The Library

The Nazi Book Burnings

How Nazi book burnings set sexual health back by decades
2 Min Read
The Nazi Book Burnings

In 1933, the Nazis destroyed up to 25,000 books in what was known as the Nazi Book Burning Campaign. This destructive tactic was used as a way for the Nazis to inflict censorship over content they did not approve of and to instill fear in those who were not allies.

This rampage targeted plenty of groups, including Jewish communities. The Nazis murdered six million Jewish people, and destroyed many of their texts in an atrocity of genocide. They also targeted other groups, such as the Romanis and the LGBTQ community.

When the Book Burnings began, one of the very first establishments targeted was Berlin’s Institute of Sex Research, which was founded in 1919 by Mangus Hirschfeld. Hirschfeld was a German physician and sexologist who was a big supporter of sexual health and the freedom of sexual decision making. He created the institute not only as a sexology research center but also as one of the first establishments to offer transformational services such as trans surgeries, as well as marriage and sexual counseling. This center was well ahead of its time and extremely popular: It attracted roughly 20,000 people a year. Clients and participants were drawn in by the security and resources they had to offer. Furthermore, the institution was financially lenient and never turned anyone away who could not afford their services.

When the Nazis targeted this institution, they burned everything they found. The destruction of the research was particularly harmful to the trans community, as the institute was one of the leading centers that provided rare information and insight that affirmed rather than shamed them. Years of hard work became completely wiped out, setting trans studies back decades.

What’s more, the Nazis obtained a list of people who both worked at the facility and utilized their resources, and placed them in death camps. Hirschfeld, however, managed to escape and lived the remainder of his life in Paris.

In the aftermath of these events, the LGBTQ community had an uphill battle to face in recovering from the challenges the Holocaust caused. People in Germany are still overcoming the fear, stigma, and mistreatment of sexual minorities. But there’s hope, and the number of voices who support acceptance and equality for all are growing.


  1. United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum,
  2. Bauer, Heike. “Burning Sexual Subjects: Books, Homophobia and the Nazi Destruction of the Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin.” SpringerLink, Palgrave Macmillan, London, 1 Jan. 1970,