Sexual Liberation and
|‘The first draft of a great work’|
E. Michael Jones
Hirschfeld’s view of homosexuality in the Soviet Union was just as out of touch with reality as his views on marriage. In 1930 he was still claiming, in the pages of Sexology, that homosexuality was freely expressed in the Soviet Union, when, in fact, it had been recriminalized under Stalin in 1928. Hirschfeld was also fond of saying that homosexuals were constitutionally incapable of cruelty and sympathetic to a fault, a claim which earned him the scorn of fellow sexologist Albert Moll, who cited the Haarmann case, a Weimar version of the homosexual mass murders that have since become household words with names like John Wayne Gacy and Jeffrey Dahmer attached to them. Slowly but surely, Hirschfeld was slipping into the realm of caricature and, with him, the whole idea of sexual science as well. It was fast gaining the reputation of homosexual special pleading. Kinsey would learn that lesson from Hirschfeld, and, as a result, the homosexual bias of the Kinsey Institute was rigorously camouflaged.
Christopher Isherwood, the English author of Goodbye to Berlin, which eventually got made into the musical Cabaret, described Hirschfeld as –
notorious all over Western Europe as a leading expert of homosexuality. Thousands of members of the Third Sex, as he called it, looked up to him as their champion because, throughout his adult life, he had been campaigning for revision of Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code.
Isherwood not only visited the Institute, he lived there for a while as part of his pilgrimage to the holy land of sexual liberation, as Berlin then was for sodomites in the know. Isherwood’s reaction to living at the Institute is a complex mixture of prurience and disgust. Referring to himself in the third person, Isherwood writes:
Christopher giggled because he was embarrassed. He was embarrassed because, at last, he was being brought face to face with his tribe. Up to now, he had behaved as though the tribe didn’t exist and homosexuality were a private way of life discovered by himself and a few friends. He had always known, of course, that this wasn’t true. But now he was forced to admit kinship with these freakish fellow tribesmen and their distasteful customs.
And he didn’t like it. His first reaction was to blame the Institute. He said to himself: How can they take this stuff so seriously?
Such was the reaction of even homosexuals to “sexual science” of the sort popularized by Hirschfeld in Berlin in the ’20s. Hirschfeld’s institute, as Isherwood and others would learn, was in reality simply a scientific cover for a homosexual bordello. Isherwood makes the same point in his memoir Christopher and His Kind:
Live exhibits were introduced, with such comments as: ‘Intergrade. Third Division.’ One of these was a young man who opened his shirt with a modest smile to display two perfectly formed female breasts.
[French novelist and homosexual André] Gide looked on, making a minimum of polite comment, judiciously fingering his chin. He was in full costume as the Great French Novelist, complete with cape. No doubt he thought Hirschfeld’s performance hopelessly crude and un-French.
Christopher’s Gallophobia flared up. Sneering, culture-conceited frog! Suddenly he loved Hirschfeld – at whom he himself had been sneering, a moment before – the silly solemn old professor with his doggy mustache, thick peering spectacles, and clumsy German-Jewish boots...
Nevertheless, they were all three of them on the same side, whether Christopher liked it or not. And later he would learn to honor them both, as heroic leaders of his tribe.
Hans Blueher, another homosexual-rights activist at the time, discovered that science was the cover for desire in much the same way. Blueher describes meeting Hirschfeld at the Institute, “sitting on a silk covered fanteuil, legs under him like a turk.” Hirschfeld introduced Blueher to a beautiful young man. “A Hermaphrodite,” said Hirschfeld. “Why don’t you come to me during my office hours tomorrow, you can see him naked then.” During the same meeting, an older gentleman in his sixties recited a poem to a sixteen-year-old youth full of yearning. This and the rest of the “scientific” goings-on at the institute convinced Blueher, “I was in the middle of a brothel.” (p. 244)
Guenter Maeder told Charlotte Wolff that Hirschfeld’s ‘sensuality was such that he could not keep his hands off attractive youths.’ (p. 196)
On May 6, 1933, Nemesis arrived at the doors of the Institut für Sexual Wissenschaft wearing a brown uniform. Magnus Hirschfeld was not there to receive him; he watched the newsreel version of the Nazi sacking of the Institute and subsequent “book burning” from the relative security of a movie theater in France. Erwin Hansen, the “sturdy Communist” who used to beat Karl Giese to fulfill his masochistic needs, was at the Institute when the Nazis arrived early in the morning. Since the arrival of the truck-loads of Nazi students was accompanied by the playing of a brass band, in keeping with Hitler’s penchant for public theater, Hansen went down to open the door for the invading army, but the Nazi youth decided to break it down anyway. (p. 270)
E. Michael Jones, Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control, St. Augustine's Press (South Bend, Indiana), 2005. With minor edits and references omitted.