submission. As an adult, Winsloe wrote the novel Das Mädchen Manuela ("The Child Manuela") based on this experience, from which she then created the stage play Gestern und heute ("Yesterday and Today").[1]

The play appeared in 1930 in Leipzig under the title Ritter Nérestan ("Knight Nérestan") and then in Berlin as Krankheit der Liebe ("Sickness of Love"), the original title having been rejected as too insipid. The play's success led to the production of the film version "Mädchen in Uniform", on which Winsloe was a screenwriter, made in 1931, which become the world's best film of the year. This was not only due to its ambitiously aesthetic form and the fact that only women performed. Equally important was the reduction of the lesbian aspects in this film version and their depiction as an adolescent crush, even though Winsloe co-authored the script and Leontine Sagan, who in the stage version of Gestern und heute had stressed the lesbian aspect, acted as director.

The play ends differently from the film. In the play, the young student, Manuela, is destroyed because of rejection by her teacher, Fräulein Elizabeth von Bernburg, who did not dare to side with Manuela against the headmistress and to oppose the brutal educational methods. The pupil commits suicide. The film is more hopeful, with von Bernburg defending the student and herself. Christa Winsloe may be credited with the first sensitive play on female homosexuality in the Weimar Republic, but without a radical critique of the social discrimination against lesbian women.

On the strength of the play's acclaim, Christa Winsloe moved to Berlin, where a lesbian culture thrived. She was wealthy, as she had previously been briefly married to Baron Ludwig Hatvany (1880-1961), a rich Hungarian writer and landowner, who after the marriage broke up, continued to give her a generous allowance. She worked as an animal sculptor and had a wide circle of friends. She was a member of the SPD (German Socialist Party), and was openly bisexual.

She moved to France in the late 1930s, fleeing the Nazis, and joined the French Resistance. Contrary to what is often believed, she was not executed by the Nazis; instead, on June 10, 1944, Winsloe and a woman companion were shot and killed by four Frenchman in the forest near Cluny. Claiming that they thought the women were spies, the murderers were later acquitted.[2]

Only two photographs of Christa Winsloe survive:[3] and[4]



External links

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