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social sciences

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Anna Vock, Karl Meier and Der Kreis

Anna Vock (1885-1962) was one of Switzerland's leading gay and lesbian rights activists. In 1931 she helped establish the women's social organization "Amicitia" ("Friendship"), with the purpose of bringing lesbians out of their isolation and giving them a sense of solidarity.

In 1932 she collaborated on the homophile publication Freundschafts-Banner (Banner of Friendship), which was renamed Menschenrecht (Human Rights) in 1937, and later became Der Kreis (The Circle), under the direction of the actor and editor Karl Meier (1897-1974). This journal was one of the most important, regularly-issued gay and lesbian publications in Europe until it ceased publication in 1967.

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Although Vock had used her real name in early articles in the journal, it was soon decided that all articles should be published under an assumed name. Vock began publishing under the name "Mammina" (Italian for "Little Mother").

Meier first appeared in the journal in 1934, under the name R. Rheiner (he was born Rudolf Carl Rheiner and later adopted by Thomas and Wilhelmine Meier). He also used the names Gaston Dubois and, later, Rolf.

Vock increasingly gave Meier greater responsibilities for the publication, but remained responsible for the women's pages. In 1943 the journal began incurring financial difficulties and Meier took over the editorship, renaming the periodical Der Kreis.

Meier had worked closely with Vock and remained one of her greatest admirers. They stayed in regular contact with one another until Vock's death in Zurich on December 14, 1962. Meier concluded his obituary for Vock, published in Der Kreis, with the words: "Farewell, Mammina. Your name will forever remain bound with our cause in Switzerland. You prepared the ground on which we must build. We hope we shall succeed."

That issue also contained a pseudonymously-published note of thanks from the woman who was Vock's companion for some five decades. The identity of Vock's companion is still unknown.

With the decriminalization of homosexuality in Switzerland in 1942, Der Kreis steadily became less militant and concentrated more on cultural issues. It also became trilingual, with articles appearing in German, French, and English.

In the 1960s, readership of Der Kreis declined when new, more liberal gay periodicals, often with photographs of frontal male nudity, began appearing from Germany and Scandinavia. The journal finally ceased publication in 1967.

Meier died in Zurich on March 29, 1974.

Switzerland's GLBTQ Organizations and Pride Events

Pink Cross, the national Swiss glbtq rights organization, works on behalf of the glbtq community regarding legal equality and social justice. The organization was founded on June 5, 1993 and currently has offices in Berne and Geneva. It is funded exclusively by contributions from its members.

Geneva is the home of several other glbtq groups. Lestime is the city's major lesbian organization. Dialogai is the oldest gay organization in Geneva and has been a central hub for Geneva's gay community since 1982. Dialogai is also home to Checkpoint, a testing center where gay men can get tested anonymously for HIV and other STDs.

The Gay International Group (GIG) is the only glbtq organization in Switzerland solely dedicated to expatriate gays and glbtq tourists. The group was founded in 1994 and offers a range of cultural and sporting events, as well as an informal meeting space.

Zurich has two annual glbtq pride events: the Christopher Street Day parade, held in mid-June, and the three-day Zurich Pride Festival, in early August. The Pride Festival is the largest annual glbtq event in Switzerland. The event culminates with a city-wide parade, and attracts thousands of visitors with exhibitions, political debates, seminars, and many other activities.

The Warmer Mai Gay Festival, also held in Zurich, throughout the month of May, features a range of activities and events, including art exhibitions, sporting tournaments, dance workshops, cabarets, and theme parties, which take place in the city's many bars and clubs. The idea behind the Festival is to encourage the public to see, hear, and experience the wide diversity of cultural works by gay men and lesbians. Warmer Mai was first held in 2000 and has grown to become one of the most important Swiss cultural events of the year.

The Warmer Mai Festival is host to the annual glbtq film festival, Pink Apple, held at the beginning of May in Zurich and Frauenfeld. The film festival owes its name to its origins in 1997 in the neighboring city of Frauenfeld, the home of Switzerland's apples. The festival screens films of all genres and lengths about gay, lesbian, bisexual, or issues.

The city of Berne is also the host of the Queersicht Gay and Lesbian Film Festival, held each year in November.

Craig Kaczorowski

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social sciences >> Overview:  Austria

A small German-speaking country in middle Europe, Austria is now home to a thriving glbtq subculture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Denmark

Denmark has a reputation for sexual liberation, tolerance, and progressive social policy in regards to glbtq issues.

social sciences >> Overview:  Domestic Partnerships

"Domestic partnership" is the generic term for a variety of forms of legal and institutional recognition of same-sex couples that fall short of same-sex marriage.

social sciences >> Overview:  Finland

Like other Nordic countries, Finland is liberal in regards to gay rights, though it has been slower than its neighbors to assure glbtq equality.

social sciences >> Overview:  France

France, the second largest nation in Western Europe, has a rich, if markedly ambivalent, relationship to glbtq people and cultures.

literature >> Overview:  German and Austrian Literature: Before the Nineteenth Century

The treatment of homosexuality in German and Austrian literature was largely negative until the eighteenth century, when the basis was laid for the development of a more positive attitude.

social sciences >> Overview:  Germany

While Germany, until recently, never officially accepted or welcomed members of the glbtq community, German culture and homosexuality have a long and significant history.

social sciences >> Overview:  Iceland

In recent decades, gay men and lesbians in Iceland have made significant legal advances, but life continues to be difficult for glbtq people outside the capital.

social sciences >> Overview:  Nazism and the Holocaust

As part of its agenda to preserve an "Aryan master race," Nazism persecuted homosexuals as "asocial parasites"; more than 100,000 men were arrested on homosexual charges during the Nazi years, with 5,000-15,000 gay men incarcerated in concentration camps.

social sciences >> Overview:   Norway

Like most Scandinavian countries, Norway respects glbtq rights, and Norwegians are broadly tolerant of homosexuals.

social sciences >> Overview:  Roman Catholicism

Historically, the Roman Catholic Church may be the institution most responsible for the suffering of individuals involved in same-sex sexual relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Same-Sex Marriage

Lesbian and gay couples have been fighting for the freedom to marry since the dawn of the modern glbtq struggle for equality; despite some success abroad, progress toward same-sex marriage in the United States has been slow.

social sciences >> Overview:  Sweden

A liberal and democratic kingdom, Sweden has a reputation for sexual openness, yet it maintains a law that punishes buyers of sex from prostitutes.

arts >> Fuseli, Henry

Swiss-born Henry Fuseli spent most of his life in England, where he established a reputation as an artist of great originality and where he painted pictures of both heterosexual and homosexual subjects.

literature >> Gray, Thomas

Thomas Gray, the best-loved English poet of the eighteenth century, wrote several poems that express the love he felt for other men.

literature >> Hössli, Heinrich

Nineteenth-century Swiss milliner and anthologist Heinrich Hössli was a passionate apologist for homosexuality, but his work exerted almost no influence.

arts >> Mann, Erika

Writer, actress, and intellectual refugee from the Third Reich, Erika Mann was one of the twentieth century's most intriguing nonconformists, noted especially for her anti-fascist cabaret satire.

literature >> Mann, Klaus

Klaus Mann's vision of homosexuality is marked by loneliness and alienation, and his fiction is characterized by melancholic hopelessness.

literature >> Meier, Karl

Swiss actor, cabaret performer, and stage director Karl Meier was, under the pseudonym "Rolf," editor of Der Kreis, the leading European homophile publication, from 1943 until its demise in 1967.

social sciences >> Pink Triangle

Originally a mark of criminalization and persecution under the Nazis, the pink triangle was later reclaimed by gays both as a memorial and as a celebration of sexual identity.

literature >> Schwarzenbach, Annemarie

Swiss writer and photojournalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach documented social conditions from Afghanistan to Alabama; her fiction reflected the tormented attachments and recurring loneliness that plagued her short lifetime.

arts >> Sekula, Sonja

Swiss-born artist Sonja Sekula created small-scale abstract images with profound emotional power.

literature >> Vock, Anna

Activist and editor Anna Vock pioneered in organizing lesbians and gay men in Switzerland in the 1930s.


Baur, François E. "At the End of the Fairy Tale, Will Heidi Stay Single? Same-Sex Partnerships in Switzerland." The Legal Recognition of Same-Sex Partnerships: A Study of National, European and International Law. Mads Andenas and Robert Wintemute, eds. London: Hart Publishing, 2001. 531-48.

"First Same-sex Union Registered in Switzerland." Swissinfo (January 2, 2007):

Glueck, Grace. "A Golden Girl Escaping into Infinity." New York Times (September 20, 1996): C26.

Kennedy, Hubert. "Meier, Karl." Who's Who in Contemporary Gay and Lesbian History: From World War II to the Present Day. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. London: Routledge, 2002. 272.

Maidment, Ian. "Fuseli, Henry." Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to World War II. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. London: Routledge, 2001. 172-73.

Merin, Yuval. Equality for Same-Sex Couples: The Legal Recognition of Gay Partnerships in Europe and the United States. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002.

"Parliament Gives Its Blessing to Gay Couples." Swissinfo (June 3, 2004):

Simes, Gary. "Hössli, Heinrich." Who's Who in Gay and Lesbian History from Antiquity to World War II. Robert Aldrich and Garry Wotherspoon, eds. London: Routledge, 2001. 214-16.


    Citation Information
    Author: Kaczorowski, Craig  
    Entry Title: Switzerland  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2008  
    Date Last Updated January 29, 2008  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2008 glbtq, Inc.  


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