Above photo: Nazi organized student protest march outside the Institute for Sexual Science, Berlin Germany, May 1933
The Coming of the Third Reich
by Richard Evans
[Chapter: The Failure of Democracy / page 127-128]
After 1918, women were enfranchised and able to vote and stand for election at every level from local councils up to the Reichstag. They were formally given the right to enter the major professions, and the part they played in public life was far more prominent than it had been before the war. Correspondingly, the hostility of those male supremacists who believed that women's place was in the home now won a much wider hearing. Their disapproval was reinforced by the far more open display of sexuality than before the war in the liberated atmosphere of the big cities. Even more shocking to conservatives was the public campaigning for gay rights by individuals such as Magnus Hirschfeld, founder of the harmless-sounding Scientific-Humanities Committee, in 1897. In fact, Hirschfeld was openly homosexual, and in numerous publications propagated the controversial idea that homosexuals were a 'third sex' whose orientation was the product of congenital rather than environmental factors. His Committee was dedicated to the abolition of Paragraph 175 of the Reich Criminal Code, which outlawed 'indecent activity' between adult males. What aroused the wrath of conservatives was the fact that in 1919 the Social Democratic state government of Prussia gave Hirschfeld a large grant to convert his informal Committee into a state-funded Institute for Sexual Science, with its premises in the grand Tiergarten district in the centre of the capital city. The Institute offered sex counseling, held popular question-and-answer sessions on topics like 'what is the best way to have sex without making a baby?' and campaigned for the reform of all the laws regulating sexual behaviour. Hirschfeld quickly built up a wide range of international contacts, organized in the World League for Sexual Reform, of which his Institute was the effective headquarters in the 1920's. He was the driving force behind the spread of public and private birth control and sex counselling clinics in the Weimar Republic. Not surprisingly, he was repeatedly villified by the Nationalists and the Nazis, whose attempt to tighten up the law still further, with the support of the Centre Party, was narrowly defeated by the votes of the Communists, Social Democrats and Democrats on the Criminal Law Reform Committee of the Reichstag in 1929.
Centre Party or Zentrumspartei was a German Catholic political party active during the Weimar Republic. Dissolved as a result of the ratification of the July 1933 Reichskonkordat (Concordat, agreement between the Holy See and Nazi Germany) which granted the Catholic Church certain privileges, but also curtailed political activity (including a ban on political parties) by the Church. (Re-established 1945) see Wiki entry for additional details.
Nationalist hostility was driven by more than crude moral conservatism. Germany had lost 2 million men in the war, and yet the birth rate was still in rapid decline. Between 1900 and 1925, live births per thousand married women under the age of 45 fell very sharply indeed, from 280 to 146. Laws restricting the sale of condoms were eased in 1927, and by the early 1930's there were more than 1,600 vending machines in public places, with one Berlin firm alone producing 25 million condoms a year. Sex counselling centres were opened, offering contraceptive advice, and many of these, like Hirschfeld's Institute, were funded or in some cases actually operated by the Prussian and other regional governments, to the outrage of moral conservatives. Abortion was far more controversial, not least because of the serious medical risks it entailed, but here, too, the law was relaxed, and the offence reduced in 1927 from a felony to a [page 129] misdemeanour. The thundering denunciation of birth control by the Papal Encyclical Casti Connubii in December 1930 added fuel to the flames, and in 1931 some 1,500 rallies and demonstrations were held in a massive Communist campaign against the evils of backstreet abortions.
[Chapter: Bringing Germany Into Line / page 375-376]
On the morning of 6 May 1933, a group of vans pulled up outside Dr Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Science in the smart Tiergarten district of Berlin. Out of them leapt students from the Berlin School for Physical Education, members of the National Socialist German Students' League. They drew up in military formation, then, while some of them took out their trumpets and tubas and started to play patriotic music, the others marched into the building. Their intentions were clearly unfriendly. Hirschfeld's Institute was well known in Berlin, not only for its championing of causes such as legalization of homosexuality and abortion, and for its popular evening classes in sexual education, but also for its comprehensive collection of books and manuscripts on sexual topics, built up by the director since before the turn of the century. By 1933 it housed between 12,000 and 20,000 books - estimates vary - and an even larger collection of photographs on sexual subjects. The Nazi students who stormed into the Institute on 6 May 1933 proceeded to pour red ink over books and manuscripts, played football with framed photographs, leaving the floor covered in shards of broken glass, and ransacked the cupboards and drawers, throwing their contents onto the floor. Four days later, more vans arrived, this time with stormtroopers carrying baskets, into which they piled as many books and manuscripts as they could and took them out onto the Opera Square. Here they stacked them up in a gigatic heap and set light to them. About 10,000 books are said to have been consumed in the conflagration. As the fire burned into the evening, the students carried a bust of the Institute's director into the Square and threw it into the flames. Told that the [page 376] 65 year old Hirschfeld was abroad recovering from an illness, the stormtroopers said: 'The hopefully he'll snuff it without us; then we won't need to string him up or beat him to death.'
(Noted curio: Dood wearing sweater vest in photo above. Just sayin')
[Page 376] (bold emphasis in paragraph is mine)
Wisely, Hirschfeld did not return to Germany. While the Nazi press reported triumphantly on the 'Energetic Action against a Poison Shop' and announced that 'German students fumigate the Sexual Science Institute' run by 'the Jew Magnus Hirschfeld', the venerable sex reformer and champion of homosexual rights remained in France, where he died suddenly on his sixty-seventh birthday, on 14 May 1935. The destruction of his Institute was only one part, if the most spectacular of a far more wide-ranging assault on what the Nazis portrayed as the Jewish movement to subvert the German family. Sex and procreation were to be indissolubly linked, at least for the racially approved. The Nazis moved with the approval of conservatives and Catholics alike to destroy every branch of Weimar Germany's lively and intricately interconnected congeries of pressure-groups for sexual freedom, the reform of of the abortion law, the decriminalization of homosexuality, the public dispensing of contraceptive advice and anything else that they thought was contributing to the continued decline of the German birth rate. Sex reformers like like the Freudian Wilhelm Reich or the long-time campaigner for abortion reform Helene Stocker were forced into exile, their organizations and clinics closed down or taken over by the Nazis.
[Page 377] (bold emphasis in paragraph is mine)
On 1 March 1933 a new decree on health insurance had legitimated closure of state-funded health advice clinics across the land, enforced during the following weeks by gangs of brownshirts. Doctors and staff were thrown out onto the streets; many, particularly if they were Jewish, went into exile. The Nazis argued that the entire system of social medicine developed by the Weimar state was geared towards preventing the reproduction of the strong on the one hand, and shoring up the families of the weak on the other.
Now, does any of that sound like something President Obama would approve? How about an unhinged potty stool croaker like Andrew Breitbart or some sweater vest falangist scrubby-dub wearing a Rick Santorum for President armband? Randall Terry says he's running for the Dem nomination against Obama. How come the Catholic Bishops or a yammering air-head like Sean Hannity haven't clamoured aboard the Randall Terry for President incubator? At least for a photo op. How can the Right Wing Uteri Police in the RNC remain silent as the DNC aborts Randall Terry's presidential bid in it's prenatal womb?! What would Neal Horsley do?!!!!!!!!!
Or this this screeching nut:
Appearing on a webcast hosted by the conservative Family Research Council, Walker Nickless, the Bishop of Diocese of Sioux City, Iowa, warned the Obama administration’s new contraception policy is the work of “the devil,” who “wants to silence the [Catholic] Church’s voice.” During the interview, first flagged by Right Wing Watch, Nickless said, “The power of evil, the devil, is certainly looking everywhere where the power of evil can make a difference.” “And that’s why we’ve got to stand up and violently oppose this,” he added, “we cannot let darkness overshadow us.”
Given all the recent sturm und drang over access to contraceptives and reproductive health care - coming (excuse the pun) from excitable right wing media dickheads and pols as well as elitist Catholic clerical bureaucrats who want to stand between you and your health care needs in the name of religious liberty - I don't think it's too much to ask that any further comparisons to the actions of Nazis also includes a mention of the May 1933 raid on the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin Germany.
The Catholic Church in Germany may have had its differences with the Nazis on a variety of issues (mainly preserving the religious autonomy of the Catholic Church) but gay rights and access to birth control and information on sexual and reproductive freedom wasn't (at least as far as the Catholic Church was concerned) included in that pastoral calling. Certainly not in the Spring of 1933.