Transgenders and Nazi Germany

The first true pioneer in the field of sex and gender was Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld was the first to coin two of the most popular terms to describe transgenderism: transvestism and then later, transsexualism.

Through his Institute of Sexology, Hirschfeld oversaw the first male-to-female sex reassignment surgery in 1920.

On May 6th, 1933, during the infamous “Night of the Long Knives,” Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute for Sexual Science was raided and destroyed by Nazis. Writings on sexology were burnt, clients and sexologists were persecuted. Hirschfeld, in exile, died two years later.

On November 11, 1933, the Hamburg City Administration asked the Head of Police to “pay special attention to transvestites” and to “deliver them to the concentration


Nazi Germany did not make distinctions between transvestites and transsexuals. Most of the time, Nazis referred to gender-atypical behavior as homosexual behavior. When they did consciously choose to distinguish between gays and transgenders, Nazi’s referred to all transgenders as “transvestites.” Indeed, 1938 the Institute of Forensic Medicine recommended that the “phenomena of transvestism” be “exterminated from public life.” The Institute went on to state, “draconian measures by the government against stubborn and hard-headed transvestites are … adequate.”


In Nazi Death Camps, interned homosexuals and transgenders were forced to wear upside-down pink triangles. On the 24th anniversary of the burning of the Hirschfeld’s Institute’s library, the post-Hitler German government upheld Nazi laws used to oppress the homosexual and transgender community stating that “homosexual acts unquestionably offended the moral feelings of the German people.”

Nazis burning Hirschfield Institute documents along with other books and materials that were deemed to be “un-German”


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