GLR September-October 2022

honor of the river that runs through the city—but died at 48 of complications following her final surgery. Another patient, or client, at the Institute was the trans (probably intersex) German-Israeli author and social reformer Karl M. Baer (1885–1956). Having been raised as a girl, Baer was in his twenties when he met with Hirschfeld. In 1906, he became the first person to undergo sex reassignment surgery. The next year, he obtained a new birth certificate listing him as male. He was a social worker and advocate for women’s right to vote and to receive higher education, and he campaigned to end female trafficking. In 1938, he and his wife emigrated to Palestine, where he worked as an accountant, and he is buried in Tel Aviv under the name Karl Meir Baer. He had written a semi-fictional autobiography under the name “N. O. Body,” with the title Aus eines Mannes Maedchenjahren (“Memoirs of a Man’s Maiden Years”). This was adapted into the film Wer ist Nobody? (‘Who is No body?’), of which no copy seems to have survived the Nazi era. The Institute also funded the pro duction of the 1919 silent movie Dif ferent from the Others , which has been digitized and screened at various fes tivals in the last decade. Hirschfeld co wrote the screenplay with director Richard Oswald. The protagonist, Paul Koerner, was played by actor Conrad Veidt of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari fame. After trying “conversion therapy” through hypnosis, Koerner visits Hirschfeld at the Institute and describes his travails, only to be reassured that his orientation is per fectly natural and that he can live a fruitful life. But this is not to be. Though there are some moments of joy in the footage of drag queens, gay men, and lesbians partying, the film presents a grim vision of homosexual life, blighted by manipulation, blackmail, and sui cide. Hirschfeld’s intent was to demonstrate the plight of gay men due to Section 175 and to so cietal disapprobation. Indeed, the movie itself would soon be banned from public screening and could only be viewed at the Institute. § A S THE W EIMAR E RA fell increasingly under the spell of National Socialism, Hirschfeld and his friends were ever more at risk. He was set upon by right-wing thugs after giving a lecture in Mu nich in October 1920 and beaten so savagely that the newspapers reported his death. Since he was win ning fame abroad, he embarked upon a grand tour, arriving in New York in November 1930—not knowing then that he would never return to Germany. His American expedition was assisted by Dr. Harry Benjamin, a fellow German sexuality scientist and endocrinologist who would treat many trans pa tients in the U.S., particularly after the advent of synthetic hor mones. Hirschfeld spent six weeks in New York, socializing

with fellow luminaries such as Langston Hughes—and going to the bathhouses. It was on this tour that he was given the nickname “the Einstein of Sex,” though he soon realized that his audiences were less prepared to hear about sexual inter course and homosexuality than their German counterparts. He traveled all the way to California, his speech in the Dill Pickle Club in Chicago causing a scandal along the way. In what is sometimes called his “straight turn,” he geared his American lectures more toward the cultivation of romantic intimacy among heterosexual couples. Hirschfeld resolved to continue touring and went on to Japan and later to Shanghai, where he met Li Shui Tong, who became a second partner along with Karl Giese. (Tong and Giese became friends, but it’s not clear whether they were lovers.) Hirschfeld and Tong traveled on through In donesia, India, Egypt, and Palestine before ar riving in Greece and then moving to France. It was in a Paris cinema that Hirschfeld watched the newsreel footage of his archive—20,000 books, 35,000 photographic slides, and magazines, and thousands of files—being publicly burned in the center of Berlin on May 10, 1933, which marked Hitler’s 100th day in office. Ludwig Levy-Lenz, the gynecologist at the Sexual Science In stitute, another exile in Paris, later claimed that the Institute’s archive was targeted so early on because of the “intimate secrets” of Nazi Party members that may have been archived there. In 1935, on the day he turned 67, Hirschfeld died in his apartment in Nice. Giese’s French visa was revoked after he was arrested for “public indecency” at a Paris bathhouse, and he moved to what was then Czechoslovakia, dying by suicide in 1938. Tong, whom Hirschfeld called his “faithful disciple,” had hoped to continue Hirschfeld’s legacy but was ag grieved and restless. He studied medicine, then economics, in Zurich before enrolling for a time at Harvard and then returning to Switzerland, never completing a degree. During the homo phobic decades of the Cold War, he distanced himself from his past. He was contacted by the Berlin regional court about Hirschfeld’s prop erty and inheritance in 1958, but he wanted noth ing to do with the issue and vanished into solitude from then on. Tong died in his apartment in Vancouver in 1993, and his possessions ended up boxed up outside his home, where a fellow tenant discovered his last papers as well as the files and diaries of a man named Magnus Hirschfeld. A decade later, these items ended up in the possession of Ralf Dose, director of the Magnus Hirschfeld Society in Berlin. Aided by the resurgence of interest in LGBT history in recent decades, this discovery has led to a new appreciation of Hirschfeld as a courageous and innovative scholar who was way ahead—too far ahead, perhaps—of his times.

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