Magnus Hirschfeld: Science, Weimar and Sexual Liberation


Edgewater Public Library 6000 North Broadway, Chicago, IL 60660

Date & Time

Jun. 6 —25, 2015

Saturday, June 6, 2:00PM

Thursday, June 11, 2015 (6:00PM – 8:00PM)

Thursday, June 25, 6:30PM – 8:00PM

Free Event

Event Description

Celebrate LGBT pride this month by exploring the life and legacy of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a pioneering German sexologist and early champion of gay rights! Recent years have witnessed a revival of interest in Magnus Hirschfeld- this past January, for example, he was discussed in The New Yorker— and now you can learn more about him right here in Edgewater. This Saturday, June 6, UIC’s Dr. James Kollenbroich will set the scene with a 2PM lecture-discussion on the gay rights movement in 1920s Germany, showing how a variety of organizations made gay rights a public issue within the Weimar Republic. Then, on Thursday, June 11, we’re hosting a 6PM screening of the German-language biopic The Einstein of Sex, revealing Hirschfeld the scientist, the lover, the militant, and the exiled. When you’re here, borrow a copy of Ralf Dose’s short biography, Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement, and share your reactions and questions during our book discussion on Thursday, June 25 at 6:30PM.

Our Hour Has Come: The Gay Rights Movement in 1920s Germany

Saturday, June 6, 2:00PM

1920s Germany is often seen as a setting of unprecedented personal freedom. However, gay German men still had to deal with the existence of Paragraph 175, the law against male homosexual acts. In response, gay men worked to change the law. This talk focuses on that effort, examining the actions and tactics, both political and cultural, of the three major gay rights organizations: the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen, the Bund für Menschenrecht, and the Wissenschaftlich-humanitären Komitee. These organizations played key roles within a national movement that wielded a very public presence across the entire country. As a direct result of this movement, Paragraph 175 was removed from the draft of a new German law code in October 1929. Although this draft was never ultimately passed, the efforts of these groups during the 1920s opened a public debate on gay rights in Germany.

This lecture is presented by James Kollenbroich. James Kollenbroich holds a PhD from the University of Illinois at Chicago in Modern European history with a focus on modern Germany. He currently works as an administrator at the University of Illinois at Chicago and as an instructor of history in the Chicago area.


Movie Screening: The Einstein of Sex

Thursday, June 11, 2015 (6:00PM – 8:00PM)

The Einstein of Sex tells the life story of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a German Jew and physician who established the field of sexology and fought militantly against German anti-sodomy laws in the late 19th century. The script reveals Hirschfeld’s impossible love interest, Baron von Teschenberg, and Hirschfeld’s aids, young Karl Giese and the transvestite Dorchen, as they establish the First Institute of Sexual Sciences in Berlin in 1920 and struggle to keep it open up to the rise of the Third Reich in the mid 1930s. This screening is made possible thanks to the generous permission of Director Rosa von Praunheim.


Book Discussion: Magnus Hirschfeld: The Origins of the Gay Liberation Movement

Thursday, June 25, 6:30PM – 8:00PM

Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) was one of the first great pioneers of the gay liberation movement. Guided by his motto ‘Through Science Toward Justice,’ Hirschfeld helped found the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in Germany to defend the rights of homosexuals and develop a scientific framework for sexual equality. He was also an early champion of women’s rights, campaigning in the early 1900s for the decriminalization of abortion and the right of female teachers and civil servants to marry and have children. This biography, first published to acclaim in Germany, follows Hirschfeld from his birth to the heights of his career during the Weimar Republic and the rise of German fascism. Ralf Dose illuminates Hirschfeld’s ground-breaking role in the gay liberation movement and explains some of his major theoretical concepts, which continue to influence our understanding of human sexuality and social justice today. Copies of Magnus Hirschfeldare available in limited supply for discussion participants at the Edgewater Library’s first floor reference desk.