© 2019 by Peter Kratz.   Jede Verwendung der Texte und der Abbildungen unterliegt dem Urheberrecht. 

Neue Herausforderungen
Themen des BIFFF...
Bücher und Broschüren
English Texts
E-Mail an BIFFF...


Address to the ALMS Conference
"Queering Memory" 2019 in Berlin:

Hirschfeld, Eugenics and Racism,
Then and Today

It may be hard to believe but it's true Germany, then and today: Magnus Hirschfeld wasn't that bright victim of the National-Socialist persecution but also a persecutor himself who fought against the reproduction of so called "disabled" persons thinking of them as genetically harmful to a strong German people. As "disabled" he defined a wide range of people, "every seventh" he wrote 1930 in his main work "Geschlechtskunde", and also of course homosexuals who shouldn't have children because their genes - he supposed - were "degenerating", as he wrote down several times in his books and articles. Why is such a soundrel honored here?

So, take a minute of remembering the hundreds of thousands of victims of the eugenic "science", who had been terrorized, killed or forced to be sterilized on behalf of Hirschfeld and his friends and colleagues when you take your coffee at the "Hirschfeld Bar" in your congress center today. If Hirschfeld, who himself never came out openly as being gay, had won the history, then no queers would be alive today. That's the paradox. Today, "queers" are the hostages to today's Hirschfeld fans, e.g. the right-wing German health minister Jens Spahn, openly gay himself, who is a fan of Hirschfeld as well as of eugenic selection, and is just preparing laws for a new grip on your body, to oust, again, the bodies of the people for a higher purpose.

Hirschfeld had a lot of deep and long term connections to racists and even Nazis. His long-term friend George Sylvester Viereck, a German-American extreme right-wing publicist and Nazi agitator (well known and still hated in the US up to the present) who Hirschfeld met and exchanged letters with very often, influenced Hirschfeld's work and thinking for decades, as we could show after having analysed the relationship between Hirschfeld and Viereck, based on letters of both that we found in German and American archives. We also analysed Hirschfeld's USA trip in 1930/31 that was orgnized by Viereck to promote his and Hirschfeld's ideas of creating  a "super man" and "super race"."Sexual selection" should lead to this "super race" as Hirschfeld wrote it down in the preface of his book about his world journey then ("Weltreise eines Sexualforschers"). "sexual  selection" was the quintessence of his world trip as  sexologist. The true goal of his "sexology" was the "sexual selection" of the "strong" and extermination of those who he defined as unworthy to live and reproduce themselves. Hirschfeld and his co-eugenicists are directly co-responsible for the Nazi-crimes against non-compliant people who you call  nowadays "queer".

It was Viereck who invented the title "Einstein of Sex" for Hirschfeld to promote his tour to American eugenicist societies which already had established eugenic laws in several US states in the 1920s. These laws restricted the freedom of marriage, as Hirschfeld  himself demanded it in Germany. Love Who You Like was not the principle of his work but the dictum Only the strong are allowed to reproduce.

"America First!" and "Alt Right"

Our (still ongoing) research on Hirschfeld's American trip 1930/31 shows a lot of parallels to today's American right-wing politics. His friend Viereck who organized the whole trip and the echoes in the media, after Hirschfeld has asked him to do so, was a well known representative of the "America First!" movement of those days which promoted a strong white and mainly by people of German descent ruled USA. Viereck's newspaper "New York American" had the flag of the "America First!"-movement in it's head line. The eugenic laws of several US states in this time mostly also had a racist intent against migrants from Latin America and Asia. For example, in some states it was forbidden to Asian immigrants to marry "white" Americans then.These laws were the result of the intense propaganda of assiciations of American eugenicists to whom Viereck  passed around his friend Hirschfeld on this trip. It is still object to further research of the BIFFF... whom all Hirschfeld met in several states that he traveled. Articles of Viereck were published in newspapers from coast to coast about Hirschfeld's speeches that still have to be evaluated.

Being friends with a later Auschwitz denier

It is cclear by now that Hirschfeld met a lot of right-wing publicists and propagandists of extreme right "white pride" and "white primacy" groups, e.g. Harry E. Barnes, who after the Second Word War became an Auschwitz denier.

Viereck himself was a well known agitator for the German war aims in the First World War and propagated the ideas of first the Kaiser Wilhelm II and since the 1920s also of Adolf Hitler in America. In 1923 (!) he published his interview with Hitler and presented him as the coming leader of Germany. He was proud that it was him who published the first interview with Hitler in English language and re-published it in 1932. Consequently, Viereck became one of the main promoters of Nazi-Germany from 1933 on in the US and, in World War II, ended up in a US prison because of spying for Nazi-Germany. Dispite this, Hirschfeld wrote him in October 1933,  that it was "too bad" that he didn't meet Viereck during his summer trip 1933 in Europe and asked Viereck to send him his articles that he had written about that trip. Hirschfeld, still, found him to be his nearest and longest friend.

As Hirschfeld's letters to Viereck that we found in archives show: all this was well known by Hirschfeld who wrote to Viereck in October 1933 (!): "Doubtless, the unification process that is now being put through Germany is in some respects that which we too have long wished for." BIFFF... has published the wordings of these letters, also in English translation, on our website.

Forbidden love for queers:
Hirschfeld's questionaries for allowed marriage

Hirschfeld did not at all condemn the persecution of non-compliants by the Nazis, but in 1933 and 1934, he demanded to wait and see whether the National-Socialist eugenic policies would or would not fulfill  the promise that he himself (and Viereck) believed in: to raise a new race of the strong, and to eliminate the weak. Very openly, Hirschfeld wrote this in several articles in these years of the beginning Nazi trerror. He only criticized - indeed - that also Jews became victims of this terror. But for those who he had defined as "degenerated" or "degenerating" in his previous books he expressed no mercy.

Also in these articles, Hirschfeld praised the Italian fascists' leader Benito Mussolini (as his friend Viereck had done before) because of his idea of the Mediterranean "race of emperors" and gave to tha Nazis a good advice instead of condemning: "If a serious endeavour is to be made to breed a race of Nietzschean supermen and superwomen, the {Nazi-German] Race Office should be promptly transformed into Marriage Advisory Boards, guided by hygienic and eugenic principles."

Superior and inferior were the catagories that Hirschfeld and Viereck were thinking and writing in. And infact, Hirschfeld thought that homosexuals would get imbecile children because of their supposed inferior hereditary dispositions. His "sexology" was on breeding, not on sexual joy. Again: Why is this soundrel honored here today?

The eugenic politician Hirschfeld

The leading idea of his work was a eugenic barrier in sexual behaviour, not liberation. But he thought that a bit more sexual liberation could help to reach his aim: a race of the strong. If the homosexuals, for example, were "liberated", they would stop poisoning the national  gene pool by spreading there 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 marriage of homosexual  women, and it is in the interest of racial care to stop such marriages", wrote Hirschfeld. His Institute for Sex Research (that infact was not much more than a doctor's shop) mainly was engaged in eugenic and matrimonial consulting. The catagories of superior and inferior human beings were the leading source of his questionaries that he had invented and used in his "Institute" in Berlin to decide if a couple should be allowed to marry or not. Some questions were openly racist. As Hirschfeld was a great enemy of drinking alcohol or using other drugs (he was a complete  sourpuss, indeed!) couples who used any of that were mentally pressed not to marry and not to have children. His questionaries devaluated anyone who was only a little bit of kind of "queer".

Out of his "Institute" that became more and more a center of eugenics and Rassenhygiene, Hirschfeld efforted a lot to establish laws for restricted marriage in Germany. Theorists of the Nazi racism as Otmar von Verschuer and Eugen Fischer of the notorious and later criminal "Kaiser Wilhelm Institute of Anthropology" gave speeches in Hirschfelds Institute, or even members of the Nazi party worked there as employees. In that regard, the closing of the Institute by the Nazis was a "shop accident" of the eugenicists. Today it is known the the Institute was not "destroyed" by the Nazis but that they took most of the collections concerning sexology (especially the big library) for there own continuing eugenic purposes.

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 explaint: "One shrinks from marrying a disabled dwarf or someone who's father is at the penitentiary or the madhouse. And one does so rhightly, because only if we marry the healthiest, well-shaped, most intelligent and well-mannered ones we will  help to enoble the race."

Also at the end of his life, Hirschfeld took position against "undesirables ... affected with hereditarily transmissible bodily or mental deseases or defects", as he wrote in the 1930s, and he saw the Nazis' eugenics policies as "an interesting experiment ... but it will be a long while before the results can be judged on their merits." Whether the Nazis' eugenic law of 1933 (that was mainly a copy of a law proposal that Hirschfeld and his eugenicists colleagues had worked on and that was discussed in the late 1920s in the Prussian land parliament, but denied because of ethical objections) would be "for the wellbeing of the German people", wrote Hirschfeld, "only the future will tell."

Hirschfeld agreed with the Nazis that it was necessary to avoid the birth of "disabled" persons, but he did not (of course) agree that to be of Jewish descent was a taint to be exterminated. In his oppinion 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 desease": 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 "sexual selection", by setting limits to sexuality instead of liberating it. A lot of this he wrote down once again 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 1939.

A hall in the Institute named after a Nazi mastermind

It was not only Nietzsche's (and Viereck's) concept of the super man and super race that fascinated Hirschfeld, but also the social-darwinism of Ernst Haeckel, a precursor of the Nazis, honorary president of the Gesellschaft für Rassenhygiene (where Hirschfeld also was engaged) and honoured by the Nazis as the "pioneer of biological policy". Hirschfeld honoured his idol Haeckel by naming a hall in his Institute for Sex Research as "Ernst Haeckel Saal" (Haeckel Hall) where eugenic advice lectures were given by Hirschfeld and later also by Nazi theorists as Fischer and Verschuer. In real, this "Institute" became a breeding center for parts of the later Nazi crimes. Hirschfeld helped to set the basics, but while he was persecuted by the Nazis as a Jew (who he never wanted to be), colleagues like 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!

June 2019

                             ...zurück zur Übersicht: Biopolitik 

                        ...back to English texts (list of content)

                        ...back Home

                            ...zurück zur Übersicht: Themen des BIFFF...