Archive for Sexology
In 1919, Hirschfeld was able to realize his greatest ambition and to found the world's first Institute for Sexology. It was housed in one of Berlin's finest buildings (a former residence of the famous violonist Joseph Joachim and later Prince Hatzfeld, the German ambassador to France), set up as a foundation, turned over and accepted by the government. This institute became the center of considerable research and therapeutic activity and soon gained recognition world-wide.
Reflecting the interdisciplinary approach of its founder, the institute was devoted to four major areas of research: sexual biology, sexual pathology (medicine), sexual sociology, and sexual ethnology. Its library housed over 20,000 volumes, 35,000 photographs, large numbers of objects and works of art. In addition, approximately 40,000 confessions and biographical letters were on file. The staff consisted of Hirschfeld himself, several colleagues, such as Felix Abraham, Bernhard Schapiro, the psychiatrist Arthur Kronfeld and the gynecologist Ludwig Levy-Lenz, an archivist, a librarian, four secretaries, and various assistants. Among the institute's many activities, three are especially noteworthy: (a) a large premarital counseling practice, the first of its kind in Germany, (b) regular public lectures and discussions on sexological topics, and (c) a medico-legal service for expert testimony, especially in criminal cases. In all of these areas, Hirschfeld also trained young scholars and scientists, such as Josef Hynie, later professor of sexology in Prague. Moreover, the institute had visitors from many countries, from Margaret Sanger and Harry Benjamin to Jawaharal Nehru, André Gide and the young Christopher Isherwood. In short, it was an important cultural asset not only for the city of Berlin but also for the whole country and, indeed, the world.
Three physicians who worked at Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexology
However, on May 6, 1933, a little more than 3 months after Hitler had come to power, the institute was ransacked by a Nazi mob and its books and papers publicly burned. This surprisingly early attack on sexology has led to speculation as to its motives. The antisemitic impulse was, of course, obvious, but Levy-Lenz, who had been on the staff at the time, later ascribed the official vandalism to the fact that many prominent Nazis had been patients and that the institute "knew too much" about the party leadership.
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