Adolf Brand: 1874-1945. The German editor, photographer, poet, anarchist and activist was born not quite a century before his time. Beginning in 1896, he published Der Eigene (There is no good English equivalent; Der Eigene is often translated as The Unique, The Special One, or The Self-Owned), the world’s first gay journal. The first issue declared, “This journal is dedicated to eigen people, such people as are proud of their Eigenheit and wish to maintain it at any price.” The phrase “Eigen people” may have meant anarchists, at least at first; Brand’s journal was more of an anarchist journal than a pro-gay one, reflecting Brand’s own anarchist views at the time. But Der Eigene became explicitly homosexual in 1898, and remained so until 1932.
Brand’s brand of gay activism was revolutionary. In contrast to the better known activism of Magnus Hirschfeld (see May 14), Brand angrily rejected the medical model and scientific approach of Germany’s sexologists, saying that their research “took away all beauty from eroticism.” Brand established the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (Community of Eigens) in 1903 as a counterweight to Hirschfeld’s Scientific-Humanitarian Committee. It also served a secondary purpose. With Der Eigene under constant threat of prosecution for obscenity — Brand successfully fought off charges in court that same year — Gemeinschaft der Eigenen became a kind of a closed readers’ circle, with Der Eigene becoming a private in-house publication. In 1905, when Der Eigene was officially recognized as an “artistic journal,” it became somewhat less vulnerable to censors and could be circulated more freely.
Brand’s militancy led him to conduct what was perhaps the world’s first “outing” campaign. In 1907, just as the massive Harden-Eulenburg affair was scandalizing the German political establishment, Brand published a pamphlet accusing German Chancellor Prince Bernhard von Bülow of having a homosexual relationship with Privy Councilor Max Scheefer and was therefore morally obligated to oppose Germany’s Paragraph 175, which outlawed homosexual relatinships between men. According to Brand, Bülow and Scheefer were seen kissing at all-male parties hosted by the Phillip, Prince of Eulenburg. Bülow sued Brand for criminal libel, and Brand was sentenced to eighteen months in prison.
Brand served two years in the German army during World War I, during which he married Elise Behrendt, a nurse who apparently loved him despite his homosexuality. After the war, Der Eigene was overshadowed by other gay publications during the relatively gay-friendly atmosphere of the Weimar era. In many ways, Brand’s brand of activism was out of step with 1920s Germany. Brand’s embrace of pederasty, extramarital bisexuality, and the supposed superiority of “friend-love” as the pinacle of masculinity were rejected in favor of Hirschfeld’s view that homosexuality was an inborn analogue to heterosexuality.
Brand’s elevation of manly friendship and the glorification of the nude body has led to accusations that Brand was himself a proto-faschist. Certainly, it’s easy to see parallels between Brand’s promotion of male bonding with the Nazis’ ideals of national manliness, but Brand himself, ever the anarchist, saw the dangers that Nazism posed. He wrote in 1931 that the Nazis “already had the hangman’s rope in their pockets.”
Der Eigene was shut down in 1932 just as the Nazis were coming into power. The police raided his home several times, seizing his books, journals, and photographs. He was never arrested, but he was financially ruined. “I have been plundered of everything,” he wrote to the Sexological Society in London. “I have nothing left to sell and am financially ruined. I no longer know from what I and mine can continue to live. For my whole life’s work is now destroyed. And most of my followers don’t have even the courage to write me a letter, not to mention support my work with any kind of payment.” Brand fell on hard times and was forced to sell his home. He and his wife moved to a one room flat, where they were both killed during alllied bombing on February 2, 1945.
[Source: Hubert Kennedy. "Adolf Brand." GLBTQ.com (undated).]
Aaron Copland: 1900-1990. Born in Brooklyn to Lithuanian Jewish parents, Copland composed some of the most quintessentially American classical music. Appalachian Spring celebrated American pioneers; Billy the Kid set the open prairie to music; Rodeo sells beef on television (“It’s what’s for dinner”); and Fanfare for the Common Man was, briefly, the theme music for Rick Perry’s ill-fated presidential run, which was ironic that a rabidly anti-gay politician would turn to such patriotic music that was composed by a relatively openly gay man.
Copland’s childhood was a rather typical one for an immigrant family in New York City. His father, who had no musical interest, owned a small department store. It was his mother, brothers and sisters — he was the youngest of five — who were musically inclined. His oldest brother played violin, and a sister gave him his first piano lessons and exposed him to opera. From the age of thirteen, he began formal music lessons. By age fifteen, he decided to become a composer. From 1921 to 1924, Copland went to Paris for further study at the Fontainebleau School of Music. In 1925, he returned to the U.S., and with two Guggenheim Fellowships in 1925 and 1926, he was able to rent a studio apartment where he lived for the next thirty years. He met Alfreid Stieglitz, who introduced him to many of the leading artists of the day: Paul Strand, Ansel Adams, Georgia O’Keefe, and Walker Evans, whose photos inspired Copland’s opera The Tender Land.
Stieglitz’s determination that American artists should reflect “the ideas of American Democracy” had a profound effect on Copland. It also represent a severe challenge. American classical music composers looked to Europe as a model for music composition. All that American had was popular music, folk music and jazz. The challenge for Copland was to show how these so-called “lower” forms of music could be in integral part of classical music. He joined five other like-minded composers to form what was called the “commando unit,” who collaborated in joint concerts to promote their new approach.
Once the depression hit, Copland expanded his horizons again through travels to Europe, Africa and Mexico. When Hitler and Mussolini attacked Spain in 1936, Copland, along with many other artists, were sympathetic to the Spanish Republicans, and many of them had joined the Communist Party. Copland himself didn’t join — he was committed to his refusal to join any party — but he did sympathize with leftist political movements, including his support for the Communist Party USA ticket during the 1936 presidential election, and for Henry A. Wallace’s presidential bid on the Progressive Party ticket in 1948.
This period of political turmoil coincided with some of Copland’s most famous work. In 1939, he completed his first two Hollywood film scores, for Of Mice and Men and Our Town. That same year, he debuted his highly successful ballet Billy the Kid. He followed that with two more acclaimed ballets, Rodeo (1942) and Appalachian Spring (1944), which featured the melody of an old Shaker hymn, “Simple Gifts.” A Lincoln Portrait and Fanfare for the Common Man, both debuted in 1942 as American was entering World War II, have become American patriotic standards.
But the McCarthy era of the 1950s proved difficult. A Lincoln Portrait had been on the program for Eisenhower’s 1953 inaugural concert, but it was withdrawn over controversy over Copland’s earlier sympathies with leftist politics. That same year, he was called to testify before Congress, where he insisted that he had never joined the Communist Party. Ignored during the controversy was Copland’s deeply patriotic music, a neglect which outraged many American musicians.
During the 1950s, Copland’s pace in composition fell off as new avant garde musical trends became fashionable in the music world. But he continued to influence other American composers, most principally his friend and student, protégé Leonard Bernstein. By the 1960s, Copland had more or less given up composing and took up conducting. He wasn’t crazy about the idea, but, as he said, “It was exactly as if someone had simply turned off a faucet.” This career change saw him conducting some of American’s great orchestras recording a major part of his canon for posterity. His health deteriorated through the 1980s and he died in 1990 from Alzheimer’s and resipitory failure.
Albrecht Becker: 1906-2002. Albrecht Becker was an actor and production designer who lived with his parter of ten yeas in Würzburg in Bavaria. In 1935, he came under the notice of the Gestapo when they were investigating another Würzburg resident, Dr. Leopold Obermayer, a Swiss national who was both Jewish and gay. During the course of the Gestapo’s investigation, they found several photos of young men, including Albert Becker, in Obermeyer’s possession. Obermeyer was sent to Manthausen concentration camp, where he ultimately perished. Becker was also tried under Germany’s notorious Paragraph 175 and sentenced to a three year term in Nürnburg Prison. In 1940, he joined the German army and sent directly to the Eastern front where soldiers weren’t expected to survive.
But survive he did, and he was able to return to Germany and work in the film industry after the war. He became an internationally recognized photographer, production designer and actor for German television. His story is one of six personal histories recounted in the 2000 documentary, Paragraph 175, about the Nazi persecution of gay men. He died in 2002 in Hamburg at the age of 95.
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