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Section: Life before the Holocaust

Pre-war Homosexual life

Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a Jewish physician and homosexual. His is today viewed as the pioneer of the gay rights movement in Germany. This biography, entitled Magnus Hirschfeld, the Life and Work of a Jewish, Gay and Socialist Sexologist, is one of many of Hirschfeld.
Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a Jewish physician and homosexual. His is today viewed as the pioneer of the gay rights movement in Germany. This biography, entitled Magnus Hirschfeld, the Life and Work of a Jewish, Gay and Socialist Sexologist, is one of many of Hirschfeld. Courtesy of The Wiener Library.

Prior to the Holocaust and the Nazi rise to power, homosexual contact was legally banned under Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code, which was introduced on the 15 May 1871. Despite this, there was still a thriving gay community in many areas.

In Berlin there were a large number of openly homosexual, transvestite and lesbian bars where people met and socialised. The gay community was so well-known it even appeared in some tourist guides at the time.

At the turn of the twentieth century a growing gay rights movement formed, reaching its height in the 1920s. This movement was headed by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a Jewish physician and homosexual. Hirschfeld founded the Institute for Sexual Research in 1919, the first institute of its kind across the world.

Hostility towards gay men intensified following the Nazi rise to power. Homosexuals were viewed as weak and unlikely to make good soldiers, or contribute to the ‘Aryan’ race by having children. As such they were catagorised as ‘a-social‘ by the Nazis.

Homosexuals were imprisoned, tortured, and deported to concentration camps by the Nazis. The final number of homosexuals that perished at the hands is estimated to be around 15,000 men.

DID YOU KNOW...

Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a Jewish physician, homosexual, and liberal propagandist who led petitions to abolish Paragraph 175 as early as 1898. Abolition was often discussed in the Reichstag, but repeatedly rejected.

Hirschfeld founded the Institute for Sexual Research in 1919. He published over 200 books and pamphlets on gay rights, and held a conference on the subject, indicating the growing support for the movement at the time. His motto and driving belief was ‘through science to justice’.

On 6 May 1933, whilst Hirschfeld was away in France, the Institute of Sex Research was looted by students led by the SA. A few days later its contents were hauled into the street and publically burned. This was the first public Nazi act against homosexuals in Germany.

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