Magnus Hirschfeld

From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Dr. med. Magnus Hirschfeld

Magnus Hirschfeld (b. 14 May 1868 in Kolberg, Kingdom of Prussia, German Empire; d. 14 May 1935 in Nice, France) was a Jewish physician and self-styled sexologist based primarily in Germany. He was not a member of the Frankfurt School, but his teachings and works were part of the ideological foundation.


Early life

Hirschfeld was born to Jewish parents, Dr. med. Hermann Hirschfeld (1825–1885) and his wife Friederike, née Mann (1836–1905), in the Prussian town Kolberg. He first studied modern languages and then medicine in Straßburg, München, Heidelberg and Berlin, obtaining a doctoral degree in 1892 in Berlin. After a period of travel, he returned to Germany and established a medical practice in Magdeburg in 1894. His early work as a physician focused on natural remedies and preventive medicine. Two years later he moved to Berlin, where he would become actively involved in the scientific study of sexuality—in particular, homosexuality.


In 1897, Hirschfeld founded the "Scientific Humanitarian Committee". This group has been described as having carried out "the first advocacy for homosexual and transgender rights".[1] Initially Hirschfeld supported the concept that homosexuals constituted the “third sex,” although he soon moved on from that. In WWI, he worked, among other things, as a doctor of a military hospital (Lazarett) treating prisoners of war on behalf of the Red Cross.[2]

On 6 July 1919, Hirschfeld opened the “Institute for Sexual Science” (Institut für Sexualwissenschaft) in Berlin-Tiergarten – the first of its kind in the world. Politically, the Institute’s emergence is to be viewed within the context of the progressive reform movements during the Weimar period; scientificially, the bio-medical explanations of human sexuality at the time formed the framework. The Institute’s foundation was the first attempt at establishing sexual science. More than 40 people worked at the Institute in many different fields: research, sexual counselling, treatment of venereal diseases and public sex education. The Institute housed the main offices of both the Scientific Humanitarian Committee and the World League for Sexual Reform. The Institute’s buildings in Berlin were destroyed by Allied bombing in 1943. Some of his former collaborators at the Institute, such as Walter Großmann and Arthur Weil, continued their work in the USA.


Hirschfeld had stipulated in his will that, when he died, the Dr. Magnus-Hirschfeld-Stiftung (foundation), which he founded in 1918 and which was recognised by the Prussian State in 1923, was to be used to institutionalise sex research at a Berlin university, albeit all universities of the German capital refused to do so.[3]

Anders als die Andern

Hirschfeld co-wrote and acted in the 1919 film Anders als die Andern ('Different From the Others'), in which Conrad Veidt played one of the first homosexual characters ever written for cinema. The film had a specific gay rights law reform agenda.


Hirschfeld politically identified himself with the Social Democratic Party of Germany, which was a Marxist organisation. In 1926 he was invited to visit Moscow and Leningrad. He also wrote an influential book on racism as discussed in the article on this topic. In 1933, when the National Socialists came to power, Hirschfeld's activities in Germany were banned and his institute was vandalized by German students. He decided to go into exile in France.

Works (selection)

  • Über Erkrankungen des Nervensystems im Gefolge der lnfluenza, 1892 (dissertation)
  • Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, 1899–1923
  • Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft, 1908
  • Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes, 1914
  • What Unites and Divides the Human Race? Translated by M. Lombardi-Nash (1919; Jacksonville, FL: Urania Manuscripts, 2020).
  • Why Do Nations Hate Us? A Reflection on the Psychology of War. Translated by M. Lombardi-Nash (1915; Jacksonville, FL: Urania Manuscripts, 2020).
  • Memoir: Celebrating 25 Years of the First LGBT Organization (1897-1923). Translation of Von Einst bis Jetzt by M. Lombardi-Nash (1923; Jacksonville, FL: Urania Manuscripts, 2019).
  • Paragraph 175 of the Imperial Penal Code Book: The Homosexual Question Judged by Contemporaries. Translated by M. Lombardi-Nash (1898; Jacksonville, FL: Urania Manuscripts, 2020).
  • My Trial for Obscenity. Translated by M. Lombardi-Nash. (1904; Jacksonville, FL: Urania Manuscripts, 2021).
  • Annual Reports of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (1900-1903): The World's First Successful LGBT Organization. Translated by Michael A. Lombardi-Nash (1901-1903; Jacksonville, FL: Urania Manuscripts, 2021).
  • Sappho and Socrates: How Does One Explain the Love of Men and Women to Persons of Their Own Sex? Translated by Michael Lombardi-Nash. (1896; Jacksonville, FL: Urania Manuscripts, 2019).
  • Transvestites: The Erotic Drive to Cross-Dress. Translated by Michael A. Lombardi-Nash (1910; Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 1991).
  • The Homosexuality of Men and Women. Translated by Michael A. Lombardi-Nash. 2nd ed. (1920; Amherst, NY: Prometheus Books, 2000).
  • The Sexual History of the World War (1930), New York City, Panurge Press, 1934; significantly abridged translation and adaptation of the original German edition: Sittengeschichte des Weltkrieges, 2 vols., Verlag für Sexualwissenschaft, Schneider & Co., Leipzig & Vienna, 1930. The plates from the German edition are not included in the Panurge Press translation, but a small sampling appear in a separately issued portfolio, Illustrated Supplement to The Sexual History of the World War, New York City, Panurge Press, n.d.
  • Men and Women: The World Journey of a Sexologist (1933); translated by O. P. Green (New York City: G. P. Putnam's Sons, 1935).
  • Sex in Human Relationships, London, John Lane The Bodley Head, 1935; translated from the French volume L'Ame et l'amour, psychologie sexologique (Paris: Gallimard, 1935) by John Rodker.
  • Racism (1938), translated by Eden Paul and Cedar Paul. This denunciation of racial discrimination was not influential at the time, although it seems prophetic in retrospect.

Further reading

  • Charlotte Wolff: Magnus Hirschfeld – A Portrait of a Pioneer of a Pioneer in Sexology. London: Quartet Books, 1986
    • Wolff (1897–1986) was a Jewish doctor as well as lesbian who lived and worked in Weimar Republic Berlin. When researching Hirschfeld's biography (published in English in 1986) Wolff met a librarian and gay activist Manfred Herzer, who would eventually be a cofounder of the Gay Museum in Berlin and would publish (in German, in 1992) the other major Hirschfeld biography.

External links


  1. Goltz, Dustin (2008). "Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer Movements", In Lind, Amy; Brzuzy, Stephanie (eds.). Battleground: Women, Gender, and Sexuality: Volume 2, pp. 291 ff. Greenwood Publishing Grou
  2. Magnus Hirschfeld – Leben und Werk (in German)
  3. Magnus Hirschfeld