Libido: Naked Brunch: Berlin's Sexuality Archive
Berlin's Sexology Archive

By Marianna Beck and Jack Hafferkamp

In large part due to Professor Doctor Doctor Erwin Haeberle and a receptive German federal government, Berlin -- the 20th-century birthplace of sexology -- is once again home to an extraordinary sexual archive.

Under Haeberle, Archiv für Sexualwissenshaft, located in the tree-shaded campus of the Robert Koch Institute in the former East Berlin, has launched an impressive and important effort to both collect the Nazi-scattered remains of the work of the field’s pioneers and to make accurate university-level sexual information available to the world via the internet.

Haeberle, who is 65, says his goal is “to promote, protect and preserve sexual health” and on a German government appointment he has rather quietly created one of the world’s great repositories of knowledge on sex.

German-born, Haeberle is in Germany again on leave from San Francisco’s Institute for Advanced Study of Human Sexuality, where he taught from 1977 to 1988. In that year Haeberle was lured back to Germany to work on the German government’s AIDS prevention drive. In 1994 he set out to create the most comprehensive sexology website in the world. And on a bright Spring day four years later day he takes obvious delight in showing LIBIDO’s editors the seemingly exhaustive result he has produced.

The massive site is structured to serve teachers, serious students and the constructively curious all at once. Teachers can use it as a basis for rigorous undergraduate and graduate courses in sexual anatomy and physiology, human reproduction, gender, and sexual dysfunction. Teachers’ materials come complete with suggested readings and exam questions. Serious students can use the archive for detailed research into those topics as well as the history of sexology. And the general public can use the site for accurate basic information -- as well as to settle arguments on arcane sex-related details.

The sexology section is especially valuable for original research purposes because it contains a wealth of unpublished manuscripts, photos, letters, newspaper articles and other raw documents.

As a field, sexology was conceived by Berlin dermatologist Iwan Bloch in 1907. The idea soon was expanded by a number of biologists and social scientists, especially Magnus Hirschfeld who opened the first Institute for Sexology in Berlin in 1919. Two years later he organized the first international sexological conference there.

Many of sexology’s pioneers, including Albert Moll, Ludwig Levy-Lenz, Max Marcuse, were Jewish and when Hitler came to power, nearly all of them went into exile in different parts of the world. In 1933, Hirshfeld’s Institute for Sexology was destroyed by the Nazis, and the contents of its library publicly burned -- along with other “un-German” authors like Sigmund Freud and Bertolt Brecht. Hirschfeld died in France in 1935.

Thus far Haeberle has done some serious academic heavy lifting in re-assembling the papers and research documents that were scattered with the sexologists. He has gathered an enormous amount of material on these men and their work -- ranging from personal papers and photographs to detailed information on their accomplishments. Most impressively, much of this material is now available in English, German, French, Italian, Spanish, Swedish and Portuguese.

To see it for yourself, the Archiv für Sexualwissenshaft’s web address is: