Ernst Burchard

Ernst Burchard (September 9, 1876 - February 5, 1920) was a German physician, sexologist, and gay rights advocate and author.

Burchard was born in Heilsberg (modern Lidzbark Warminski, Poland). He studied medicine in Tübingen, Würzburg and Kiel, taking his doctoral degree in 1900 with a dissertation on Einige Fälle von vorübergehender Glycosurie. After his study he started an own practice in Berlin and worked as doctor. In Berlin he met Magnus Hirschfeld and was a founder of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee with Magnus Hirschfeld, Georg Plock and baron von Teschenberg.

Burchard, who was gay, was a defender in several prosecutions of Paragraph 175 as doctor. He and Hirschfeld wrote several articles on sexology. In 1913, Burchard published his works as Zur Pychologie der Selbstbezichtigung and Der sexuelle Infantilismus, and in 1914 he published a book entitled Lexikon des gesamten Sexuallebens. Burchard also wrote lyric poems for the magazines Der Eigene and Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen, including the poem Vivat Fridericus. Burchard died on February 5, 1920 in Berlin and was buried on Luisenfriedhof.

Gay rights activism

Burchard had a successful career in medicine. After several years as a general practitioner in Berlin, he assisted Hirschfeld in starting the Scientific Humanitarian Committee with publisher Max Spohr, lawyer Eduard Oberg and writer Max von Bülow. The group aimed to undertake research to defend the rights of homosexuals and to repeal Paragraph 175, the section of the German penal code that had criminalized homosexuality since 1871. They argued that the law encouraged blackmail, and the motto of the Committee, "Justice through science", reflected Hirschfeld's belief that a better scientific understanding of homosexuality would eliminate hostility toward homosexuals. He was a tireless campaigner and became a well-known public figure.

Benedict Friedländer and some others left the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee and formed another group, the "Bund für männliche Kultur" or "Union for Male Culture", which however did not exist long. It argued that male-male love is a simple aspect of virile manliness rather than a special condition.

The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, under Hirschfeld's leadership, managed to gather over 5000 signatures from prominent Germans for a petition to overturn Paragraph 175. Signatories included Albert Einstein, Hermann Hesse, Käthe Kollwitz, Thomas Mann, Heinrich Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, August Bebel, Max Brod, Karl Kautsky, Stefan Zweig, Gerhart Hauptmann, Martin Buber, Richard von Krafft-Ebing and Eduard Bernstein.

The bill was brought before the Reichstag in 1898, but was only supported by a minority from the Social Democratic Party of Germany, prompting a frustrated Hirschfeld to consider the controversial strategy of "outing" - that is, forcing some of the prominent law-makers who had remained silent out of the closet. The bill continued to come before parliament, and eventually began to make progress in the 1920s before the takeover of the Nazi party obliterated any hopes for reform.



The German director Rosa von Praunheim made the film Der Einstein des Sex in 1999, based on the life of Magnus Hirschfeld.


See also

External links

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