A fascinating exhibit at the GLBT Museum in San Francisco traces the history of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a “groundbreaking defender of homosexual and transgender people in Germany and beyond”. The exhibit chronicles the 85th anniversary of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s visit to San Francisco in 1931. Hirschfeld was internationally renowned as a founder of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the world’s first homosexual advocacy group, and as creator of the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin. Both organizations were banned when the Nazis came to power in 1933.
“Although the Nazi regime did its best to erase the memory of Hirschfeld and his contributions, it didn’t succeed,” says curator Gerard Koskovich. We remember Hirschfeld today not only because he helped found the movement to defend LGBTQ people more than a century ago, but also because his work as a sexologist was prescient. With its emphasis on ‘sexual intermediacy,’ Hirschfeld’s thinking prefigures contemporary ideas about the continuum of sexual orientation, genderqueer expression and sexual fluidity.”
“Our exhibition offers an introduction to Hirschfeld’s life, work and legacy, featuring first editions, vintage periodicals and ephemera which includes historic film documenting Hirschfeld’s impact and the fate of his work,” says the museum, located in San Francisco’s “Gayborhood” in the Castro District.
Among the scarce artifacts on display are the 1904 booklet distributed by the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee to advocate repeal of Germany’s sodomy law; one of the handful of volumes known to have survived the first book-burning of the Nazi regime, where the library of Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science was reduced to flames; and a review copy of the last of Hirschfeld’s books published during his lifetime, inscribed by the author three weeks before his death in exile in Nice, France.