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social sciences

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Richard von Krafft-Ebing (1840-1902), while accepting the concept of homosexuality as innate, believed that the condition reflected a state of degeneracy and inferiority, though he later modified these views. Still later, Sigmund Freud (1856-1939) argued for a combination of nature and nurture as cause of the homosexual condition. Freud posited that all people possessed some potential for homosexual feelings and that adult homosexuals were individuals whose development into heterosexuality became arrested in a phase of same-sex orientation.

Wilhelmine Germany

Wilhelmine Germany (1870-1918) witnessed the development of homosexual relationships in a hothouse atmosphere of militaristic masculinity. The relationships of many prominent men of influence in the German Empire combined adherence to the outward trappings of militarism, marriage, and manhood with refined, aristocratic sensibilities. These men included Friedrich Krupp, the richest industrialist in Germany, General Count Kuno von Moltke, military commandant of Berlin, and Prince Philip zu Eulenburg, ambassador to Vienna and the "bosom friend" of Kaiser Wilhelm.

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Homosexuality extended to royalty as well. The Kaiser's second son, Eitel Fritz, even after his marriage to a Danish Princess, never foreswore his love of handsome soldiers. Flamboyant King Ludwig II of Bavaria (1845-1886), whose sponsorship of Richard Wagner and expensive castle-building campaign left Germany richer in music and architecture, also indulged his predilection for working-class men to the immense discomfort of his royal court. The scandals following the exposure of Krupp, Eulenburg, Moltke, and others in the early twentieth century prompted Kaiser Wilhelm's government to enforce Paragraph 175 more stringently.

With many of his closest advisors discredited by accusations of homosexuality, the Kaiser came to rely more on his military leaders. Prussian militarism culminated in Germany's involvement in a disastrous war in which over 3 million German men were killed and an additional 4 million wounded.

The Weimar Republic

Adolf Brand (1874-1945) and Magnus Hirshfeld (1868–1935), two pioneers in the movement to repeal Paragraph 175, suffered serious setbacks in the wake of the von Moltke and Eulenburg scandals and renewed governmental pressure. They persisted, however, even during World War I. Indeed, the day before Germany surrendered and the Kaiser abdicated, Hirschfeld appeared with other speakers before a crowd of five thousand in the heart of Berlin to demand governmental reform.

The Weimar Republic (1918-1933), which replaced the monarchy, initially appeared to foster better conditions for Germany's glbtq community. Berlin soon gained a reputation as one of the "gayest" cities in Europe.

Publications oriented to the glbtq community proliferated, thanks to the greater freedom of expression the press enjoyed. Gay theater and film developed. Dance halls, nightclubs, bars, and cabarets flourished in the heady atmosphere of newly acquired freedom. The movement to repeal Paragraph 175 gained momentum. Although the emancipation movement was dominated by men, at least two women were prominent in it, Anna Rüling and Johanna Elberskirchen, both of whom were associated with Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Science. Established in 1919, the Institute became an important center for the study of sexuality and amassed an impressive library.

The Weimar Republic may be the first period in which a visible lesbian culture was developed. In specialized bars and other gathering places, and through a number of publications and organizations, lesbians created a thriving subculture, especially in Berlin, but in other German cities as well.

In his novels, memoirs, and diaries, Christopher Isherwood masterfully conveys the giddy mood of interwar Berlin, but also suggests the shadow of doom that tinged the city's gaiety.

Indeed, the period of freedom proved to be all too brief. Despite the government's apparent willingness to forego its enforcement, Paragraph 175 remained on the books. In the tumultuous atmosphere of the following decades, after Hitler came to power, this law would prove to be disastrous for Germany's glbtq citizens.

In addition to its flowering of gay and lesbian culture, the Weimar Republic witnessed other remarkable transformations. Stripped of all colonies and even a significant portion of her lands in Europe, Germany bore the weight of immense war reparations. Germany's new government could not control the inflation of its currency; from January 1918 when the U.S. dollar purchased 5.21 marks, the currency devalued in 1923 to the point where a U.S. dollar purchased 4,200,000,000,000.00 marks. The economic chaos added to the humiliation and disillusionment that the country felt as a result of the loss of World War I.

Weimar Germany experienced a polarization between liberals who pushed ahead without offering solid plans or explanations of Germany's problems and conservatives who appealed to strong emotions in calling for a return to Germany's former glory. The latter emphasized nationalism and sought scapegoats to explain Germany's humiliating losses.

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