Holocaust Memorial Day 

Something I wrote last year but is eternally relevant.


Today is the Israeli Holocaust Memorial Day, and I would like to talk about the Nazi book burning.

The first and largest book burning, the one pictured right here, is quite well known, but what's less well known is that 20000 out of the 25000 books burned that night came from Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute of Sex Research library.

Magnus Hirschfeld was a key promoter of LGBTQ rights.

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Holocaust Memorial Day 

... With the huge amount of knowledge he gathered from all over the world he managed to disprove the Freudian ideas of sexuality and gender nonconformism and definitively show that neither was a form of mental illness, and that the distress experienced by most LGBTQ people is best relieved with acceptance and gender reaffirming care. Hirschfeld campaigned for the removal of the archaic Paragraph 175 of the German penal code that criminalised homosexuality,

Holocaust Memorial Day 

... and even gave "medical slips" allowing trans people to wear the clothes that fit their gender without being harassed by police.

The Nazis could not stand any of that. On May 6th 1933, the Nazi student union broke into the institute, yelling "burn Hirschfeld!", destroying property and assaulting the present staff. Later that day the SA emptied the library in preparation for the book burning Goebbels orchestrated for later that week.

Holocaust Memorial Day 

Hirschfeld himself was lucky to be in Athens that day, refusing to come back to Germany after his World Tour fearing Hitler and Hindenburg alike, otherwise his fate might have been not unlike his books.

LGBTQ people were extremely unpopular among the German right. Marking them and their writing as "un-German" was a precursor to do Jews the same. Following the success of the book burning on May 10th, countless more books were destroyed.

Holocaust Memorial Day 

The writings of Freud, Einstein and others were all but gone from Germany.

"Where they burn books, they will ultimately burn people" said Heine, correctly. Let us remember though that book burnings often begin with silencing science, especially when that science comes to support the weakest, most vulnerable and hated people in society.


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