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The German Historical Museum in Berlin has opened an exhibition tracing 150 years of gay history in the country. The exhibition includes the first uses of the term “homosexual,” the brutal Nazi-era repression of gays and gradual moves toward legal equality starting in the 1960s.
The exhibition is a joint production with Berlin’s Gay Museum and has been four years in the planning.
“Homosexuality_ies,” runs through to Dec. 1, 2015. It features photo and film material, an electric shock device used for “aversion therapy” in the 1950s, other artifacts, and an “A to Z” section exploring issues ranging from gay marriage to censorship.
One of the earliest exhibits is a handwritten 1868 letter from Vienna-born writer Karl Maria Kertbeny to a German advocate of legal reform, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, which is believed to be the oldest written record anywhere of the words “homosexual” and “heterosexual.”
It also features the work of scientists such as sex researcher Magnus Hirschfeld, whose pioneering Institute for Sexual Research was shut down and looted shortly after the Nazis took power in 1933. The Nazi regime toughened the 1872 law criminalizing sex between men; West Germany changed the so-called “paragraph 175″ to decriminalize it only in 1969.
In the words of Visit Berlin, the exhibition
puts the political contribution the homosexual liberation movements made toward the development of our democratic society in the visual range of a broader public for the first time.