Imagine an unmarried couple in their mid-twenties, both educated (teachers). They live in Vienna of the early 1930es (before the Anschluss).

Was it acceptable for them to book one hotel room and sleep in one bed (without being married)? Was it something common, or would they be looked at by "decent" people (incl. the hotel personnel)?

Facts I could find:

The Nazis encouraged premarital sex by creating camps for young men and women close to each other and establishing organizations where women (incl. unmarried ones) could give birth in a safe environment (e. g. Lebensborn e. V.). Their motivation was to improve the demography (source: German Wikipedia).

I assume that the Nazis could not enact any laws that were in too big an opposition to common morals. If premarital sex was acceptable in 1938, it probably also was acceptable in 1932, at least among people from cities.

  • 1
    Re How would anyone know if they were married?: You can easily find out whether someone is married or not by looking at their fingers. If there is a ring, they are married.
    – user23839
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 3:39
  • Re Could they pretend to be married?: No. I need this for a book and it's too early for them to pretend being a married couple.
    – user23839
    Commented May 17, 2018 at 3:40

2 Answers 2


In that situation and given the presumed social status of your protagonists: impossible! Well, almost impossible and highly frowned upon, socially, but it gets even worse, for all involved.

While extramarital sex was never fully controlled by the authorities, not at anytime and not in Vienna, Austria had quite a few laws, similar to German laws that criminalised such behaviour.

(Regarding the indirect and circumstantial reasonings of and around Nazi-laws: this answer does not provide any, this is purely about Austrian law before 1930.)

It is quite difficult to link to the current version of the "crime" in question, since Austria re-codified its criminal law in very fundamental ways since then. That means that the words and paragraphe/section number used then do not correspond with today.

But the main hinderance for such lewdness would be a crime called Kuppelei (at the time; in Latin: lenocinium; now codified as §213 and defined completely differently; Kuppelei might be roughly translated to [enabling] a couple/coupling in the sense of mating?).

The old version of the criminal law code dealt quite extensively with this in some amazing detail:

§. 512. Kuppelei.
Die Uebertretung der Kuppelei machen sich schuldig diejenigen:
a) welche Schanddirnen zur Betreibung ihres unerlaubten Gewerbes bei sich einen ordentlichen Aufenthalt oder sonst Unterschleif geben;
b) welche vom Zuführen solcher Personen ein Geschäft machen;
c) welche sonst sich zu Unterhändlern in unerlaubten Verständnissen dieser Art gebrauchen lassen.
§. 513. Strafe. Die Strafe dieser Uebertretung ist strenger Arrest von drei bis zu sechs Monaten; sie ist aber zu verschärfen, wenn die Schuldigen das Gewerbe bereits durch längere Zeit fortgesetzt haben.
§. 514. Strafe auf wiederholte Uebertretung.
Eine wegen Kuppelei schon bestrafte Person ist bei abermaliger Betretung nach vollstreckter Strafe aus dem bisherigen Aufenthaltsorte, und wenn sie eine Fremde ist, aus sämmtlichen Kronländern des Reiches abzuschaffen.
§. 515. Unterschleif zur Unzucht von Seite der Gast- oder Schankwirthe und ihrer Dienstleute. Strafe.
Wenn Gast- oder Schankwirthe, außer den im §. 509 bezeichneten Fällen der Uebertretung der Kuppelei, zur Unzucht Gelegenheit verschaffen, sind sie einer Uebertretung schuldig, und das erste Mal mit einer Geldstrafe von fünf und zwanzig bis zweihundert Gulden zu belegen. Bei weiterer Fortsetzung des Unterschleifes werden sie von dem Gast- und Schankgewerbe abgeschafft, und zu einem solchen Gewerbe für die Zukunft unfähig erklärt. Machen sich Dienstleute ohne Wissen des Gast- oder Schankwirthes dieser Uebertretung schuldig, so sind dieselben mit Arrest von acht Tagen bis zu drei Monaten zu bestrafen.
§. 516. Gröbliches und öffentliches Aergerniß verursachende Verletzung der Sittlichkeit oder Schamhaftigkeit. Wer durch bildliche Darstellungen oder durch unzüchtige Handlungen die Sittlichkeit oder Schamhaftigkeit gröblich und auf eine öffentliches Aergerniß erregende Art verletzt, macht sich einer Uebertretung schuldig und soll zu strengem Arreste von acht Tagen bis zu sechs Monaten verurtheilt werden. Wurde aber eine solche Verletzung durch Druckschriften begangen, so ist sie als ein Vergehen mit strengem Arreste von sechs Monaten bis zu einem Jahre zu ahnden.

(Attempted translation of this archaic Austrian German)
512. Coupling. The transgression of Kuppelei are guilty ones: a) which offer prostitutes for the pursuit of their illicit trade a proper stay or otherwise Unterschleif; b) who make a deal from supplying such persons; c) which may otherwise be used as negotiators in illicit communications of this kind.
The punishment for this offence is a strict detention of three to six months; however, it must be aggravated if the culprits have already continued the trade for a long time.
514. Penalty for repeated transgression. A person who has already been punished for Kuppelei who is being found guilty a second time will have to serve his sentence, and will then be expelled from his former town of residence; and if he is a foreigner, he is to be expelled from all crown lands of the empire.
515. Unterschleif (being host) to fornication on the part of the host or barkeeper and their servants. Punishment.
If hosts or innkeepers, except in the cases referred to in §.509 of the offence of the coupling, provide an opportunity for fornication, they are guilty of an offence, and the first time with a fine of five and twenty to two hundred guilders to prove. With further continuation of the Unterschleife they are abolished by the hotel and bar trade, and declared to be unfit/incapable of such an industry for the future. If servants commit this offence without the knowledge of the host or barkeeper, they are to be punished with a detention of eight days to three months.
516 Gross and public violation of morals or shamefacedness causing aggravation.
Anyone who grossly violates morality or modesty through images or lewd acts and in a way that arouses public anger is guilty of an infraction and is to be sentenced to severe imprisonment of eight days to six months. However, if such an infringement was committed by printed matter, it is to be punished as an offence with a strict detention of six months to one year.

From: Strafgesetz 1852 (Österreich), version of 1852, slightly changed in Austria again in 1927… (Geltungsbereich: zunächst Kaisertum Österreich, Inkrafttreten: 1.9.1852, Anmerkungen: wiederverlautbart 1945 (A. Slg. Nr. 2), mit Ablauf des 31.12.1974 außer Kraft getreten) –– In effect from 1803 on, this version from 1852, small changes in independent Austria but in concert with German laws, then supplanted with German law after Anschluss, wholly reinstated in 1945, big changes in 1971/4, extreme changes to content, numbering and meaning in the 2000s.

These rules were not always interpreted in the same way regarding prostitution or the moral indecency of extra-/pre-marital sex, but they were used to such effect.
That means in most cases: providing the opportunity for fornication is forbidden and punishable. If you are a hotel manager or hotel owner you will probably loose your licence on top of other punishments.

All in involved would therefor not only engage in frowned upon behaviour but also violate the criminal law. From the fact that they had a law for that we might of course justly infer that this behaviour did happen. Whether from time to time or very frequently is not inferable from this, as it depends too much on the level of moral panic involved. A last qualification from my initial "almost impossible": a few might have pulled off your scenario and might have gone unpunished for it.

Further reading, including the changes on these laws and morals from 1927–1930, under Austro-fascism and the Nazism, may be found in:
Werner Schubert: "Sitzungen vom Juli 1927–März 1928. Sitzungen der deutschen und österreichischen parlamentarischen Strafrechtskonferenzen (1927–1930)", de Gruyter: Berlin, Boston, 2014. (Law changed in this proposal to §304f)
Ilya Hartmann: "Prostitution, Kuppelei und Zuhälterei. Reformdiskussion und Gesetzgebung seit 1870", BWV, 2010.

  • One remark to the Nazi-politics: never underestimate the schizophrenia of moral crusaders. Keeping up the level of perceived "decency" and retaining a huge reservoir of opportunities to punish people. In this case policing the bedrooms comes in handy all the time. For the Nazis, it is not the sex that might be more freely regulated, but solely the encouragement of births as a result from that? Commented May 16, 2018 at 10:11

Imagine an unmarried couple in their mid-twenties, both educated (teachers). They live in Vienna of the early 1930es (before the Anschluss).

That's kind of very hard to imagine, as this was completely contrary to what society found acceptable at the time. You're looking at the past with the mindset of today. That won't work, and it's a very common made mistake.

An example of that are gladiatorial games. I've heard lots of people say that they found them to be horrible, incomprehensible, repugnant, etc. That's looking at the games as we see them now, with our morality. Back then our morality hadn't been invented yet. So if you are a real sport-fan today, you would be in Roman times. Consequently, you would love the gladiatorial games.

Those two teachers, are they of the same sex? If yes, they could share an apartment together to save costs. They would have to have separate bedrooms, or at least two single person beds. Family, friends or the landlord would not accept anything else. They could put them together in the evening, or have a guest room with a twin bed in it, 'for guests'. But they would have, in that case, two separate rooms with a (single) bed in it for the partners.

Some gay couples lived their lives that way, where society turned a blind eye, mostly because people simply couldn't imagine gay people living together. It didn't enter the mind. Two men or women living together to save money was quite common, and completely accepted. Another ruse used was one of the partners being the secretary of the other, or lady in waiting.

Teachers didn't earn a lot of money, unless one of them was professor. So living together to save money is your most likely option.

Are they a man and women? Then they would in all likelihood not live together. Almost all landlords strictly forbade it. Their respective families would put great pressure on them to get married real soon.

Common behavior at that time would demand chaperons being around, and one of them would have to leave in the evening. Sleeping overnight was usually not allowed in boarded lodgings. A teaching couple living together would not be acceptable to the school management.

I can give you an example from the early 1990's when I was teacher: I was asked what my religion was. I don't have any, and was raised Roman Catholic. Sorry, the Dutch reformed school said to me. All our teachers must be Dutch reformed, and practicing it. We don't want a Catholic teacher, and certainly not an atheist. The fact that I wasn't married was also questioned. You are not married? Are you engaged? Why aren't you? I told them my last relationship had just ended. Which was technically correct. I didn't tell them I was gay, of course.

(I don't think I have to write I didn't get the job. Nor did I want one, giving their interrogation. Yes, this was even back then exceptional in The Netherlands.)

That was in the 1990's. Now imagine that during the 1930's, with MUCH stricter morality.


After my lengthy answer I see that you want them to stay in a hotel room. Oopsie. Not completely an oopsie, because the above applies as well.

In that case, they would book two single rooms. Or a larger room with two - single - beds in it. Very likely the management would see in their passports or ID cards they aren't married. Many hotels would not accept an unmarried couple booking a single room with a twin bed. As teachers they cannot afford a large room or suite with two twins in it.

Most hotels would book them automatically in different rooms. Many of them would (intentionally) place them far apart or on different floors. A quiet and generous tip might come in handy, to change that.

Living in a hotel room infers - to me at least - a more permanent stay. Not a holiday or a weekend trip. Living in a hotel was only affordable for the very rich. Certainly not for teachers.

  • That's a nice take on the "Europe" angle. Since I left it largely out in my answer: the couple might of course falsify the documents/pretend they are married. Adding another layer of criminal behaviour… Commented May 16, 2018 at 10:00
  • Why bring the gay thing in this discussion ? The OP didn't ask about it.
    – Bregalad
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 10:11
  • 2
    He didn't, but it's related. In those days living together without being married was just as awful as gays living together. The same kind of ruses had to be used to circumvent this.
    – Jos
    Commented May 16, 2018 at 10:42

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