A new monument in the capital – to whom?
The first homosexual rights movement began in 1897 with the founding of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (WhK). The movement was started and championed by the Jewish physician and sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935). In 1897, 30 years after Karl Heinrich Ulrichs called for homosexual acts to be decriminalised at the Congress of German Jurists, Hirschfeld set up the Scientific Humanitarian Committee (WhK) in Berlin. In 1919, he built the Institute for Sexology on premises located between what is now the German Chancellery and the “Haus der Kulturen der Welt”.
Hirschfeld’s work had a global influence on the abolition of anti-homosexual statutory offences. The WhK sent several petitions to the German Reichstag calling for section 175 of the criminal code to be repealed, as this section criminalised “acts relating to sexual intercourse” between men. In 1929, the Reichtag’s criminal law committee finally decided to decriminalise homosexual acts.
But section 175 was not repealed.
After Hitler came to power in January 1933, students and members of the SA ransacked the Institute for Sexology. Numerous publications and a bust of Magnus Hirschfeld were destroyed during the book burning in Berlin’s Opernplatz (now Bebelplatz) in May 1933. Hirschfeld was expelled and later denaturalised. He died in 1935 while exiled in France.
Back to Berlin – for a visible culture of remembrance
A monument in Berlin is intended to pay tribute to the first homosexual rights movement in the world. The current mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, the chair of the Jewish community in Berlin, Lala Süsskind, and numerous political, cultural and economic figures are calling for a donation to support the monument’s construction.
The planned monument will be located on Berlin’s “Magnus-Hirschfeld-Ufer”. This stretch along the bank of the Spree between the Luther and Moltke bridges, opposite the Chancellery, was named after Magnus Hirschfeld on 6 May 2008.
An artistic competition will be held to decide the memorial’s form and precise design.
Dedication to an early campaigner for today’s rights!
“Magnus Hirschfeld was a pioneer in gay and lesbian equality. And more than that, he campaigned for individual civil rights and liberties. His courage, humanitarian commitment and fight for enlightenment, emancipation and solidarity make him a role model even for today’s world; especially in Berlin, which is marked by its wide variety of different cultures, religions and lifestyles. To build a monument to Magnus Hirschfeld on the bank of the Spree not far from the site of the Institute for Sexology, which was named to commemorate him in 2008, will be a long overdue acknowledgement.”
Klaus Wowereit, mayor of Berlin
“The Jewish community in Berlin and I greatly welcome the initiative by the Berlin-Brandenburg Gay and Lesbian Association (Lesben- und Schwulenverbandes Berlin-Brandenburg e.V.) and the mayor of the Mitte district to raise money in support of the construction of the Magnus Hirschfeld memorial. Magnus Hirschfeld was one of the first to fight for the rights of homosexuals. With his Institute for Sexology, founded in 1919, he achieved international recognition and major successes against homosexual discrimination. His institute was destroyed by the Nazis in 1933, partly because Magnus Hirschfeld was a Jew. A monument to Magnus Hirschfeld belongs in a cosmopolitan city such as Berlin!”
Lala Süsskind, chair of the Jewish community in Berlin
“Magnus Hirschfeld swam against the powerful tide of ignorance and intolerance during his era. But not only homosexuals are indebted to him. We all should be. The Magnus Hirschfeld memorial is therefore also a timely reminder to those who stand for conformity and homogeny instead of freedom and diversity.”
Hans-Olaf Henkel, former president of the Federal Association of German Industry (BDI) and former president of the Leibniz Association
André Schmitz, state secretary for culture; Brigitte Zypries, former federal minister; Dr. Christian Hanke, mayor; Regula Lüscher, director of the senate building department; Professor Erwin J. Haeberle, founder and director of the Magnus Hirschfeld Archive for Sexology; Maren Kroyman, actress; Petra Rosenberg, chair of the Berlin-Brandenburg State Association for German Romany People; Volker Beck, Bundestag representative; Michael Kauch, Bundestag representative; and Dr. Klaus Lederer, Berlin state chair for political party “The Left”.
A memorial to the emancipation movement of the past – a monument to today’s human rights!
Make a donation to support the creation of a memorial to the world’s first homosexual rights movement, which originated in Germany, and its pioneers!
Account holder: Bildungs- und Sozialwerk des LSVD Berlin-Brandenburg e.V.
Account number: 082 44 33 01
Sort code: 100 700 24
Bank: Deutsche Bank
The Bildungs- und Sozialwerk des Lesben- und Schwulenverbandes Berlin-Brandenburg (BLSB) e.V. is a non-profit association. Donations are tax deductible. If you require a donation receipt, please include your address in the reference field.
“A Memorial for the First Homosexual Rights Movement” Project
Kleiststrasse 35, 10787 Berlin (Schöneberg)