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About Beate Uhse

Mrs Beate Uhse

Businesswoman, born 1919, died 16 July 2001

For Beate Uhse, sex was not only one of life's joys. It was first an invaluable lifeline, then the key to success and wealth.

Born in East Prussia in 1919, Beate Kostlin (this was her maiden name) left school at the age of sixteen and shortly afterwards married Hans Jurgen Uhse, a pilot colonel in the Luftwaffe. Beate also took her pilot's licence and became the only woman in the German air force.

World War II breaks out and both spouses fight in the skies over half of Europe. Hans Junger is shot down by British flak and Beate is both a Luftwaffe officer and a war widow. On 30 April 1945, with the Russians now at the gates of Berlin, Beate escapes in a twin-engine plane with her two sons to the north. In Lech she surrenders herself to the British and gets off with a few months in prison.

Life for a war widow with two children is hard in post-war Germany. Beate has the idea that changes her life and that of many other Germans.

She starts selling in the villages of Schleswig-Hollstein and then by mail order all over Germany a cyclostyled booklet entitled Schrift X. It is a manual explaining the Ogino-Knaus birth control method.

For two Reichsmark (the currency imposed by the Allies in Germany) Germans could console themselves with sex without giving birth to too many children.

It is a boom. By 1956 the booklet had sold 32,000 copies and Beate had set up a company with a hundred employees and a million marks in sales. Federal prosecutors waged war on her, but in 1962 Germany passed a law liberalising pornography.

The 'sex lady' no longer had any limits. She immediately opened a sex shop in Flensburg, the town she moved to after her second marriage to Ewe Rotermund. Within a few years, the number of sex shops grew to one hundred, spread all over Germany. Franchise requests arrive from all over the world. The company became an empire and was listed on the stock exchange.

In 1996, for its fiftieth anniversary, Uhse opened the Erotic Museum in Berlin.

Because for Beate, the distinction between sex and pornography is unambiguous: 'Pornography indulges perverse instincts, eroticism helps to realise the aspiration for a normal sex life that is in all of us. In my shops there is only erotic material'.

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