The Destruction of the Hirschfeld Sexual Science Institute

A reliable witness who, although not himself attached to the Institute, was able to see and hear exactly what occurred, has made the following deposition as to the destruction of this scientific institute, which is known throughout the world:

“On the morning of May 6th, the Berliner Lokalanzeiger reported that the cleansing of Berlin libraries of books of un-German spirit would be begun that morning, and that the students of the Gymnastic Academy would make a start with the Sexual Science Institute. This institute was founded by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld in 1918, in the house formerly occupied by Prince Hatzfeld, and was shortly afterwards taken over by the Prussian Government as an institution of public importance. Its unique collection of exhibits, its research work, its archives and its library won for it an international reputation and international connections. Many foreign scientists, doctors and writers came to Berlin for the purpose of working at the institute.

“On the publication of the press notice referred to, an attempt was made to remove for safe-keeping some of the most valuable private books and manuscripts; but this proved to be impossible, as the person removing the books was arrested by a guard which had evidently been placed round the institute during the night. At 9:30 a.m. some lorries drew up in front of the institute with about one hundred students and a brass band. They drew up in military formation in front of the institute, and then marched into the building with their band playing. As the office was not yet open, there was no responsible person there; there were only a few women and one man. The students demanded admittance to every room, and broke in doors of those which were closed, including the office of the World League for Sexual Reform. When they found that there was not much to be had in the lower rooms, they made their way up to the first floor, where they emptied the ink bottles over the manuscripts and carpets and then made for the book-cases. They took away whatever they thought was not completely unobjectionable, working for the most part on the basis of the so-called ‘black list.' But they went beyond this, and took other books also, including for example a large work on Tutankhamen and a number of art journals which they found among the secretary's private books. They then removed from the archives the large charts dealing with intersexual cases, which had been prepared for the International Medical Congress held at the Kensington Museum in London in 1913. They threw most of these charts through the windows to their comrades who were standing outside.

“They removed from the walls other drawings and photographs of special types and kicked them around the room, leaving it strewn with torn drawings and broken glass. When one of the students pointed out that this was medical material, another replied that it was of no importance, that they were not concerned with the confiscation of a few books and pictures, but that they were there to destroy the Institute. A long speech was then made, and a life-sized model showing the internal secretion process was thrown out the window and smashed to pieces. In one of the consulting rooms they used a mop to smash a pantostat used in the treatment of patients. They also took away a bronze bust of Dr. Hirschfeld, and a number of other statues. On the first occasion they only seized a few hundred books out of the library of the Institute.

“The staff was kept under observation during the whole of the proceedings, and the band played throughout, so that a large crowd of inquisitive people gathered outside. At 12 o'clock the leader made a long speech, and then the gang left, singing a particularly vulgar song and also the Horst-Wessel song.

“The people in the Institute assumed that this concluded the robbery proceedings, but at three o'clock in the afternoon a number of lorries filled with storm troopers appeared and explained that they would have to continue the work of confiscation, as the men who had been there in the morning had not had time to make a proper clearance. This second troop then proceeded to make a careful search through every room, taking down to the lorries basket after basket of valuable books and manuscripts -- two lorry-loads in all. It was clear from the oaths used that the names of the authors whose books were in this special library were well known to the students. Sigmund Freud, whose photograph they took from the staircase and carried off, was called ‘that Jewish sow Freud'; Havelock Ellis was called ‘that swine.' Other English authors wanted by them were Oscar Wilde, Edward Carpenter and Norman Haire; and also the works of Judge Lindsay, the American juvenile judge, Margaret Sanger, and George Silvester Viereck; and of French writers, the works of André Gide, Marcel Proust, Pierre Loti, Zola, etc. The sight of the works of the Danish doctor Leunbach also made them break out into oaths. Many bound volumes of periodicals were also removed. They also wanted to take away several thousand questionnaires which were among the records, but desisted when they were assured that these were simply medical histories. On the other hand, it did not prove possible to dissuade them from removing the materials belonging to the World League for Sexual Reform, the whole edition of the journal Sexus and the card index. In addition, a great many manuscripts, including unpublished ones, fell into their hands.

“They repeatedly enquired when Dr. Hirschfeld would be returning; they wanted, as they expressed it, to be given the tip as to when he would be there. Even before the raid on the Institute, storm troopers had visited it on several occasions and asked for Dr. Hirschfeld. When they were told that he was abroad, owing to an attack of malaria, they replied: ‘Then let's hope he'll die without our aid: then we shan't have to hang him or beat him to death.'

“On May 7th, the Berlin and foreign press reported the attack on the Sexual Science Institute, and the Executive Committee of the World League for Sexual Reform sent a telegraph of protest, pointing out that a considerable portion of the material was foreign property, and asking that it should at least not be burnt. No attention was paid to this telegram, which was addressed to the Minister of Education, and three days later all the books and photographs, together with a large number of other works, were burnt on the Opera square. More than ten thousand volumes from the special library of the Institute were destroyed. The students carried Dr. Hirschfeld's bust in their torchlight procession and threw it on the fire.”

The Nazi report described this “deed of culture” in the following terms:

Energetic Action Against a Poison Shop

German Students Fumigate the Sexual Science Institute

Detachment X of the German student organization yesterday occupied the ‘Sexual Science Institute,' which was controlled by the Jew Magnus Hirschfeld. This institute, which tried to shelter behind a scientific cloak and was always protected during the fourteen years of Marxist rule by the authorities of that period, was an unparalleled breeding-ground of dirt and filth, as the results of the search have proved beyond question. A whole lorry-load of pornographic pictures and writings as well as documents and registers have been confiscated.... The criminal police will have to deal with a part of the material found; another part of it will be publicly burnt.”-- (Angriff , May 6th, 1933.)

Source: The Brown Book of the Hitler Terror and the Burning of the Reichstag, Prepared by the World Committee for the Victims of German Fascism (London, Victor Gollancz, 1933), pp. 165-169.

Pictures: "Students and a brass band drew up in military formation in front of Dr.Hirschfeld's institute, then marched into the building with their band playing."

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