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Bund für Menschenrecht

LGBT rights organisation in Germany in the 1920s

The League for Human Right[a] (German: Bund für Menschenrecht, BfM) was an early twentieth-century association of gay and bisexual individuals campaigning for their rights. It was the first mass organization for homosexuals.[1][2]


Beginning in Berlin in 1919,[3] "friendship associations" (German: Freundschaftsvereine) were formed in several large towns in Germany to work with like-minded organisations to promote civil rights reforms for sexual minorities (i.e. gay and bisexual people) in Germany at that time.[3][4] This was during a widespread movement to promote the rights of sexual minorities within Germany at this time (see: First homosexual movement).[4]

On 30 August 1920, these associations were re-organised under the German Friendship League (German: Deutscher Freundschaftsverband, DFV), encompassing the regional associations of Berlin, Hamburg, Frankfurt and Stuttgart.[3] A Munich organisation later was founded following a police raid on Café Zehner, a popular hangout for gay men in the city.[5] By 1922, the group had 2,500 members.[4]

Under the leadership of Friedrich Radszuweit, and amid internal schismatic turmoil, the group was re-organised as the League for Human Rights (German: Bund für Menschenrecht, BfM) in 1923.[3] The group had 12,000 members by 1924 and had 48,000 members (including 1,500 women) at its height in 1929. It had number of periodicals and magazines linked to Radszuweit, including Die Insel and the Blätter für Menschenrecht (the latter of which became the official newsletter of the group). The BfM was more politically active than its predecessor. Members of the group demonstrated against the dismissal of gay men from the German armed forces and civil service and campaigned for the repeal of Paragraph 175, which criminalised sex between men, or to lessen the penalties within the law. The group also petitioned the Ministry of Justice for a change in the law, and also petitioned anti-gay politicians to change their stance on gay issues.[4]

In 1924, the BfM published Die Freundin ("The Girlfriend"), the first magazine for lesbian and bisexual women in Germany. In 1928, the magazine was blacklisted under the "Trash and Smut" laws [de] but returned in 1929, before being officially banned in 1933 upon the Nazi seizure of power.[3]

Relationship to other groups

Although the group shared many goals with Magnus Hirschfeld and his Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (German: Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK), the BfM favoured respectability politics. As such, they disagreed with Hirschfeld and the WhK's view of gay men as sexual intermediaries or a third sex, as they did not see most gay men as effeminate. However, they also disagreed with the ancient Greek pederastic form of male love, popular among gay masculinists at the time.[3][4]

The BfM rejected effeminate gay men, male sex workers, and those who sought sex from adolescent boys from their movement. Additionally, the acceptance of a compromise on Paragraph 175 (which included a higher age of consent for sex between men and a crackdown on male sex workers) hindered co-operation between the BfM and the WhK.[4] However, Radszuweit was sympathetic to trans[b] people, and published Das 3. Geschlecht, a magazine which included advice on successful gender presentation ("passing"). [4]

See also


  1. ^ Also translated into English as the Federation for Human Rights, the Association for Human Rights or the Society for Human Rights.
  2. ^ The term used at the time, transvestite, referred to a number of cross-dressing, transgender, transsexual and gender variant people; trans is used here as an umbrella term.



  1. ^ Marhoefer 2015, p. 40.
  2. ^ Vendrell 2020, pp. 4–5.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Dawson 2018, p. 63.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g Tamagne 2006, pp. 75–77.
  5. ^ Marhoefer 2015, p. 20.