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Magnus Hirschfeld – a life in objects, books & documents

6. December 2011 – 31. March 2012

Photos from India, a suitcase from Hong Kong, a guest book from France, crockery from Berlin and a passport from 1928 – the Schwules Museum (gay museum) is showing all these objects and many more from 7 December 2011 to March 2012 in the permanent exhibition space.

This exhibition is the outcome of many years of research by the Magnus Hirschfield Society carried out on the former Institute for Sexual Research (Institut für Sexualwissenschaft) and the estate of its founder and director, Magnus Hirschfeld (1868 – 1935). In May 1933 the institute was looted and shut down by the Nazis. Hirschfeld died soon afterwards in exile in Nizza in 1935. The exhibition shows objects from three large lots that the Magnus Hirschfeld Society has acquired and received as gifts in the last ten years:

The first part comes from the estate of Li Shiu Tong (1907 – 1933) who was Hirschfeld’s last partner. After his death he lived in Zürich, Hong Kong and finally settled in Vancouver where he died in 1993. Fortunately the photographer Adam Smith managed to save a suitcase full of objects found in the rubbish of the apartment block where Li lived.

The second lot comes from the estate of Hirschfield that was looked after by his great-nephew Ernst Maass (1914 – 1975) immediately after his death in Nizza. Maas kept a large amount of Hirschfield’s personal documents such as his Abitur certificate from Kolberg, his licence to practise and his passport as well as many letters he had exchanged with his family.

Objects belonging to Adelheid Schulz (1909 – 2008) form a third focus of the exhibition. From 1928 to 1933 Schulz was responsible for catering in the Institute for Sexual Research and was present during the looting by the Nazis on the 6th May 1933. She kept many letters and photos from her time at the institute as well as some crockery which she managed to save from the grasp of the Nazis.

Also on display is a research copy of Magnus Hirschfield’s guest book used by Dr Marita Keilson-Lauritz. The original of the guest book is kept in the German Literature Archive in Marbach. It contains almost 300 entries which read as a who’s who of important cultural figures of the early 20th Century.

On the occasion of the exhibition opening on the 6th December, general director of the Central State Library of Berlin, Professor Claudia Lux, presented the Magnus Hirschfeld Society with a copy of Gustav Jäger’s ‘Mein System’ as a permanent loan. After 1945 the book was found in the Berlin state library. Now after research into goods stolen by the Nazis during the war it has been confirmed that it was originally in the library of the institute.

Curator: Dr. Jens Dobler