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On the occasion of the EFS/DGSS Congress
in Berlin, 29 June to 2 July 2000:
There is no political virginity in German sexology!

Hirschfeld and Praunheim:
Eugenics and Racism, Today

It may be hard to believe but it's true Germany: Magnus Hirschfeld wasn't that bright victim of the National-Socialist persecution but also a persecutor himself who fought against the reproduction of disabled persons thinking of them as harmful to a strong Germany. In 1933 and 1934, he demanded to wait and see whether the National-Socialist eugenic policy would or would not fulfil the promise of eugenics that he himself believed in: to raise a new race of the strong, and to eliminate the weak. And he fought against heterosexual marriage and reproduction of homosexuals because he considered their hereditary dispositions as inferior.

Nor is Rosa von Praunheim that liberal fighter for emancipation, but a German racist propagandist as we know them. In an interview with the gay radio program "Schwule Welle" of the public access station "Radio Dreyeckland" (Freiburg), Praunheim said some weeks ago: "If there are 70 percent foreigners in a school, very many Moslems and so on, it is very hard for a young gay student just to survive in such a class." Are only non-islamic Germans gay? During the last years, we saw that it was hard to survive not for Germans (gay or not), but for foreigners, especially Moslems: burned by German skinheads (gay or not) in Mölln and Solingen, hunted to death in Guben, knocked down and murdered brutishly in Dessau a few days ago.

When the Magnus Hirschfeld Medals are awarded by the German Society for Social-Scientific Sex Research (DGSS), doesn't it discomfort the winners at all that Hirschfeld was a follower of Social-Darwinism; that he was a member of the extreme right-wing Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene, that he called for obligatory matrimonial certificates of health to detect the disabled and forbid their reproduction (what an organisation like the Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene called "disability"!); that his theories and politics were connected to the concept of inferiority and superiority of human beings; that his health policy was supported by the nationalist Noske-group of the German Social-Democratic Party; that one of his closest allies was Alfred Grotjahn, one of the most extreme German scientists in eugenics who called for forced sterilization of undesirables? And in fact, there are statements by Hirschfeld himself about the necessity of "exceptionally exercised" compulsion if the people he thought of as inferior would not renounce reproduction voluntarily.

Desirable and undesirable human beings

The beginnings of scientific sexology are connected to the idea of constructing a biologically strong race of human beings. In that thinking, not every child is welcome on earth. In imperial Germany, the Gesellschaft für Rassehygiene was one of the first scientific organisations of sexology, and, of course, it was an organisation to promote well-bred people, first eugenically, then also ethnically pure-bred. In the imperialist period, when Germany and England competed for predominance in Europe and racism was the ideology behind claims of superiority and the exploitation of the colonies, then, in England and Germany arose the science of eugenics as a strategy to create the strongest race and to reduce the social costs of supporting the weak. Eugenics - and in a completely different way psycho-analysis - were the only fields in which sex was discussed in the prudish Victorian and Wilhelmian times. In eugenics, you find the roots of sexology. And, in fact, a lot of medical scientists working on eugenics were later on defined by the Nazis as Jews and became victims of their own theories, Magnus Hirschfeld too. But who wants to discuss these roots and draw the consequences!

Sex for the strong

It is not true that the science of sexology was thrown out by Nazi Germany, as the DGSS now claims in the Congress announcement. Major aspects of sexology continued in Nazi-racism, in eugenic policy, and, for example, in the "sexual liberal" human breeding organisation "Lebensborn", where a few "Aryan" strong SS-men should have sex with hundreds of "Aryan" mothers in order to breed a strong race. Sexology - and eugenics as a part of it - went down in Europe because the social conclusions of the biological orientation of sexology, that dominated in the first half of the 20th Century, became obvious by the Nazi-politics. Not the idea of biological breeding of the human race was controversial between the Nazis and the eugenic sexologists, Hirschfeld for example, but the definition of "strong". Hirschfeld agreed with the Nazis that it was necessary to avoid the birth of "disabled" persons, but he didn't agree that to be a Jew was a taint. In his opinion, the taint only was to be an alcoholic, a prostitute, a homosexual, a hermaphrodite, and of course to be a carrier of what he (and the society he lived in, the upper class of imperial Germany, that still dominated the consciousness in the early 30s) defined as a "transmittable disease": shapes of human life that were not useful for industry and the military. And Hirschfeld agreed with the Nazis that unwelcome shapes of human life should be avoided by biological means, by setting limits to sexuality.  

Hirschfeld as eugenist -
Homosexuals as results of "degenerated" families:

            (aus: Hirschfeld, Magnus: Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes,
            Berlin 1914, S. 391)

The scientist and the politician Hirschfeld grew up in the special ideological environment of Social-Darwinism, and he didn't really quit it, ever. His concept of sexuality was directed at reproduction, not to passion and enjoyment (as were the origins of German sexology all together then). It was not directed at individual pleasure, but at national health. The leading idea of his work was an eugenic barrier in sexual behaviour, not liberation. But he thought that a bit more sexual liberation could help to reach his aim: the society of the strong. If the homosexuals, for example, were "liberated", they would stop poisoning the national gene pool by spreading their dispositions which Hirschfeld judged as inferior: "A homosexual who gets married condemns a sound woman to sterility or to giving birth to imbecile children. You can object also to the marriages of homosexual women, and it is in the interests of racial care to stop such marriages", wrote Hirschfeld. In fact, he thought that homosexuals would have imbecile children because of their supposed inferior hereditary dispositions.

Mussolini and Nietzsche

In his last book, "Racism", that was written after the Nazi-law against the disabled, and that came out posthumously and in English translation in London in 1938, Hirschfeld took position against the "undesirables ... affected with hereditarily transmissible bodily or mental diseases or defects" and saw the Nazis' eugenics policy as "an interesting experiment ... but it will be a long while before the results can be judged on their merits". Today we know the "merits" of the Nazis, but Hirschfeld still seems to be a good patron of prizes like the "Magnus Hirschfeld Medal". At the end of his life, in the book "Racism", Hirschfeld praised Benito Mussolini because of his idea of the Mediterranean "race of emperors" and gave to the Nazis a good advice instead of criticising them: "If a serious endeavour is to be made to breed a race of Nietzschean supermen and superwomen, the Race Office should be promptly transformed into Marriage Advisory Boards, guided by hygienic and eugenic principles, widely different from those upon which the present crude attempts at racist selection are based". The "wide" difference seemed only to be the difference between Mussolini and Hitler. Whether the Nazis' eugenics law would be "for the wellbeing of the German people", "only the future will tell", wrote Hirschfeld. He doubted the efficacy of this law, namely because he thought (falsely) that it didn't legislate against alcoholics (one of his main targets). He never fundamentally criticised the Nazis' eugenics policy, because the leading idea of his own work was biological selection, too: weeding out the weak in order to raise the race of the strong.

In his programmatic article "Über Sexualwissenschaft" (On Sexology) in 1908, Hirschfeld related his concept of sexuality to the idea and purpose of "perfecting mankind" and explained: "One shrinks from marrying a disabled dwarf or someone who's father is at the penitentiary or the madhouse. And one does so rightly, because only if we marry the healthiest, well-shaped, most intelligent and well-mannered ones, will we help to ennoble the race". At the beginning of sexology in Germany, there was one leading idea: selective reproduction.

Hirschfeld followed Haeckel

It was not only Nietzsche's concept of the superman that fascinated Hirschfeld, but also the social-darwinism of Ernst Haeckel, a precursor of the Nazis, honorary president of the Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene and honoured by the Nazis as the "pioneer of biological policy". Hirschfeld honoured his idol Haeckel by naming a hall in his Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sexology) in Berlin the "Ernst-Haeckel-Saal". In this hall, in the 20s and early 30s, Hirschfeld and others gave their eugenic advice lectures to the public. In the early 30s, when Hirschfeld travelled the world and propagated his ideas overseas, the heads of his Institute and of the Ärztliche Gesellschaft für Sexalwissenschaft und Eugenik/Konstitutionsforschung (that was founded by Hirschfeld, Grotjahn, Iwan Bloch and others; honorary member also: Haeckel) invited the heads of the notorious Kaiser-Wilhlem-Institut für Anthropologie, the racists Eugen Fischer and Othmar von Verschuer, to lecture on eugenics. Fischer and Verschuer worked their way up in the Nazi state: Verschuer became assistant of the Auschwitz physician Josef Mengele. There is no political virginity in German sexology, as the DGSS tries to make believe, today.

Nationalism, colonialism and eugenics

It was the nationalist group of the German Social-Democratic Party, with Gustav Noske, Wolfgang Heine (who both were involved in the murder of Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht) and Alfred Grotjahn among its heads, and with Hirschfeld as its follower, who put through some of the eugenic aims (sterilisation of the disabled, for example) in the Social-Democratic ruled Prussia in the 20s. In the early 30s, the group outlined eugenic laws for Prussia and prepared in this way the National-Socialist law against the disabled that was issued immediately in spring 1933 as the harvest of Grotjahn's, Hirschfeld's and others' eugenics. It was not a mere accident that the Noske-group tried to keep the German colonies in Africa as "bare necessities of life to the German working-class" during the peace-negotiations after World War I, while Hirschfeld and his colleague Ferdinand Freiherr von Reitzenstein - a typical German racist of the imperial Wilhelmian society and, since its founding in 1919, an employee of Hirschfeld's new Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin, where he supervised the so called famous world-wide collection of sexual instruments, behaviours and customs - exhibited photographs of nude Africans to the amazed German audience: 'most pleasant with genital deformities', apparently. (The Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft in Berlin has re-constructed a part of the original exhibition). None of these "objects" of prudish German curiosity were asked for the consent in being exhibited by Hirschfeld. In fact, Reitzenstein found most of the photographs in the offices of the German colonial administration. The way these people were photographed and exhibited was totally without respect; and, in fact, these human beings were nothing else than human material for the scientist Hirschfeld. (Nude Africans seem to arouse special interest in German racists, as Miss Leni Riefenstahl showed everyone lately.) It is not surprising therefore, that the Nazis did not "disturb" the Institute and collection in 1933 - as some Hirschfeld fans today would have us believe - but parcelled it out for reutilization.

Rosa von Praunheim: Racism was normal then!

To top everything, Rosa von Praunheim said in the cited interview: "Race doctrine was the prevailing opinion in the 20s. At the turn of the century no one worked in any other way. He (Hirschfeld) was a child of his time." The times seem to be near when some people will try to tell us that even Auschwitz was only "Zeitgeist".

(July 2000)

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