A Fight for Tolerance and Acceptance: Magnus Hirschfeld’s Impact on Public Attitudes towards the LGBT Community During the Weimar Republic
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Today, Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) is celebrated for his revolutionary research on sexuality and transsexuality. He is recognized as one of the first vocal advocates for LGBT rights and for the decriminalization of homosexuality. He was the founder of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Sexology Research Institute), which provided vital services to the LBGT community during the Weimar Republic (1919-1933). My study analyzes in particular the impact Hirschfeld’s research had on the following sections of the population in Germany’s roaring twenties: the scientific community, law enforcement, and the general public. My research shows that he left a long-lasting impression on the scientific community. He was the first to investigate homosexuality as a natural occurrence and he proved to be more influential than Albert Moll and Sigmund Freud. Hirschfeld had a close relationship with the police. The Homosexuellen Dezernat (Department of Homosexuals) sought his expertise and advice in an effort to curtail blackmail and prostitution. The friendly relationship he maintained with the police benefited the LBGT community, allowing it to feel relatively safe and accepted. Hirschfeld’s publications and educational pamphlets aimed at educating the general public about homosexuality. The popularization of his research improved the public’s attitude toward homosexuals. The more tolerant climate allowed an increasing number of publishers to print LBGT magazines that were both educational and entertaining. LBGT bars, dance halls and restaurants flourished, suggesting that the 1920s became one of the most liberated periods in Germany’s LBGT history.
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