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Magnus Hirschfeld

Lawrence Bush
October 7, 2017

Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, dedicated to decriminalizing homosexuality in Germany, opened its 1904 conference on this date. It was here that Anna Rüling (a non-Jew) came out as the first known lesbian activist in Germany. The Committee would gather over 5,000 signatories to a petition urging decriminalization, including Albert Einstein, Herman Hesse, Thomas Mann, Kathe Kollwitz, Martin Buber, Karl Kautsky, and numerous other political and cultural leaders, many of them Jews. A pioneering sexologist, Hirschfeld was a founder of the World League for Sexual Reform, which held congresses in Copenhagen, London, Vienna and Brno between 1928 and 1932. He also founded the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin (1919), which was attacked frequently by rightwing mobs and had its library burned by the Nazis in 1933.

“Through Science to Justice.” — motto of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee

​​​​Lawrence Bush edited Jewish Currents from 2003 until 2018. He is the author of Bessie: A Novel of Love and Revolution and Waiting for God: The Spiritual Explorations of a Reluctant Atheist, among other books. His new volume of illustrated Torah commentaries, American Torah Toons 2, is scheduled for publication this year.