Saturday, 27 July 2013

Guardian: A Letter To My Great-Uncle Richard

I never met you, and no one ever talked about you, except Mum from time to time, late at night, when we were alone together, and we had drunk a few glasses too many. She never talked about you with Dad or my sisters. Yet I have always been aware of you, and this weekend I will think of you again.

You lived in the wrong place, Berlin, at the wrong time – the 1930s – with the wrong sexual orientation, although they didn't call it "gay" in those days. You were way ahead of your time in believing that this shouldn't be a barrier to enjoying a full and happy life.

Like me, you became a lawyer and used your skills to work for gay equality. You were remarkably brave to get involved with Magnus Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Research and to campaign for the decriminalisation of gay sex in Germany, although you didn't see it that way at the time.

But it meant that the Nazis could find out about you when they shut the institute in May 1933 and seized the names and addresses of supporters. You were unlucky to have a brother-in-law – Mum's adored father – who was a loyal Nazi party member, and who had become rich by means no one talked about either. He was involved with supplying the Wehrmacht and had to be above suspicion. You had become an embarrassment, maybe even a liability, to the family.

Mum heard that you "disappeared" at some stage in 1934 or 35. You were arrested, but she was only a girl at the time and nobody told her why...

From The Guardian series, The Letter You Always Wanted To Write.


PS Photo Magnus Hirschfeld and friends.

1 comment:

  1. Amazing.
    It's for the finding and reading articles like this that makes your blog so special, Mr Fagburn. I teared up when I read it, that might have been a consequence of the two bottles of red I downed last night, but its a very moving letter.
    Thank you for putting in the effort.