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The Circle's Ernst Ostertag & Röbi Rapp 

The Circle's Ernst Ostertag & Röbi Rapp

Ernst and Robi

After 58 years together, the Swiss couple's relationship was brought to life in a feature film

"The difficulties brought us together," Ernst Ostertag says of his relationship with Robi Rapp, which thrived against the backdrop of a police crackdown on Zurich's gay population in the 1960s. (In 2003, they became the first couple to have their registered partnership legally recognized in Zurich; registration with the federal government followed in 2007.) Here, Ostertag and Rapp, whose story serves as the focus of the recently released Swiss docudrama The Circle, remember their meeting 58 years ago.

SLIDESHOW | Ernst & Robi: A Life In Photos

Ostertag: I went to a small dinner, and there he was. I invited the whole group to my flat the next week for tea. Everybody came but him. I thought, Gone. In the film, it's mentioned that somebody told me where he worked, but that's not the case. The day the Russian tanks entered Budapest, I dressed myself all in black, with a little white scarf, and went to the gay bar Barfusser. I went to the lesbian side so that I was not alone, but nobody would talk to me. And all of a sudden, Robi was there. And being around lesbians, we could easily talk to each other.

Rapp: I met Ernst in Der Kreis [The Circle, a queer literary group], and I was touched to find him so intelligent, and I wanted to know him more. I couldn't come to his party because I had an uncle visiting from Germany, and I couldn't contact Ernst because I didn't know his full name. I didn't know his telephone number or where he lived, either. Then I was at Barfusser, and I asked a friend, "Do you know Ernst?" And the friend said, "No problem, he's standing over there!"

The Circle, directed by Stefan Haupt, premiered in the United States in 2014, and is available on digitally from Wolfe Video, and on DVD beginning March 31.

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