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Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935)

Institute for Sexual Science

"The woman who needs to be liberated most is the woman in every man, & the man who needs to be liberated most is the man in every woman" Magnus Hirschfeld

Propaganda slide showing Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, founder of the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin. USHMM, courtesy of Library of CongressDr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) was a pioneering German sexologist drawn to the study of human sexuality. He strongly believed that sexual orientation was a naturally occurring trait worthy of research rather than social hostility.

His research attracted much controversy, sometimes from the gay community itself. For several years he fought to classify homosexuals as a third sex between man & woman (he later dropped this argument)

Both an open homosexual and Jew, he came under regular attack once the Nazis came into power, once resulting in a fractured skull. Despite this he continued to campaign effortlessly for the repeal of § 175.

The political cartoon shown here depicts Hirschfeld as 'Hero Of The Day' drumming up support for the repeal. The banner reads: 'The foremost champion of the Third Sex'. (Picture reproduced with kind permission courtesy of the USHMM).

 A 1907 Political cartoon depicting sex-researcher Magnus Hirschfeld, 'Hero of the Day,' drumming up support for the abolition of § 175 of the German penal code that criminalized homosexuality. The banner reads, 'Away with § 175!' The caption reads, 'The foremost champion of the third sex!'- Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Institute for Sexual Science
In 1919 he founded the Institute for Sexual Science, where he documented thousands of cases of 'sexual inversion' and toured Europe to raise awareness of his findings. Most notably he was responsible for taking the discussion of homosexuality into the halls of government itself.

In 1897 he founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, opposed to oppression of homosexuals, & was also responsible for the World League for Sexual Reform (WLSR), which was the first global gay rights organisation. He became one of three original presidents of the WLSR along with English sex researcher Havelock Ellis & Swiss psychiatrist Auguste Forel.

German students and Nazi SA plunder the library of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, Director of the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin. Credit: USHMM, courtesy of National Archives Ransacked
On May 6th, 1933: The institute for Sexual Science was ransacked & destroyed by Nazi student groups & sympathizers in Berlin. The photograph on the right was taken during the raid. The institute was seen as the main symbol of sexual reform & had long been the target of negative Nazi Propaganda.

Hirschfeld himself was away from Berlin on a world speaking tour, which saved him from a certain death.

He never returned to Berlin and died in Nice, May 14th 1935.

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This site is dedicated to the memory of the many who didn't make it. Never forget ... Never again. © 2004 lewis Oswald