Germany’s Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld may not be as commonly talked about around the gay community as some others, but his work has opened up a slew of possibilities and freedoms that San Francisco’s GLBT Historical Society is hoping to raise awareness to in a new exhibit at their museum that will run through December.
Hirschfeld was a groundbreaking defender of gay and transgender people in Germany back in the late 1890s. He became known around the world after forming the first homosexual advocacy group and Berlin’s Institute for Sexual Science.
After the Nazi’s came into power in 1933, both efforts were banned, and Hirschfeld died only three years later while in exile.
“Although the Nazi regime did its best to erase the memory of Hirschfeld and his contributions, it didn’t succeed. 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,” says Gerard Koskovich, curator of the new Through Knowledge to Justice: The Sexual World of Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935) exhibit.
Some of the items on display include vintage periodicals and first editions of Hirschfeld’s work, including a 1904 booklet distributed by the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee to advocate repeal of Germany’s sodomy law — one of the few original documents to survive the book-burnings by the Nazi’s. A historical film will also be shown in the exhibit to provide a deeper documentation of the lasting impact of his work.
The exhibit runs through December at the GLBT Historical Society Museum at 4127 18th Street in San Francisco