Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschfeld ( Kolberg , 14 as maypole as 1868 – Nice , 14 as maypole as 1935 ). He was a doctor, sexologist, essayist and activist against the criminalization of homosexuality . He was one of the first authors to use the term ” racism “.


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  • 1 Biographical synthesis
    • 1 Reviews
    • 2 Activism
    • 3 Works
      • 3.1 Bibliography
    • 2 Sources

Biographical synthesis

After receiving a doctor, he moved to the city of Paris (France), where he worked as a journalist. He returned to Germany, where he lived in the city of Magdeburg , where he worked for several years as a doctor. In 1896 he published the anonymous pamphlet Sappho and Socrates , on the existence of homosexual love.

In 1897 he founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-Humanitäres Komitee) to defend the rights of gay people and to annul Article 175 on ” sodomy ” of German law. The Hirschfeld-led committee managed to gather some 5,000 signatures of prominent German citizens, demanding the repeal of the homophobic article 175. Among the signatories were August Bebel , Eduard Bernstein , Max Brod , Martin Buber , Albert Einstein , Gerhart Hauptmann , Hermann Hesse , Karl Kautsky , Käthe Kollwitz , Richard von Krafft-Ebing , Heinrich Mann , Thomas Mann , Rainer Maria Rilke and Stefan Zweig .

His work focused on the discipline that would later become known as sexology , that is, the scientific study of sex and sexuality. Like Havelock Ellis (in the United Kingdom) and Alfred Kinsey (in the United States), Magnus Hirschfeld was not only one of the first to collect a variety of information about sexuality, but he was also an activist for sexual liberation.


Hirschfeld’s work was controversial in its time, and was severely questioned and criticized. Although she was immensely popular in some circles, she was vilified in others. The only valuable and really scientific criticism was against the medical background of his theory, which was based on the idea that homosexuality is caused by a hormonal phenomenon. This conceptual error allowed the advancement of pseudoscientific doctors who sought the so-called “cure” of homosexuality (reparative therapy).


In 1920, a group of anti – Semites seriously injured Hirschfeld on a street in the city of Munich . Initially the police declared him dead

In 1921, Hirschfeld organized the First Congress for Sexual Reform, which led to the formation of the World League for Sexual Reform. Congresses were held in Copenhagen (1928), London (1929), Vienna (1930), and Brno (1932).

Hirschfeld founded the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (in Berlin ) and helped organize “sexology” as a discipline on an international scale. In the meetings in which he spoke he was attacked by groups of Nazis or homophobic religious : in 1921 , in one of the meetings, his skull was fractured and he was left lying on the street.

After the seizure of power of Nazism , one of the first actions of Adolf Hitler was to dissolve the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (on May 6 , 1933 ) and burn the library as they represented pernicious and subversive ideas for the German people. Photographs and videos of book burning in Nazi Germany are usually scenes from the burning of the Hirschfeld library. At the time, Hirschfeld was outside Germany on a world conference tour. He never returned to Germany and died in exile in Nice (France) two years later, on his birthday ( May 14 , 1935).).


His best-known book was a study of homosexuality, although he also published other books, monographs, and articles on other aspects of sex. He wrote a five-volume treatise on sexology, as well as some 150 other works, and helped write and produce five films on the subject.

His books were intended to send a message: that bourgeois sexual morality and religious tradition were repressive, irrational, and hypocritical, and that sexual emancipation was necessary. His translators and admirers, Eden and Cedar Paul, in their introduction to his book Racism , praise “his tireless advocacy of the cause of gay people. Long before the” sexual revolution “of the 1960s, Magnus Hirschfeld was leading a crusade for the “normalization” of homosexuality and other sexual behaviors that the Germans of the time considered “abnormal”.


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