Scientific Humanitarian Committee

Scientific-Humanitarian Committee

The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK) was founded in Berlin on the 14th or 15th of May, 1897, to campaign for social recognition of homosexual and transgender men and women, and against their legal persecution. It was the first such organisation in history.

History

It produced the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen (Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types). This, as well as reporting the committee's activities, carried articles of scientific, polemical and literary natures. It was publish regularly from 1899 to 1923 (sometimes even quarterly) and more sporadically until 1933.

The initial focus of the WhK was Paragraph 175 of the Imperial Penal Code, which criminalized "coitus-like" acts between males — the WhK assisted defendants in criminal trials, conducted public lectures, and gathered signatures on a petition for the repeal of the law. Signatories included Albert Einstein, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Leo Tolstoy. Petitions were submitted to parliament, in 1898, 1922 and 1925, but failed to gain the support of the parliament, and the law continued to criminalise all male-male sexual acts until 1969 and wasn't entirely removed until 1994.

Original members of the WhK included physician Magnus Hirschfeld, publisher Max Spohr, lawyer Eduard Oberg and writer Max von Bülow. Adolf Brand, Benedict Friedländer, and Kurt Hiller also joined the organisation. In 1929, Hiller took over as chairman of the group from Hirschfeld. At its peak, the WhK had about 500 members, and branches in approximately 25 cities in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands.

The committee was dissolved in 1933 when the Nazis destroyed the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin where the WhK was based.

Reformation attempts

On October 1949, Hans Giese joined with Hermann Weber (1882–1955), head of the Frankfurt local group from 1921 to 1933, to reëstablish the group in Kronberg. Kurt Hiller worked with them briefly, but stopped due to personal differences after a few months. The group was dissolved in late 1949 or early 1950 and instead formed the Committee for Reform of the Sexual Criminal Laws (Gesellschaft für Reform des Sexualstrafrechts e. V.), which existed until 1960.

In 1962 in Hamburg, Hiller, who had survived Nazi concentration camps and continued to fight against anti-homosexual repression, tried unsuccessfully to re-establish the WhK.

The new WhK

In 1998, a new group was formed with the same name. Growing out of a group to support politician Volker Beck in that year's election, it is similar in name and general subject matter only, and takes more radical positions than the conservative LSVD. In 2001, its magazine Gigi: magazine for sexual emancipation ( Gigi - Zeitschrift für sexuelle Emanzipation) was given a special award by the German association of Lesbian and Gay Journalists (Bundes Lesbischer und Schwuler JournalistInnen).

References

See also

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