Two memorial plaques commemorate the first homosexual emancipation movement and the determined, affirmative advocacy for human rights and sexual diversity.
Since 2011 two memorial plaques have stood on Magnus-Hirschfeld-Ufer to commemorate the first homosexual emancipation movement formed more than one hundred years ago in Berlin. They honour the people who, as early as the beginning of the 20th century, campaigned for the decriminalisation of homo and transsexuality and for an equal, respectful coexistence. The plaques were mounted on the initiative of the German Lesbian and Gay Society.
The Jewish homosexual doctor, Magnus Hirschfeld (*1868 †1935), and other activists founded the ‘Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee’ (WhK – Scientific humanitarian commitee), which was the first organisation in the world to campaign for the lifting of anti-homosexual laws in accordance with ‘Paragraph 175’ and who educated the public in matters of same-sex relationships. It was mostly through the work of the WhK that in the years of the Weimar Republic there was a wider acceptance of sexual diversity in Berlin.
The ‘Institut für Sexualwissenschaft’ (The Institute of Sexual Science) was opened in 1919 in this street by Magnus Hirschfeld and his colleagues. In 1933, it was damaged and looted by the National Socialists. Hirschfeld died two years later in exile in France.
Remembering victims whose fate was excluded from public remembrance for so long
Tens of thousands of homosexual men were kidnapped and interned in prisons and concentration camps, where they were tortured. Many of them died. Today, a Memorial in the Tiergarten and a memorial plaque at Nollendorfplatz honour the victims whose fate was excluded from public remembrance for so long. The ‘Schwules Museum’* (Gay Museum*) documents the persecution and the decades of homosexual life that were kept invisible. The paragraph 175 remained in place in an altered form after the Nazi era and was only abolished in 1994.
Even today, lesbians, gays and persons of transgender are still confronted with prejudice, discrimination and violence, although political and social acceptance of sexual diversity in Germany is growing. Nevertheless, the history of the homosexual emancipation movement remains a story of determined, affirmative advocacy for human rights and sexual diversity.
Food for thought: How can emancipation movements help to build a peaceful society?