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Gerd Katter”

Gerd Katter in Berlin, circa 1929. Courtesy of the Magnus-Hirschfeld Gesellschaft

Gerd Katter (March 14, 1910 – exact date unknown, 1995) was born in Berlin. He was assigned female at birth and given the name Eva. But Katter lived as male from early in life and chose to go by the name Gerd (also sometimes spelled as “Gert”).

At sixteen years old, Gerd visited the Institutefor Sexual Science with his mother to apply for a surgery to remove his breasts. Administrators denied his request, stating that he was too young. Gerd came back to the Institute only a few days later with a medical emergency. He had used a razor to try to remove his breasts himself. Fortunately, the Institute’s medical staff were able to save  Gerd’s life and successfully perform a full mastectomy.

Two years later, when Gerd was eighteen, the Berlin Police Department issued him a “transvestite pass” (Transvestitenschein). Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld had coined the term transvestite nearly two decades earlier in 1910. Originally, Hirschfeld used it as a broad term that included anyone who wore clothes usually worn by people of the opposite gender. Transvestite was established as a term to define a legitimate identity.

People in the community used the term themselves, including those who today might identify as transgender. Today, the term transvestite has a very specific meaning and is not the same as transgender.

A medical certificate issued by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, dated Nov. 23, 1928. Translated from German, it reads: “The patient Eva Katter is in clinical terms a transvestite. To maintain her mental well-being and her ability to work, it is necessary that she be able to wear clothing of the male gender, which corresponds to her nature.” United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of the Magnus-Hirschfeld Gesellschaft

In the early 1900s, staff at the Institute for Sexual Science began working with the Berlin Police Department to educate police leadership about the lives and needs of trans people. As a result, the Institute would provide a medical certificate for its patients, and the police department would then issue a “trans pass” that acted as an ID document that aligned with the person’s gender identity and protected them from being arrested under laws such as Paragraph 183, Germany’s law that classified “cross-dressing” as a public nuisance and criminal offense.

With the protection of his trans pass, Gerd went on to live a full life as his true self. He earned a living as a carpenter in Berlin. Archival evidence does not tell us what happened to Gerd during the years of Nazi rule. We do know that he survived and then lived in East Germany after the war. In 1995, Gerd Katter passed away at the age of eighty-five.

A “transvestite pass” (Transvestitenschein) issued to Gerd Katter on December 6, 1928. Translated from German, it reads: “The worker Eva Katter, born on March 14, 1910, and residing in Britz at Muthesiushof 8, is known here as someone who wears male clothing. [Signed] Strewe, Police Commissioner.” The Berlin Police Department issued this trans pass to Katter after receiving the official medical certificate from the Institute of Sexual Science two weeks prior. Courtesy of the Magnus-Hirschfeld Gesellschaft

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For citation: Jake Newsome, “LGBTQ+ Stories from the Holocaust: Gerd Katter,” (2022) 

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LGBTQ+ Stories from the Holocaust: Gerd Katter © 2022 by Jake Newsome is licensed under CC BY 4.0CC BY 4.0