Gottfried von Cramm: Gay in Weimar and Nazi Germany

Weimar Berlin’s transvestite balls. Crossdressing women dance with crossdressing men. “What sex are you?” a famous line goes. “What sex do you want me to be?” The painter, George Grosz, saw one of Weimar Germany’s truths before anyone: “this gaily colored froth on top that many people mistook for the true.” Grosz’s art gives us Germany’s dismembered bodies, its purposeless sex and purposeful violence. In the Berlin clubs, masked gazes drink in Gottfried’s  superbly toned athletic limbs. Gottfried plays Cinderella, leaves before midnight so he can train five hours the following day. Tennis as art, ambition. The borders of a tennis court like the borders of an abstract painting. Kandinsky and Paul Klee playing shapes, colors, lines, music. Gottfried playing angles, shapes, lines, spins, delicacy, pace, touch. The winner of two French Open singles titles in 1934 and 1936, he will lose a Davis Cup match by confessing a ball grazed his racquet on match point when no one else could tell. How the Nazi eyeballs must have rolled. They knew everything, of course, knew Gottfried was gay. “I am playing for my life,” he told Don Budge before their Davis Cup match in 1937, a match many, including Tilden, consider the greatest tennis match ever played. For the rest of his life, Don Budge has recurring nightmares of the moment when he’s down 4-1 in the final set. In Budge’s nightmares, Gottfried’s still safe. Time is frozen as in Keats’ Grecian Urn. Lovers are happy. The little towns remain untouched. Budge awakens, moves in a couple more steps on Cramm’s famous kick serve to take it as early as possible and attack the net. Rough beasts slouch towards Berlin.

Artist Bio: Leonardo Luque, a retired Columbian naval officer, earned his fine arts degree in 2012 from Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in Bogota, Columbia. A highly ranked Columbian player in the ITF world rankings for men’s 60 singles, Leo has drawn all his life and is especially interested in the beauty and motion of the human body. After traveling through China and Panama, he settled down with his family in 2014 in Boca Raton, Florida.

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