|Remembering a Pioneer:
Magnus Hirschfeld and His Institute for Sexual Science
|A lecture by Ralf Dose
Tuesday, February 18, 2003
Concordia University - Québec
ARCHIVES GAIES DU QUÉBECwww.agq.qc.ca
|TheArchives gaies du Québec present (in English):
In Germany, during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933), homosexual women and men developed an extensive subculture, especially in major cities such as Berlin. The physician Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), whom contemporary newspapers called "the Einstein of Sex", was at the centre of it all.
Already in 1897, he had founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (SHC), which sought to decriminalize homosexuality then penalized under the infamous Paragraph 175 of the Reich Criminal Code. In 1919 he founded the Institute for Sexual Science. Hirschfeld saw scientific research as the prerequisite and condition for the acceptance of homosexuals in society; "justice through science" was the motto of the SHC, and the Institute for Sexual Science was committed to it as well.
The Institute was, for its era, as outstanding as it was unique. It included medical, psychological, and ethnological divisions, and a marriage and sex counseling office. It was also a sort of home, a refuge for sexual minorities, especially homosexuals, transvestites, and transsexuals; in other words, it was a unique sub cultural center. But in the public eye, the most important thing was that the Institute for Sexual Science was the first institution to make human sexuality in all its forms the subject of research efforts and counseling services. The exclusivity of heterosexuality as the only "healthy" form was effectively broken. Everyone could see that many other options also existed.
On 6 May 1933 the Institute was pillaged and part of the library was burned four days later at the book-burning on Opera Square. The leading physicians on staff, most of whom, including Hirschfeld himself, were persecuted as Jews by the Nazis, were either forced to go into exile or were murdered.
This fascinatinghistory will be told by a researcher and activist who has devoted much of his career to revivingthe memoryofHirschfeld and his life's work.
Ralf Dose, born in 1950, studied philosophy, communications, pedagogy, and psychology in Goettingen and at Berlin's Free University. After he obtained his M.A. degree in 1979, he worked as a free-lancer for various University Departments and became a lecturer in Sex Education both at the Free University and the University of Hannover, Germany. 1980-1987, and again 1993-95 he held several part-time positions at the Social Science Research Centre in Berlin where he served as a member of the President's staff and as a lecturer. He became involved with the West Berlin Gay Movement in 1972, and was one of the founding members of the Magnus Hirschfeld Society, Inc., in 1982. Since that time, he has been acting as the Society's director and, according to available funds, working as a volunteer, part-time, or full- time researcher in its small Research Unit on the History of Sexual Science. His main fields of research are the history of the Institute for Sexual Science, and the organizational history of the German (and European) GLBT and the sex reform movements.
Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft e.V. - Startseite (ohne Frame) - Übersicht/Sitemap - Aktualisierung: 14.02.2003