The Historical BackgroundThe KREIS, which was founded in the 30‘s, arose from the early gay movement of the 20th century and stood for an idealized gay self-image. As it was the only gay „self help organization“ in the world that survived the Nazi period in Europe, it became a model for similar organizations in many other countries in Europe and even in the USA.
The founder of the KREIS was ‚Rolf‘, a pseudonym for the famous actor Karl Meier. He built up an international network. The most important means of communication was the publication called DER KREIS – LE CERCLE – THE CIRCLE. Amongst short stories, poems and photos, the trilingual magazine also published articles about the activities of homosexual groups all over the world – and thereby contributed to the international exchange of ideas. Rolf was in contact with gay groups in the Netherlands, Scandinavia, Germany, France and the USA. Amongst the magazine‘s subscribers there were many important personalities.
From 1948 the KREIS run a rented pub in Zurich in the building which is now the Theatre at the Neumarkt, a club in which „homophiles“ from all over Switzerland could meet, exchange ideas and get to know one another. The KREIS united all those who were fighting for the rights of homosexuals – not only on a legal basis, but more importantly in a scientific and cultural sense. At the same time the club was one of the few save havens for gays. At their large and regular costume balls held in the 50‘s, each party was attended by up to a number of 800 gays, who travelled from all over Europe to take part. From 1959 onwards in Zurich there was an increasing amount of social repression, largely due to several murders that took place in the so called „Stricher-Milieu“ (the gay prostitute scene): the Zurich state police made a register of homosexuals, and frequent raids took place. Homosexuals were hunted, interrogated and mistreated.
At the same time as this growing repression, the KREIS also went through a structural change. Rolf, the founder and father figure of the organization, supported a more moderate course of action that was willing to compromise, constantly looking for agreements between the organization and the authorities – and was even willing to respective compromises with the vice squad. This view was in contrast to most of the younger members of the KREIS, who had a different image of themselves.
Due to a law passed by the City Council in 1960 which forbid same sex dancing for men on municipal property, the KREIS lost one of their most important sources of income, the large costume balls. In 1961 the KREIS’ local venue had to close. The additional internal disagreements eventually led to the closing down of the magazine, and the whole organization dissolved in 1967. Firstly the Zurich Globus Riots in 1968 drew the public interest away from the gay community, as the police had „other worries“. And thus the organized repression in Zurich slowly decreased.
Thanks to the hard work of this Zurich organization, a numerous succession of organizations in Switzerland and abroad, who published their own magazines came into existence.