How the Nazis destroyed the queer and transgender culture of Berlin

Jack Molay
3 min readMar 11


Given the current anti-trans hysteria found among TERFs and the far right, it is important to remember the history of the LGBTQ community. Berlin had once a thriving queer culture, with a research institute that studied and helped queer and transgender people.

Michael Lombardi-Nash has taken the time to translate all the central works of the German LGBTQ movement before the Nazi takeover, including the researcher and activis Magnus Hirschfeld’s research on gay and trans people.

Why is this important? Because that anti-trans movement is trying to get people to believe that being transgender is a new thing. It is not, and the texts and stories from Germany in the early 20th century prove it.

Magnus Hirschfeld was a gay activist, feminist, scientist and founder of the Institute for Sexual Research in Berlin (1919–1933). His support for both gay and trans people was radical and innovative.

The institute was essential in the LGBTQ struggle of the time, and his thinking continue to influence our understanding of queer and trans lives.

Magnus is the one with the glasses in the photo above.

In 1933 the Nazis took over Germany, and they started attacking the LGBTQ community straight away. They sacked Hirschfeld’s institute, arguing that being gay or trans was against Germanic ideals. They burned most of the institute’s book collection.

As you can see from the photo below, some of the posters they destroyed are of Lili Elbe, a Danish painter and trans woman who got gender-affirming surgery in Berlin.

“Far be it from me to want to turn to fascism,” a French councilor said before the war, “but…we have to agree that in some things those regimes have sometimes done good…”

He continued: “One day Hitler and Mussolini woke up and said, ‘Honestly, the scandal has gone on long enough’ … And … the inverts … were chased out of Germany and Italy the very next day.”” “Invert” refers to both gay and trans people.

Now Putin, the American far right and TERFs want to “eradicate transgenderism”. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.”

Tweet from Lombardi-Nash:

“I translate German books from the Early Gay Rights Movement for activists in #sociology, #anthropology and history to inspire and improve understanding and historical accuracy. #LGBThistory #LGBThealth
“Clear and very readable translations” -H. Kennedy”

See also: Magnus Hirschfeld’s Understanding of Transgender People

Originally published at on March 11, 2023.



Jack Molay

Writer and news curator looking at everything transgender, nonbinary and queer.