Respected ladies and gentlemen take heed

“Respected ladies and gentlemen take heed. The time will come
when such tragedies will be no more. For knowledge will conquer
prejudice, truth will conquer lies, and love will triumph over
hatred.”
Magnus Hirschfeld as Doctor  in Anders als die Andern
(Different from the others, 1919)

anders als die andern

The tragedies to which the doctor is referring are homosexual men who
commit suicide because of society’s ignorance and bigotry – and because of
Paragraph 175, which is the subheading of the movie.

The movie was made by director Richard Oswald and sexologist Magnus
Hirschfeld and is both a narrative – with the story of the violinist Körner
falling for his student, Skinner, and being blackmailed – and a sort of
educational film. Hirschfeld’s character, who is also a sexologist, both advices
Körner on how to handle his sexuality and holds lectures on sexology.
He tells his audience that “nature is boundless in its creations” and shows pictures
of same sex couples, cross-dressers and transgender- and intersex individuals.

The movie ends with Hirschfeld’s motto (yes, he was a sexologist who had a
motto): Through knowledge to justice!

The first time I saw this movie, I was in a period going through old movies with
queer themes – I watched The courtship of the Sun and Moon, Children’s
Hour, Mädchen in Uniform and Anders als du und ich. There are a lot of
interesting and ahead-of-their-time films out there, but Anders als die Andern
still stands out to me thanks to both the production year – freaking 1919! – and
the straight forwardness and pretty good understanding of all sorts of deviation
from society’s norms about gender and sexuality (that is, it doesn’t only mention
and accept love between two clearly identified males, and draw a line for
progressiveness there).

No wonder the Nazis tried to have all copies of it burned in the 30s…

Paul und Kurt

Also, there is Conrad Veidt being his usual handsome self (well, maybe
he wasn’t so handsome in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari…).

It’s both exciting and depressing to watch. Exciting – because hey, look at these
people being normal and open-minded almost a century back – and depressing –
because, hey, look at people being hateful and close-minded almost a century
later… Also because hey, kind of depressing story. Hey.

Regardless of the emotional response, it’s an interesting watch, and a rather
unique piece of history. And if you’re not yet convinced this is the right way to
spend your Saturday night, just look at this quote:

“You must not condemn your son because he is a homosexual,
he is not to blame
for his orientation. It is not wrong, nor
should it be a crime. Indeed, it is not even
an illness, merely a
variation, and one that is common to all of
nature.”

ps. Apparently Albert Einsten signed a petition by Hirschfeld’s
Scientific-Humanitarian Committee to have paragraph 175 overturned.
I think that’s kind of cool.

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