Needless to say, holding our own first congress after the opening of the Berlin wall in such a historical building was, for us, a deeply satisfying achievement.
Especially our Jewish congress participants felt a sense of triumph over the barbarism of the Nazis by reclaiming this historical site for sexology. Actually, as it turned out, ours was the last congress of any kind ever held there.
A few years later, the whole Reichstag was wrapped in some special silvery foil by the artists Christo and Jeanne-Claude, turning it into a gigantic, shiny, widely admired temporary work of art.
Today it is, once again, the one and only seat of the German parliament. First row from the left: Rolf Gindorf, Erwin J. This is not the place to discuss our two joint congresses of in detail.
Let it suffice to say that many members of the International Academy came to Berlin as originally planned some attended the Sigtuna meeting as well. The books were edited by E. Haeberle and Rolf Gindorf However, the event was also the occasion of awarding the first Hirschfeld Medals, and this may warrant a brief explanation. It seemed to me that, for many reasons, our congress required a special gesture, a lasting tribute to the Jewish pioneers of sexology who had lived in Berlin and whose work had been destroyed by the Nazis.
However, during the Nazi period and even after the war this commitment was conveniently ignored. Even in , there was no academic sexological institution in Berlin on either side of the wall. After some agonizing, I finally hit upon the idea of creating a memorial medal that the DGSS could award to outstanding colleagues during our regularly scheduled meetings. The conference would offer a good opportunity to start this new tradition. Inspired by this thought, I sat down one afternoon and designed the medal I had in mind.
Eventually, this first, spontaneous drawing was, without any changes, used for the final product. Front left and back right of the Hirschfeld Medal for Sexual Science The name of the various recipients is engraved on the back side I also managed to raise some funds for the production of the medals, and the DGSS vice president Rolf Gindorf found a suitable manufacturing company to do the job.
Thus, within a short time, we had a number of gold medals at our disposal for the coming years. The only remaining question was: To whom should the medals be awarded? We discussed this in several administrative meetings and arrived at the following conclusion: In this spirit, he had been a tireless advocate of sexual rights. He always believed that sex research should, sooner or later, lead to concrete improvements in the lives of real people.
It seemed appropriate, therefore, to award two medals at a time at each of our conferences — one for sexual science and one for sexual reform. The first two recipients for were obvious choices.
Both were of advanced age, both had been victims of Nazi persecution, and both had fought against great odds to become successful sexologists: The Jewish Borneman had been born in Berlin, had fled into exile as a yong man, had spent many years struggling in England, the USA and other countries, had finally returned and become a citizen of Austria, where he authored many important sexological studies.
Musaph, also Jewish, had lived in the underground during the war and later had become an important pioneer of sexological medical education in the Netherlands. This first decision was easily made and set the pattern for the subsequent choices: We continued to feel that, first and foremost, we should honor foreign sexologists, not only because they deserved it, but also because it would remind them as well as their friends and colleagues of Berlin as the birthplace of sexology as a science in its own right.
At the same time, it would help in gaining international recognition for the award itself. The list of recipients over the last 18 years reflects these original intentions: Recipients of the Hirschfeld Medal for Sexual Science: Ernest Borneman Austria , John P. Herman Musaph Netherlands , Ruth K. However, I am still proud of having created the Hirschfeld Medal, and I hope that it will continue to honor both the recipients and the sexological society which awards it.
History of the Hirschfeld Medal Prof. In November , surprised and fascinated television audiences around the world watched the sudden opening of the Berlin Wall. It had divided the city for 28 years, but now, from one day to the next, people could freely move back and forth. The border guards were still there, but waved everyone through who could present an ID card or passport.
Soon enough, even these formalities were abandoned, because the quickly unfolding events turned out to be revolutionary. Soon the East German government collapsed, and this was followed, in due course, by the re-unification of Germany. However, even during the first few weeks, when the wall itself, with its many crossing points, was still standing, German sexologists in East and West saw a new opportunity to meet and cooperate.
It would have been foolish and irresponsible not to seize it. Unfortunately and unexpectedly, some subsequent internal squabbling prompted the Academy to cancel its original plan and to move the meeting to the small Swedish city of Sigtuna instead. However, many foreign, and especially American, colleagues had already made their travel arrangements and were very eager to come to Germany.
I had moved to West Berlin from San Francisco the year before when nobody could yet imagine that the wall would come down so soon. Telephone service between the two halves of the city was still quite inadequate, and we therefore had to meet face to face for every little planning detail. Even so, our discussions went very smoothly and turned out to be productive.
In the end, we came up with a two-part sexological congress to be held in both East and West Berlin. Obtaining permission for a congress in the Reichstag was no small feat, and it became possible only with the help of an influential politician: For her support at this critical juncture and for her earlier enlightened policies as the West-German Minister of Health she was later awarded the Hirschfeld Medal.
Fortunately, she was well aware of the special historical significance the building had for German sexology: In , the Reichstag had seen the opening session of the second international sexological congress, which had been organized by Albert Moll. The first one, convened by Magnus Hirschfeld, had taken place in , also in Berlin.
However, the building was memorable for other reasons as well: In February , less than a month after Hitler had become chancellor of Germany, the Reichstag burned under circumstances that remain mysterious even to this day.
Having become unusable as a result of the fire, the building was abandoned by the Nazi parliament which moved across the street into an opera house and never returned.
After the war, the damaged Reichstag interior was remodeled in a modern and sober architectural style and served as an occasional locale for various West German political events. After all, while standing very close to the wall, the building was still located on West Berlin territory.