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Brand, Adolf (1874-1945)  
 
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Der Eigene

Der Eigene began in 1896 as an anarchist journal reflecting the ideas of the egoist philosopher Max Stirner, but was openly homosexual from 1898 until its demise in 1932. Although it experienced various interruptions, due mostly to police interventions, and several changes in subtitles (the first eight volumes had eight different subtitles), the journal is among the most significant publications of the early German homosexual rights movement.

Sponsor Message.

The title of the journal requires explanation. The German word eigen is ambiguous, but in his brilliant 1907 English translation of Stirner's 1844 book Der Einzige und sein Eigentum, Steven T. Byington notes that Stirner uses the word eigen "in a way that German dictionaries do not quite recognize." He translated it "own," and translated Eigenheit as "self-ownership," a phrase that captures the individualistic nature of Stirner's philosophy.

In the very first issue of Der Eigene, dated April 1, 1896, Brand declared, "This journal is dedicated to eigen people, such people as are proud of their Eigenheit and wish to maintain it at any price." That he understood these words in Stirner's sense of "self-ownership" was confirmed in 1920, when he wrote: "Whoever has always attentively read the leading articles of the journal long since knows of course that Der Eigene stands on the basis of individualist anarchism and that for it the weltanschauung of Max Stirner and Friedrich Nietzsche is the great working program of the future. For Der Eigene represents the right of personal freedom and the sovereignty of the individual to the furthest consequence."

As a homosexual journal, Der Eigene experienced constant difficulties with censorship. The extent to which censorship dogged the journal was amusingly illustrated in 1903 when the state attorney accused a poem entitled "Friendship" of being "obscene." When it was pointed out at trial that the poem was by the classic author Friedrich von Schiller, the court concluded: "It is self-evident that with the poem Schiller did not wish to describe a homosexual love. But the reader of the journal recognizes immediately that the poem is by Schiller from the author's name printed under it. A misunderstanding of the poem on the part of the reader is therefore excluded from the beginning." Apparently, "Our Schiller" could not have written anything indecent!

During the period of the German Empire, Der Eigene was the only journal that published what could be called "gay literature." Later, during the Weimar Republic following World War I, there were competitors, especially in Berlin, with greater circulations.

Gemeinschaft der Eigenen

In part because of the constant threat that the journal would be confiscated or charged with obscenity, Brand founded the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen in 1903 as a kind of closed readers' circle. It was hoped that if he could argue that the journal was published for a particular group, then it would be exempt from censorship.

This ploy was not successful initially, but in 1905, with the testimony in court of some friendly expert witnesses, Der Eigene was officially recognized as an "artistic journal" and was thereafter somewhat less vulnerable to harassment by censors.

Contributors to Der Eigene

Among well-known authors who published in Der Eigene were Erich Mühsam, Kurt Hiller, and John Henry Mackay (under the pseudonym Sagitta). In addition, the giants of world literature who had been appropriated in the cause of the gay movement were also represented, including Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Walt Whitman, Hans Christian Andersen, August von Platen, and many others.

Well-known artists whose work appeared in Der Eigene included the photographer Wilhelm von Gloeden and Fidus (pen name of Hugo Höppener, 1868-1948), whose most popular work, "Lichtgebet" (Prayer to Light), became an icon of the Life Reform Movement, a group that promoted the attainment of a healthier life by liberation from overcrowded urban dwellings, reform of diet, outdoor exercise, and nudism. His drawings appeared in Der Eigene as early as 1898 and were included in the state prosecutor's accusations of obscenity in 1903. Sascha Schneider, who illustrated the books of Karl May, one of Germany's most popular authors of all time, also contributed to Der Eigene.

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