10 Facts on the Origins of Gay Rights in Berlin
Nineteenth century Berlin was the birthplace of gay rights.
January 31, 2015
1. In August of 1867, a lawyer named Karl Heinrich Ulrichs went before the Sixth Congress of German Jurists in Munich to urge the repeal of laws forbidding sex between men.
2. The term “homosexuality” was coined in 1869 by the Austrian writer Karl Maria Kertbeny, who opposed sodomy laws.
3. In the 1880s, Leopold von Meerscheidt-Hüllessem, a Berlin police commissioner, enabled “gay Berlin” to blossom, even offering counseling to gay victims of blackmail.
4. The first gay magazine began publication in Berlin In 1896.
5. In 1929, the Reichstag, Germany’s Parliament, moved toward the decriminalization of homosexuality. But the stock-market crash prevented a final vote.
6. The first sympathetic portrayal of lesbians onscreen was Leontine Sagan’s 1931 film “Mädchen in Uniform.”
7. During the golden years of the Weimar Republic, gays and lesbians achieved a high degree of visibility in popular culture.
8. After WWI, Friedrich Radszuweit established a network of gay publications, including the first lesbian magazine, Die Freundin. In 1923. He took the lead in forming the Human Rights League, a consortium of gay groups.
9. A German immigrant, Henry Gerber, first brought the fight for gay rights to America in the 1920s.
10. The brutal repression of gay people during the Nazi period largely erased German gay history from international consciousness — even from German memory.
Sources: “Gay Berlin: Birthplace of a Modern Identity” By Robert Beachy (Knopf, 2014)
“Berlin Story, How the Germans invented gay rights – more than a century ago,” By Alex Ross (The New Yorker, January 26, 2015)
The fight for gay rights in Germany began 150 years ago in Munich.
The term “homosexuality” was coined in 1869 by the Austrian writer Karl Maria Kertbeny, who opposed sodomy laws.
The first gay magazine began publication in Berlin In 1896.
A German immigrant, Henry Gerber, first brought the fight for gay rights to America in the 1920s.
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