New Books Network

Book review: Queer Identities and Politics in Germany, by Clayton J. Whisnant

Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries witnessed key developments in LGBT history, including the growth of the world’s first homosexual organizations and gay and lesbian magazines, as well as an influential community of German sexologists and psychoanalysts. In his new book, Queer Identities and Politics in Germany: A History, 1880-1945 (Harrington Park Press, 2016), Clayton Whisnant describes these events in detail, from vibrant gay social scenes to the Nazi persecution that sent many LGBT people to concentration camps. This study recounts the emergence of various queer identities in Germany from 1880 to 1945 and the political strategies pursued by early activists. Drawing on recent English and German-language scholarship, Whisnant enriches the debate over whether science contributed to social progress or persecution during this period, and he offers new information on the Nazis’ preoccupation with homosexuality. The book’s epilogue locates remnants of the pre-1945 era in Germany today.

Reviewed by Michael E. O’Sullivan