©2017 Q* Anthology of Queer Culture

An independent student publication in the Charlottesville and U.Va. community

Magnus Hirschfeld's Obituaries

July 11, 2018

“Only ignorance or bigotry can condemn those who feel differently. Don’t despair! As a homosexual, you can still make valuable contributions to humanity.”[1]

– Magnus Hirschfeld, Anders als die Andern, 1919

 

I.

 

MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD IS DEAD; 1920 AND “THE

WELL-KNOWN EXPERT ON SEXUAL SCIENCE”[2] 

IS DEAD. MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD IS NOT DEAD. 1920 AND IT

IS SUCH A SHAME THAT “THIS

SHAMELESS AND HORRIBLE POISONER OF OUR PEOPLE”

HAS NOT COME TO “HIS WELL-DESERVED END.”[3] 

 

Some Nazis tried to stomp Magnus Hirschfeld’s face 

into 17 million bloody butterflies 13 years before the first concentration camp.

They kiss the wind with their wings, but the ripped planes

of his boot-torn face pull them back in with every beat of his heart.

I cannot find any information about what his compound eyes in his

pre-bronzed face saw at that first blow.

Newspapers were so eager to hear

of him choking on his own looped proboscis tongue 

that they had to issue a statement three days later correcting themselves:

“We apologize, Mr. Hirschfeld is still alive, and this is not to say

that we wanted him dead as much as whoever attempted to blind rather than blacken

both of his odd, many-lensed eyes did.”

Magnus Hirschfeld smiles in his hospital bed. The paper flutters under his fingertips. Who else

gets to read their own obituary? He asks.

 

II.

 

MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD IS DEAD; 1932 AND WE HAVE SET HIS

PERVERTED TEXTS AFLAME. MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD IS DEAD; 1932 AND

WHAT A SHAME WE COULDN’T CATCH HIS FLESH.

 

Like a gentle wind before a forest fire, I think Magnus Hirschfeld

had a feeling he wasn’t coming back when he slipped out Germany’s door.

In some dream I’m always forgetting, I see indistinct flames, people’s black outfits matching

the black sky that, in disgust, pulls its coat of smoke around itself to protect the bright, multicolored 

eyes of potential existences. I feel more than see

Magnus Hirschfeld’s eyes struggle to tear the darkness of the night in France, and there is nothing

to smile about now when all those bloody butterflies are nothing

but flaming thorax shreds and wing dust across black gloves’ too-straight fingertips; they will not 

help any future keepers of looped tongues. They only float

up to join the sky in its foggy disgust

and miss all of the starry eyes under its coat. 

 

III.

 

MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD IS DEAD; 1935 AND IN

THIS FOOTNOTE, WE WISH THE MAN A HAPPY POSTMORTEM BIRTHDAY.

MAGNUS HIRSCHFELD IS DEAD; 1935 AND

WE MEAN IT THIS TIME.

 

We brighten in our twinkling; do you hear

that? The collective question, the sky shuffles its coat,

a pumping set of butterfly wings enters, stopped in one life but stronger than anything 

in ours. Our grandparents are barely born, if they are at all, and

Magnus Hirschfeld wishes us all luck on his way

up.

 

 

MADISON AURNOU

she, her, hers or ce, cer, cers

College of Arts & Sciences

Class of 2021, Undeclared

 

In my poetry writing class, our assignment was to write a poem of “witness.” Ever since I learned about him, I’ve always felt a special sort of attachment to Magnus Hirschfeld, so figured I definitely wanted to write about him and his life. I researched him a bit more in depth and found out that he was once beaten so badly by Nazis that newspapers sent out an obituary of him while he was still alive. I found something really special in that concept of him having multiple obituaries.

 

 

Notes:

  1. Oswald, Richard, dir. Anders als die Andern. 1919; Berlin, Germany: Richard Oswald Produktion Filmmuseum München, 2004. DVD.

  2. “Kill Dr. M. Hirschfeld: Well-Known German Scientist Victim of a Munich Mob,” New York Times (New York, NY), Oct. 12, 1920, 14, quoted in Heike Bauer, The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2017), 7.

  3. Charlotte Wolff, Magnus Hirschfeld: A Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology (London: Quartet, 1986), 198, quoted in Heike Bauer, The Hirschfeld Archives: Violence, Death, and Modern Queer Culture (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2017), 7.

 

 

 

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