Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement

Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement

Ralf Does

Language: English

Pages: 145

ISBN: 2:00222039

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935) was one of the first great pioneers of the gay liberation movement. Revered by such gay icons as Christopher Isherwood and Harry Hay, founder of the Mattachine Society, Hirschfeld's legacy resonates throughout he twentieth-century and around the world. Guided by his motto "Through Science Toward Justice," Hirschfeld helped found the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in Germany to defend the rights of homosexuals and develop a scientific framework or sexual equality. He was also an early champion of women's rights, campaigning in the early 1900s for the decriminalization of abortion and the right of female teachers and civil servants to marry and have children. By 1933 Hirschfeld's commitment to sexual liberation made him a target for the Nazis, and they ransacked his Institute for Sexual Research and publicly burned his books.

This biography, first published to acclaim in Germany, follows Hirschfeld from his birth in Poland to the heights of his career during the Weimar Republic and the rise of German fascism. Ralf Dose illuminates Hirschfeld's ground-breaking role in the gay liberation movement and explains some of his major theoretical concepts.

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Eigene (The Self-Owner) for Karl-Günter Heimsoth (1899–1934), who aimed vicious attacks at Hirschfeld under the heading “Love between Friends or Homosexuality.”30 Heimsoth later became infamous as a close friend of SA* Commander Ernst Röhm. In the same issue, Brand printed a caricature of Hirschfeld that might just as well have appeared in Der Stürmer (The Storm Trooper), a Nazi newspaper. During the Nazi period of 1933 to 1945 the daily press continued to use Hirschfeld as a bogeyman, even long

German, a German citizen, just as good as any Hindenburg or Ludendorff, like Bismarck or our old Kaiser! An honest German, born in Germany to German parents! And so it was with me, as with just about any newborn child all over Europe: they are forced into religious straitjackets, are baptized or circumcised and meant to be reared in the faith of their parents. Because my parents *SA refers to the Sturmabteilung, or Assault Division, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi Party. Ernst Röhm, who was

emotional suffering.”33 In the end, he was not able to resolve this issue that had been forced upon him: “The question: Where do you belong—what are you really? tortures me. If I frame the question as: ‘Are you a German—a Jew—or a world citizen?’ then my answer is always ‘world citizen’ or ‘all three.’ ” 34 Independent of Hirschfeld’s personal sense of belonging to a religious community and of his refusal to practice religion, some theorists, making reference to the positions espoused by Hermann

passengers reported that Eduard certainly could have saved himself and reached a nearby island, as they had. But he considered it his duty first to help all the others, namely the women and married men ,into the lifeboats, until it was too late to save himself and he went down with the sinking, burning ship.60 Magnus Hirschfeld visited North America twice himself: the first time as a young man just finished with his medical degree, the second time on a lecture tour at the invitation of his

activist, Hirschfeld had more in common with the young people on the beach in Tel Aviv: What a contrast . . . between the sobbing Chassidic youths along the Wailing Wall of Jerusalem and the fresh boys and girls on the beach of Tel Aviv, with the “beautiful spark of joy” flashing from their eyes! The attractive vitality and refreshing simplicity of these young people who proudly call themselves “chaluzim,” that is, “pioneers,” were one of the things in Palestine that made a deep impression on me.

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