A Pine with Six Hands: Introduction

Mathias Foit

Freie Universität Berlin



The extraordinary story of Countess Dina Alma de Paradeda, who spent the final weeks of her life in Breslau (modern-day Wrocław, which, at the time, lay within the borders of the German Empire), was introduced to the German-speaking world by Jens Dobler. In 2010, Dobler republished and appended an afterword to a more-than-one-hundred-year-old novel by Walter Homann, Tagebuch einer männlichen Braut [The Diary of a Male Bride], which had been inspired by incidents in de Paradeda’s life. The afterword catalogues the few definite facts as well as the unexplained mysteries and conjec­tures concerning the biography of the self-styled comtesse. It remains unknown whether Dina, born as Alfred (or Alfredo) H. (or P.?) and came of an aristocratic background; who her biological father was and if he really was a Spanish consul in Rio de Janeiro; what the nature of her relationship with her stepfather (a German doctor who had married a Brazilian widow) was; whether or not Dina’s fiancé knew her secret and if he was possibly pressured into breaking the engagement by his family; and finally, who and why reported the countess to the police. Certain, however, is the fact that the tragic history of one of the first identifiable trans* individuals in Central Europe inflamed public opinion not only in Germany, but also in the United States and New Zealand. In addition to numerous press articles, frequently contradicting one another and thus making it more difficult to reconstruct those events, at least two novels inspired by the predicaments of the “Breslau male bride” appeared in print. The fact that they came out just months following the scandal caused by her suicidal death clearly attests to the wide publicity and popularity this story enjoyed. I myself came across it while doing doctoral research on the life of queer people in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century in German territories that passed under Polish rule in 1945.