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Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement

translated by Edward H. Willis
Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: NYU Press,
Pages: 144
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  • Book Info
    Magnus Hirschfeld
    Book Description:

    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 the 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 for 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, which continue to influence our

    eISBN: 978-1-58367-439-0
    Subjects: Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. 1-4)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. 5-6)
  3. Introduction to the U. S. Edition
    (pp. 7-12)

    Today, the name Magnus Hirschfeld is once again familiar to many people, at least to those who take an interest in the history of the homosexual rights movement. Perhaps they’ve seen Rosa von Praunheim’s film, “The Einstein of Sex.” I’ve written this book in response to the renewed interest in a long-forgotten personality. It is intended to provide a brief survey of Hirschfeld’s life and of the central topics in his work. The German edition of this biography appeared in 2005 as part of the series “Jüdische Miniaturen” [“Jewish Miniatures”] published by Hentrich & Hentrich. That text has been translated and...

  4. Introduction to the German Edition
    (pp. 13-16)

    “Professor Magnus Hirschfeld—even his physical appearance is certainly the most repulsive of all Jewish monsters.” Thus did the Nazi author Hans Diebow vilify the sex researcher in his sorry 1937 effortThe Eternal Jew.¹² In the same year a copy of Hirschfeld’s bust was displayed in Nuremberg at the so-called Museum of the Revolution with a sign reading: ‘The lovely Magnus Hirschfeld—the greatest rooting swine* of the 20th century.”

    Who—and what—was this man who made the Nazis wish to parade him in public as a prime example of the hated Jew?

    Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, M.D. and...

  5. His Life
    (pp. 17-67)

    Magnus Hirschfeld was born on May 14, 1868, in Kolberg on the Pomeranian coast of the Baltic Sea, the son of the physician Hermann Hirschfeld and his wife, Friederike.

    His father, Hermann Hirschfeld, M.D., came from Neustettin (today Szczecinek, Poland); his mother’s maiden name was Mann, and she came from Bernstein an der Warthe (Pełczyce, Poland). Both families were related: Hermann’s father and Friederike’s grandmother were siblings. Friederike Mann was married young. Hermann Hirschfeld visited the sixteen-year-old in Berlin, where she was being educated at a girls’ boarding school, and then requested that a mutual friend of both families convey...

  6. [Illustrations]
    (pp. None)
  7. His Work
    (pp. 68-78)

    Hirschfeld’s name is firmly linked with the concept of “sexual intermediacy,” a summary description of his observations. Hirschfeld did not want his remarks to be understood as a “Theory of Sexual Intermediacy.” A scientific theory provides an explanation for phenomena. By contrast, the doctrine of sexual intermediacy was conceived as a comprehensive description, a “principle of classification,” an attempt to account for all such various phenomena and make them comprehensible in an ordered system.

    The basic idea of the doctrine of sexual intermediacy is that all human characteristics, whether physical or psychological, occur in feminine or in masculine form—or,...

  8. His Impact and Influence
    (pp. 79-85)

    When Hirschfeld died, his Institute for Sexual Science had already ceased to exist. The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee had been dissolved and, because of their political differences, the remaining presidents of the World League for Sexual Reform, Norman Haire (1892–1952) and Jonathan Høegh von Leunbach (1886–1955), were not able and did not wish to keep it together. There no longer existed any institutions that might have been able to pass on either Hirschfeld’s scientific legacy or his advocacy of social reform. Conditions in exile and during the subsequent war were not conducive to individuals trying to continue Hirschfeld’s work.


  9. Epilogue: Magnus Hirschfeld in North America
    (pp. 86-96)

    Like many families in Pomerania, now Poland, the Hirschfelds had historical connections to the United States. One branch of the family emigrated to Illinois in the 1840s. They also had relatives in New York, which is where Magnus Hirschfeld supposedly held his first public lecture at the end of 1893 or the beginning of 1894. His topic was naturopathy, or natural medicine.

    One of Magnus Hirschfeld’s uncles on his father’s side, Eduard, emigrated to California in 1850, at the time of the Gold Rush. Apparently he found his fortune there, since he was able to purchase return passage to Europe...

  10. Appendices
    (pp. 97-104)
    William J. Robinson and Victor Robinson
  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 105-116)
  12. Notes
    (pp. 117-120)
  13. Index
    (pp. 121-128)