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  • Print publication year: 1999
  • Online publication date: July 2009

9 - ‘Homosexual’ men in Vienna, 1938


One of the first demonstrations of Nazi anti-homosexual politics was the ransacking and destruction of Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Research (Institut för Sexualwissenschaft) in Berlin. Its library was confiscated and a part of it was among the books burnt throughout Germany on 10 May 1933. In the torchlight procession which preceded the burning of the books, a student carried an impaled bust of Hirschfeld which had been taken from the Institute. At the same time all the existing organisations of the First German Homosexual Movement were dissolved.

From the middle of the nineteenth century homosexual men have been confronted with two types of authority: the judicial authority of the police and the courts; and the ‘scientific’ authority of medicine and psychiatry. Among those exercising the latter type of authority there have been those who have been primarily engaged in assisting the work of the state and judicial authorities, and others who have had the co-operation of homosexuals themselves.

As the work of Michel Foucault and others has shown, the use of the definition ‘homosexual’ from around 1869 onwards has been inextricably caught up with the attempt to establish control over homosexual desire. ‘The noisy entrance of homosexuality into the Weld of medical investigation’ was a consequence of its invention as a clinical condition.