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25 September 2022

Felix Abraham. Part II: Les Perversions Sexuelles

Felix Abraham: life


Depending where you find a citation of this book, the assumed major author is any one of three.
  • Felix Abraham, translated by Pierre Vachet. Les Perversions Sexuelles, d’apres les travaux de Magnus Hirschfeld. Paris: François Aldor, 1931.

  • Magnus Hirschfeld. Perversions sexuelles, édité par Felix Abraham et traduit par Pierre Vachet, François Aldor, Paris, 1931. Worldcat.

  • Pierre Vachet. Perversions sexuelles, d’après l’enseignement du docteur Magnus Hirschfeld, par son premier assistant le docteur Félix Abraham. Paris: François Aldor, 1931. (See in a bibliography)

The book is a French translation from the German. The presumption is that Abraham selected from Hirschfeld’s writings and perhaps added material by himself. Unable to get the book published in German(y) he arranged for Vachet to translate it. I have not been able to discover the original German version - no such is listed in WorldCat. There is no mention of either Vachet or this book in Rainer Herrn’s otherwise thorough Schnittmuster des Geschlechts. It is conceivable that neither Hirschfeld nor Abraham knew of the book in advance, and it was edited by Vachet based on Hirschfeld’s publications and Abraham’s 1931 paper on the surgeries upon Dorchen Richter and Toni Ebel.

Who was Pierre Vachet (1892-1990)?

He was a French doctor who wrote about wellness and sexuality, and lived to the age of 98. He was director of l'École de psychologie and of la Revue de psychologie appliquée. He and Hirschfeld had first met when German and French nudist groups had joint meetings.

Some of his other books are:

  • Les troubles mentaux consécutifs au shock des explosifs modernes: contribution à l'étude des psychoses de guerre. MD Thesis, Faculté de médecine de Paris, 1915.

  • L'inquiétude sexuelle. B. Grasset, Paris, 1927.

  • La nudité et la physiologie sexuelle. Vivre intégralement", Paris, 1928.

  • Connaissance de la vie sexuelle. Nouvelle Ed, 1930.

  • L'énigme de la femme. B. Grasset, Paris, 1931.

  • Les Travestis. B. Grasset, Paris, 1934.

  • La Psychologie sexuelle. B. Grasset, Paris, 1959.

  • Les maladies de la vie moderne. Hachette, 1962.

Contents of Les Perversions Sexuelles

  1. Organic and Physiological Conditions in Sexual Life

  2. Normal Sex Life

  3. Impotence

  4. Ageing and rejuvenation

  5. Onanism

  6. Automonosexualism

  7. Infantalism

  8. Necrophilia

  9. Gerontophilia

  10. Zoophilia

  11. Homosexuality, Lesbian love, Bisexuality

  12. Transvestism

  13. Fetishism

  14. Sadism, Masochism Metatropism

  15. Exhibitionism

  16. Sexual Crimes

A detailed reading of Chp 12: Transvestism

Remember that this is 1931. Words other than the transvest* words had been proposed - Eonism, Geschlechtsübergänge, Seelenzwitter, Seelischer Transsexualismus - but they were not taken into general use. Transvestite and Transvestism would remain the umbrella words until the mid 1960s. In French the words are Travesti and Travestitisme.

“The types of intermediate sexual nature which are the most difficult to understand and also the most difficult to treat, are those whose disposition has been summarized in the notion of transvestism. To give a definition of this abnormal type, we may say that it consists of persons who display by their external appearance another sex than their own. It would be erroneous (we want to say this at the outset) to believe that this display is in reality a deception and is nothing more than a disguise of clothing. On the contrary, we are dealing with a transformation of the whole person, manifesting itself, it is true, predominantly in clothing, but whose essence must be sought much further in the whole of the emotional life. As well as the external aspect, this has been transposed into a form proper to the other sex. For this reason, not only in scientific circles but above all among transvestites themselves, another name was sought, the term transvestism referring only to an apparent form and not to the essence of the phenomenon.”(p241)

This is then followed by a short summary of the life of Charlotte d’Eon, emphasizing d’Eon’s supposed involvement with women, followed by the comment “We already see in this biography a peculiarity of extreme importance, namely that the sexuality of transvestites can be of an absolutely normal nature and does not necessarily have to take the homosexual direction as was once believed. The transvestite tendency is not acquired in the course of one's life as is often believed, but is innate to the man and simply becomes stronger from year to year or rather from decade to decade. Just as in the case of homosexuality an event brings out the latent tendency, so a purely superficial event can give rise to the outbreak of the transvestite tendency.”(p244)

“Nor is transvestism confined to certain environments; it has been thought that it is the big city that offers transvestites a favourable terrain and that transvestism predominantly affects the wealthy classes. Both hypotheses are false. The many transvestites I have seen are spread over all strata of the population and even all nations. The unique situation of the Institute of Sexual Sciences is that all men with these inclinations come to us from all parts of the world. We are therefore in a position to form an idea of the internationality of this inclination.”(p245)

This is followed by an account of Dörchen Richter, here referred to as ‘Rudolf (Dora E.)’, concluding with Dorchen’s vaginoplasty.

“In this case, we see how an inclination manifests itself from the age of six, and is maintained throughout life without anything being able to hinder its development and intensity; on the contrary, it becomes ever stronger and leads to ever wider consequences. Nowhere else is the achievement pursued so intensely and so tirelessly to the point of final success as in the case of transvestites.”(p247)

This is followed by an account of Gert B: “She now lives full-time in male clothing; she strives to have the masculinity of her sex recognised and to obtain the right to use a male name. In this case, too, the body has been modified, first by surgical removal of the breasts, then by removal of the ovaries and by testicular transplantation. Apart from the new shape of the breasts, the transformation by the second operation was not as spectacular as in the previous case, but the cessation of menstruation already meant a psychological benefit for the patient. She is indistinguishable from her male companions, walks with long strides, speaks with a deep voice, is of a rough and hard character and bears the masculine imprint in her entire personality.”(p247-8)

Then we are given “Ten typical groups of transvestites” - although they are not mutually exclusive:

  1. Total (complete) transvestites. “They are inclined to dress and behave like the other sex”. (p248)

  2. Extreme transvestites. “These most accentuated forms of total transvestism are found among those who would like to modify, not only their artificial garments, but also their natural garments, the epidermis of their bodies. … We observe the highest degree of this type of body transvestism in those who wish to obtain a complete transformation of their genitals, and therefore, above all, want to have a sex that corresponds to their mentality. … These cases are much more frequent than is otherwise suspected.” (p249)

  3. Partial transvestism. “In this case, parts of the clothing of the other sex are used to a very variable extent. Some men are already satisfied when they wear long female stockings, others female linen, etc.” (p249)

  4. Transvestites by name. These are those who wish to bear a first name of the other sex (such as "George Sand").

  5. Constant transvestites. “They are inclined to constantly assume the external appearance of the other sex; men of this species are already opposed, as boys, to the first pair of trousers, while women want to "wear the breeches" at an early age. This lasts uniformly until death. There are many transvestites, both male and female, whose true sex was only discovered after their death, to the great amazement of those around them.” (p250)

  6. Periodic transvestites. “In them, the inclination to have the appearance and reputation of the other sex alternates with indifference and even contempt for the latter. I have known several who, on different occasions, were seized with such an aversion to their transvestism, that one day they threw into the fire wigs, costumes, shoes.” (p250) In connection with this a short story, now long forgotten, is mentioned. Hans Heinz Ewers, ‘The Story of Baron Joseph-Maria de Friedel’.

  7. Narcissistic transvestites. “These find their full satisfaction in taking the form of the other sex; their own image in the guise of the other sex (for example, in the mirror) triggers in them feelings of pleasure of a more or less conscious erotic character.” (p250)

  8. Metatropic transvestites - the coupling of a feminine man with a masculine woman. Again Georges Sand is named in connection with her involvement with Alfred de Musset and then Frédéric Chopin.

  9. Bisexual transvestites. “In accordance with their own duality, they find the types they like in both sexes, but more often in one than the other.” (p251)

  10. Homosexual transvestites. “The sexual instinct which, in them, is expressed by the external aspect, takes the form of a penchant for male individuals.” (p251) The example given is the very unusual one of Alma de Paradeda who killed herself in 1906 when her fiancé challenged her gender . (The text says “Paradéda whom I knew personally very well”. Paradéda killed herself in 1906 when Abraham was 5 years old, so the ‘I’ is obviously Hirschfeld.)

The 10 types or groups are previously found in Hirschfeld’s Geschlechtskunde. I. Band: Die körperseelischen Grundlagen, 1926: 592-4.

“Although there are some transvestites whose eccentric appearance gives rise to the idea that a mental disorder is the cause of their inclination, we cannot generalise these particular cases and accept the opinion of the famous psychiatrist C. Westphal who thought that transvestism is a kind of periodic mental disorder. He supported this theory with a case, mentioned in Kraftt-Ebing's Psychopathia sexualis. It may be that his opinion is motivated by this case, but the generalisation is certainly a mistake. The term "contrary sexual feeling" which he used then, is used today mainly for homosexuality.”(p252)

Then we are given an account of TF who got what wanted, and then lost it: “35 years old and has been living the life of a woman for over 15 years. For more than 8 years he has been looking for a job where he can satisfy his feminine inclination, but he has not been successful. In the end he was, through us, placed in a fashion house where he had the opportunity to make ladies' clothes and hats. At first all went well, but after about two months he began to make hats and clothes for his own use, at first only after working hours, later all day, so that he could not cope with the work he was given. Despite the warnings of the management, he did not amend his behaviour, but continued to work only for himself; he was therefore discharged, even though for many years he had made every effort to find work and had a situation in which he could be at ease. This case shows to what extent the transvestite is entangled in his passion and wants to externalise, in his work, only his personality and his inclination.” (p253-4)

Then the case of A.Z.: “62 years old, is a shoemaker by profession, but currently unemployed. Z. has been married for 35 years and has two adult daughters, one of whom is married and the other works. Already before his marriage, Z. was aware of his transvestite tendency, but he believed - a very common opinion - that he could be "cured" by marriage. This hope was, of course, illusory and, what is more, the instinct became stronger with the years. While at first he only occasionally transvested, he later wanted to live full-time as a woman and be recognised as such. His wife showed neither understanding nor indulgence for this inclination and cut short all attempts at explanation by saying: "I did not marry a woman, but a man". The mania became so strong that he decided to separate from his wife and divorce her, despite 35 years of marriage, in order to be able to fully indulge the addiction that so imperiously dominated him.” (p255)

The author comments: “it is a fact that the transvestite prefers to give up everything but his passion. Not only do marriages break up, but I have seen men give up the best and highest positions in order to continue to live their lives as they please; what is most striking in the case of A. Z., is the unlimited egotism which is at the bottom of every transvestite and which makes him forget everything around him. As soon as he has decided to wear the right clothes all the time, he finds his way to our Institute for the first time.”(p255)

Transvestitenscheins are discussed although without using the term or its French equivalent. “In Berlin, authorities are already familiar with a large number of such cases. In this way, they are more willing than the provincial authorities to make it easier for transvestites to wear their desired clothes. The competent department in Berlin, at the Prefecture of Police, issues certificates which originally stated that such a person has been authorised to wear female clothing, or male clothing. The text of this attestation has since proved inadequate and the procedure of giving this "security certificate" the form of an authorisation has been abandoned; its content, which is still in force, states that such and such a person is known to the authorities as wearing women's or men's clothing. In this way, the authorisation was evaded and transvestites were still able to legitimise themselves in case they were stopped in the street by police officers, which is not uncommon because, of course, secondary male sexual characteristics, such as a beard or vigorous muscular development, contrast with the clothing, so that the resulting scandal often leads to their arrest. The certificate is intended to avoid these unfortunate consequences.” (p256)

Then we are told of one in the Great War who was not careful enough, with almost fatal results: “One of our patients, who had been a transvestite for many years, was called up and served in the navy. He took advantage of his leave to live as a woman, but he made the mistake of returning, at the end of his leave, to his home port in female clothing. Already in Berlin, at the station ticket office, it was noticed that a sailor in female clothing was asking for his ticket, and it followed that on his arrival in Wilhelmshaven, he was arrested by security agents, who assumed that he was a sailor who wanted to spy in female clothing. All his claims were in vain. He was transferred to a court martial and sentenced to death. It was only at the last moment, when he asked for an attestation from our Institute where he had been known for years, that he was saved. ”(p257)

There are then some general comments about trans persons.

And then finally at the end there is a short account of Toni Ebel, referred to as “A.E., painter”. The statement “The patient came to me” could have written by either Hirschfeld or Abraham. (Remember that Abraham wrote at the end of his paper on the surgeries upon Dorchen Richter and Toni Ebel: “Both cases are part of a larger book that I am working on at this time. I have extracted these cases because they seem to me of principle value and general interest.”) The odd placement of this final paragraph, away from all the other case studies, would seem to be an attempt to conform to Abraham’s promise, whether by himself or by Vachet.

There were also two other cut and paste anthologies of Hirschfeld’s writings in this period:

  • Magnus Hirschfeld. Sexual Anomalies and Perversions: Physical and Psychological Development and Treatment : a Summary of the Works of the Late Magnus Hirschfeld. London: Francis Aldor, 1936. Discussion.

Note the same publisher as Les Perversions Sexuelles.

This was put together by Arthur Koestler and Norman Haire three years after the destruction of the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, and for the next 55 years, until Michael A. Lombardi-Nash’s 1991 translation of Die Transvestiten, was the one and only Hirschfeld work in English translation.

An earlier anthology was edited by Lothar Goldmann, a Berlin doctor who had relocated to New York. In 1924/5 he published a series of essays "Über das Wesen des Umkleidungstriebes" in the journal Geschlecht und Gesellschaft (Vol. XII), which was later published as a book. The only cases described are all taken from the unpublished 1921 dissertation by Hirschfeld’s colleague Hans Abraham (not known to be related to Felix).

  • Magnus Hirschfeld. Sexualpathologie: Ein Lehrbuch für Ärzte und Studierende Teil 2. A Marcus & R Webers Verlag, 1918.

  • Hans Abraham Der weibliche Transvestitismus. Dissertation. Friedrich-Wilhelm-Universität zu Berlin. 1912.

  • Magnus Hirschfeld. Geschlechtskunde. I. Band: Die körperseelischen Grundlagen. Julius Puttman, 1926.

  • Felix Abraham. “Genitalumwandlungen an zwei männlichen Transvestiten”. Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft und Sexualpolitik, 18: 223-226. 1931. English translation as “Genital Reassignment on Two Male Transvestites”. The International Journal of Trangenderism. 2, 1. Jan-Mar 1998. Archive.

  • Gonzague de Larocque-Latour. “Girl or Boy? The French Birth of the Word Sexologie (1901–1912)” in Alain Giami & Sharman Levinson (eds) Histories of Sexology: Between Science and Politics. Palgrave Macmillan, 2021: 200, 206.

  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Geschlechts. Transvestismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft. Giessen, 2005.

19 September 2022

Felix Abraham (1901 - 1937) doctor, Hirschfeld associate

Part I: life

Part II: book

Initial version: February 2016.

Felix Abraham and his older sister, Erna, were the children of a Dutch mother and a Frankfurt am Main doctor, the Jewish medical councillor (Sanitätsrat) Dr. Siegmund Abraham (1866-1929). The mother died when Felix was eleven. At school he got good grades in religion, Latin, singing and gymnastics, but in those only. Erna married an engineering entrepreneur, Erich Marx, in 1919. Felix studied medicine at Heidelberg, Frankfurt am Main and Berlin from 1920 onwards and finally obtained his doctorate in his home town in 1928 with a thesis on the mortality statistics of the first year of life. He completed his practical year at the Municipal Hospital and the Israelite Hospital in Frankfurt am Main. Whilst a student he had already published a paper in Therapie der Gegenwart on “Surgical interventions in abnormalities in sex life”.

Shortly afterwards he started working at Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institut für Sexualwissenschaft, which had been re-oriented from a scientific-practical institution to one mainly for treatment, which also provided educational courses and political activities. Hirschfeld had known Felix’s father Dr. Siegmund Abraham, before he died in 1929. However Hirschfeld was soon less than happy with the son. He claimed that Abraham was "not hardworking enough" and "too passive" - yet he loved him "in his awkwardness and eagerness". Nevertheless Abraham became an independent associate of the Institut, took over from Arthur Kronberg the specialization in working with transvestites, and became head of the sexual forensic department. For this purpose, he was provided with his own consulting room and a living room and bedroom in the Institut. Adelheid Schulz (1909-2008), the housekeeper in the Institut from 1928 to 1933, reported that Abraham was listless in fulfilling his duties and was known to take drugs and be drunk on occasion.

However he was active as an expert witness in court cases, wrote expert opinions so that Toni Ebel, Charlotte Charlaque and others could obtain a Transvestitenschein. He and Hirschfeld were on the honorary committee of the transvestite association Club D'Eon, and he prescribed that trans persons should go to other transvestite bars in addition to the Club D'Eon. He, like Karl Giese, became concerned about marriage issues for trans persons, and a special marriage counselling centre for transvestites was set up in the ten-point programme of the D'Eon association. Abraham was also responsible for indictable "sexual offences" as well as infantilism, exhibitionism and flagellation. He was a close friend with the noted pianist Ellen Epstein, who had played with the Berlin Symphony Orchestra.

With Hirschfled and Charlotte Charlaque, acting as interpreter, he attended and gave a lecture at the World League for Sexual Reform in London, 8-14 September 1929. In 1930 he was quoted in Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft und Sexualpolitik: "The number of transvestites is greater than one would expect. In Berlin alone, 1000 cases have become known to us". He advocated “emergency surgery” - castration and sometimes penectomy - to forestall self-mutilation or suicide that desperate trans women might turn to.

In 1930 there was a sensational murder in Berlin. Fritz Ulbrich, a watch repairman, was an adventurous amateur erotic photographer who persuaded over 1,000 teenage girls to pose nude and in lesbian and S&M stagings. In 1929 he recruited the 15-year-old Lieschen Neumann and photographed her for many months. In 1930 she decided to steal his money. She got her boyfriend and his friend to do the deed, but Ulbrich woke up and they killed him. They were quickly apprehended and at a sensational trial in early 1931 the pregnant Lieschen was sentenced to 8 years 3 months, the second friend to 6 years 3 months and the boyfriend to be hanged. Abraham worked with the criminologist Erich Wulffen (who in his 1923 book, Das Weib als Sexualverbrecherin [Women as Sex Criminals], had depicted women as being of less intelligence and sensitivity, with an innate disposition to prostitution) to edit Ulbrich’s collection of photographs. This came out as a book later in 1931 with 150 of Ulbrich’s photographs, with some photographs depicting Ulbrich and his environment, some facsimile reproductions of his correspondence and a court drawing. The first edition was retracted by the publisher and 20 of the plates removed. Many years afterwards copies were still being confiscated by police in Germany and Austria.

Abraham’s four-year contract was not extended by Hirschfeld in the run-up to its expiry in 1933 - for whatever reasons. Hirschfeld was considering Dr Josef Weisskopf (1904-1977) from Brno/Brünn in Czechoslovakia - who organised the 1932 World League for Sexual Reform conference - as Abraham's successor. However when Hirschfeld left on his world tour in November 1930, Abraham officially became Hirschfeld's deputy.

In 1931 he wrote up a report on the first sex-change operations arranged by himself, with surgery by Ludwig Levy-Lenz and Erwin Gohrbandt. Both Dörchen Richter and Toni Ebel had recently had vaginoplasty and their operations were featured. This report was the only account of male-to-female surgery published in a medical journal in this period. In the report he says: 

“I just wanted to give a description of the procedure itself, because I believe an infinite number of patients with these same inclinations exist, who desire similar procedures, but do not know of any means and ways to achieve same. (1931, second page)”

The report concluded: 

“Both cases are part of a larger book that I am working on at this time. I have extracted these cases because they seem to me of principle value and general interest.” 

The expansion came out later that year published in Paris as Les Perversions Sexuelles translated into French by Dr Pierre Vachet. It was in effect a summary of Hirschfeld's work.

At the end of 1931, Eric Thorsell, a Swedish metalworker and later a homosexual activist, came to Berlin for study purposes and took a room at the Institut. Abraham was holding public evening events where he answered questions from the audience. Eric and Felix thus met and became friends.

In August 1932, Abraham and Toni Ebel (using the pseudonym "Wally, formerly Leo E.”) were interviewed by a journalist from Das 12 Uhr Blatt. Abraham said: 

“Of course we could not make a woman out of the man Leo E. who would be able to bring children into the world. At least cosmetically, if you want to call it that, Wally E. has become completely like a woman through the operation. Above all, she now feels herself to be one hundred percent woman, and the man who loves her can, with a little illusion and imagination, find in her the woman he wants her to be.”

Abraham attended the fifth and last World League for Sexual Reform conference in Brno 20-26 September 1932. For the first time the WLSR was allowed to meet in a state university institute, namely in a lecture hall of Masaryk University.

The 1933 film by Lothar Golte, Mysterium des Geschlechts, features two medical students who learn about "most interesting questions of sexology" and fall in love in the process. Documentary sequences show sex reassignment surgery and transplants of animal testicles and explanations about abortion and contraception. Abraham is listed as contributing to the script, presumably the sexual surgery segments (in which Dora Richter, Toni Ebel and Charlotte Charlaque can be seen) - presumably film archives from the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft. The premiere was in Vienna 27 April 1933, but due to massive protests it was removed by police intervention after only a few days. In Germany, it was not even shown in public, as it was banned by the censors.

Abraham was one of only three doctors (with Ludwig Levy-Lenz and Bernhard Schapiro) still at the Institut when it was destroyed by the Nazis on 6 May 1933. By this time he was in financial difficulties and turned to his sister’s husband, Erich Marx, for help. He was also said to be taking morphine and Veronal.

He survived and continued working in Berlin as a doctor, but changed addresses several times, and was unable to continue working with transvestites. Writing in 23 September 1933, the Swedish journalist Ragnar Ahlstedt (1901-1982) gave the following mood and situation report in a letter to Eric Thorsell:

 "The Institut, as you know, is completely destroyed. Abraham, however, has opened his own practice - as long as he is allowed to run it now. He receives patients in Fasanenstraße, a cross street to Kurfürstendamm, not far from the zoo, and his home address is Budapester Straße 21. But I haven't heard from him for several weeks and therefore fear that something has happened. But it may also be that either his letters or mine have disappeared. At least his letters often have the 'bad luck'. My trip to Berlin in July was actually for him personally. I wanted to make sure that no harm had come to him and to encourage him to persevere. But the blow hit him hard too, you could tell, even if he tried to hide it in every way. Only a few days ago, however, I received a letter from mutual friends saying that he could hardly bear the strain without breaking down. And to save him from a nervous breakdown, they want him to go to France. I was asked to influence him in this direction, but I could not decide to do so, because basically it is a matter between him and his conscience. I believe that he would rather fall at his post than abandon his German patients. Surely you too know how dependent they are on him as a spiritual support. I feel so sorry for Abraham, because he is after all a person who is special in every way. Sometimes one hardly dares to think of the future."

Around this time Abraham met Pini Engle, also Jewish, who later became his wife.

In 1936 Abraham attempted to emigrate to Sweden. He knew doctors and journalists there including Ragnar Ahlstedt. He applied for a residence permit at the Swedish Supreme Social Authority in Stockholm on 12 August 1936, giving "medical work and studies" as the reason for his entry. However his application was rejected on 5 December 1936 without further explanation. Eric Thorsell wrote in his journal: 

“He tried to get work as a doctor here in Sweden, but it didn't work out. He was Jewish and almost the entire medical profession was Nazi influenced. So he had to get by with the support of his friends. His friends in Germany sent him a ten-kroner note hidden in a newspaper every time. He lived in a boarding house in Wallingatan, where I visited him a few times. Abraham's fate was tragic - he didn't manage to keep the spark of life glowing after everything fell apart for him in Germany."

In sadness, he returned to Berlin, and for a while lived with Pini’s father, Alexander Engel, a publishing bookseller.

In April 1937 Abraham moved to Florence, Italy with the intention of taking the Italian state medical examination. However the Berlin police had filed charges against him for abuse of narcotics. He took his own life in September.

His sister, Erna, her husband, the mechanical engineering entrepreneur Erich Marx, and their two children, managed to emigrate to England in November 1937.

The commemorative plaque in Florence
Alexander Engel died on 1 July 1939 in the hospital of the Israelitische Privat-Klinik e.V. in Munich.

Abraham’s friend Ellen Epstein died in a slave work camp in Latvia in 1942.

There is commemorative plaque for Abraham’s burial in the Cimitero Israelitico di Caciolle in Florence.

* not the Felix Abraham who wrote about South Africa.

  • Felix Abraham. “Chirurgische Eingriffe bei Anomalien des Sexuallebens” (Surgical interventions in abnormalities in sex life) Therapie der Gegenwart, 67, 1926: 451-5.
  • Felix Untersuchungen über die Veränderungen der Sterblichkeitsstatistik des ersten Lebensjahres in Frankfurt a.M. MD Thesis,1928. (Studies on the changes in mortality statistics of the first year of life in Frankfurt a.M.). Published by Druck, 1928.
  • Felix Abraham. “Auf den spuren des Sexualverbrechens”.(On the trail of the sex crime) Die Aufklarung, 1,8,1929: 232-5.
  • Karl Plättner, with Forwards by Magnus Hirschfeld and Felix Abraham. Eros im Zuchthaus. Sehnsuchtsschreie gequälter Menschen nach Liebe. Eine Beleuchtung der Geschlechtsnot der Gefangenen, bearbeitet auf der Grundlage von Eigenerlebnissen, Beobachtungen und Mitteilungen in achtjähriger Haft. Mopr-Verlag, 1929. English translation: Eros in prison : tormented cries of yearning for love.Redlines Press, 2020.
  •  “Ein interessanter Tranvestit”. Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft und Sexualpolitik, XVI, 2, 1930: 145-6.
  • Felix Abraham. “Transvestiten!”, Die Aufklärung 1930; 2: 165.
  • Erich Wulffen & Felix Abraham (eds). Fritz Ulbrichs Lebender Marmor: Eine Sexualpsychologische Untersuchung Des den Mordprozess Lieschen Neumann Charakterisierenden Millieus und Seiner Psychopathologischen Typen - Photomaterial aus den nichtbeanständeten Aufnahmen des Ulbrich'schen Nachlasses (Fritz Ulbrich's Living Marble: A Sexual Psychological Investigation of the Millieu Characterising the Murder Trial of Lieschen Neumann and its Psychopathological Types - Photographic material from the uncaptioned photographs of Ulbrich's estate.).Verlag für Kulturforschung, 1931.
  • Felix Abraham. “Genitalumwandlungen an zwei männlichen Transvestiten”. Zeitschrift für Sexualwissenschaft und Sexualpolitik, 18: 223-226. 1931. English translation as “Genital Reassignment on Two Male Transvestites”. The International Journal of Trangenderism. 2, 1. Jan-Mar 1998.  Archive.
  • Félix Abraham translated into French by Pierre Vachet. Les Perversions sexuelles d'après les traveauxdu docteur Magnus Hirschfeld .  Editons internationales François Aldor,
  • L Rhan. “Gespräch mit einer Frau, die einmal ein Mann war” (Conversation with a woman who was once a man). Das 12 Uhr Blatt,2 August 1932.
  • Lothar Golte (dir). Mysterium des Geschlechts. Scr: Lothar Golte, Felix Abraham & Professor Pehem, with Dora Richter, Toni Ebel and Charlotte Charlaque. Austria BW 1933.
  • Charlotte Wolff. Magnus Hirschfeld: A Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology.Quartet Books, 1986: 178, 426, 432, 436-7.
  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Geschlechts: Transvestitismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft. Giessen: Psychosozial-Verlag, 2005: 115-6, 120-6, 153-6, 183, 185, 192, 195, 197-8, 203, 210, 217.
  • Raimund Wolfert & Ralf Dose. “Felix Abraham”. Stolpersteine in Berlin, 12.11.2016. Online.
  • Herbert Henck. Ellen Epstein (1898-1942): A Jewish artist from Silesia.  Online.

DE.Wikipedia     Institut für Sexualwissenschaft      Magnus-Hirschfeld-Gesellschaft e.V.    Frankfurter Personenlexikon


Also at the Institut were Karl Abraham and Hans Abraham. It is not known if they were related.

While Felix Abraham was the Institut doctor with special responsibilities for ‘transvestites’ for only four years, 1929-1933, he did more for trans persons than any other doctor before Harry Benjamin almost three decades later. He certainly did more than his predecessor Arthur Kronberg who as a psycho-analyst preferred the ‘talking cure’ to practical help. Abraham was more in line with Hirschfeld’s approach to allow patients to dress as they pleased and to acquire a Transvestitenschein.

There are no documents about the time and place of the Abraham-Engel marriage - it may not have taken place until the beginning of 1937. Pini Engel's life and fate are otherwise also unknown. The fact that they were married can only be deduced from a few preserved private letters and Felix Abraham's Italian death certificate, in which he is referred to as "marito di Pini Engel".

The Israelitische Privat-Klinik in Munich continued taking Jewish patients after they lost their entitlement to treatment in public hospitals after 1933.   In May 1942 Heinrich Himmler ordered the hospital to be evacuated. The patients, nurses and doctors housed in the house, including the chief physician Dr. Julius Spanier, were deported to the Theresienstadt concentration camp in three successive transports in June 1942. 

15 September 2022

Transvestitenschein - Part II Third Reich

Part I: Weimar Republik

Part II: Third Reich

 BackgroundWhile the Nazi party was - with a few exceptions such as Ernst Röhm, leader of the Sturmabteilung [SA] - mainly anti-queer, its persecution was mainly aimed at gay men. Some trans persons were sucked into this persecution and were imprisoned and died. However others managed to get their Transvestitenschein approved or renewed. A very small number managed to gain legal name changes and even gender-affirming surgery. In this and other ways the Third Reich was inconsistent, both in its tolerance and in its murderousness.

30 January 1933: New Cabinet sworn in, with Adolf Hitler as Chancellor.

Hermann Goering was appointed Minister of Interior. He ordered the closure of gay bars. He sacked senior police officers in order to replace them with key Nazi supporters, and recruited 50,000 members of the SA to work as Auxiliary Police (this later became the Gestapo). Thus the police acceptance of the non-criminality of queer persons which had been hard-won during the Weimar-period was lost.

27 February. The Reichstag fire. Immediately before the federal election of 5 March. Nazi organisations monitored the voting, and the Nazi Party (NSDAP) gained a majority.

21 March. The Malicious Practices Act (Verordnung zur Abwehr heimtückischer Diskreditierung der nationalen Regierung) enabled "protective custody" (Schutzhaft - internment without trial on the pretence of protection from ‘the righteous wrath of the population’) of paupers, homosexuals and Jews.

24 March. The first concentration camp was opened close to Dauchau, near Munich. The Reichstag passed what became known as the Enabling Act which allowed laws passed by the government to override the constitution.

6 May. The Deutsche Studentenschaft made an organised attack on the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft.

10 May. Part of the Institut's library and archives were publicly hauled out and burned in the streets of the Opernplatz.

Gerd Winkelmann was working for the post-office in Berlin in 1933 when he first obtained a Transvestitenschein.

Gerd Kubbe had his Transvestitenschein withdrawn.

Toni Simon’s one-year Transvestitenschein was cancelled by the new regime. After a short prison sentence, Simon left for Spain.

Ossy Gades, who had previously worked as a taxi-dancer at the Eldorado but was then working as a man, was arrested several times and beaten for having dressed in women’s clothes. He explained that he was not homosexual, and went out en-femme only when accompanied by his wife. He was still regarded as homosexual.

1934 Toni [not Ebel] was allowed to take that name, and allowed to wear women's clothes. In the following years she felt 'balanced and happy'.

The number of men sentenced to prison under § 175 increased from 464 in 1932 to 575 in 1933 and 635 in 1934. There was as yet no systematic persecution of individual homosexual behavior, and until 1935, convictions remained below the high of 1,107 convictions set in 1925.

21 June. The Night of the Long Knives. The murderous purge of Ernst Röhm and other gay men in the ranks of the SA wing of the Nazis.

Toni Ebel and Charlotte Charlaque fled to Czechoslovakia.

October. Reinhard Heydrich, director of the Schutzstaffel (SS),ordered the police of all large cities to make a list of homosexuals. A separate Gestapo department, the Special Commission for Homosexuality in Berlin, was set up. In late 1934, the Gestapo targeted Berlin and Munich, raiding surviving gay bars and making mass arrests of homosexual men. Many accused of homosexuality admitted to acts that were not punishable under Paragraph 175 and expected to be released; instead, they were mistreated and held in protective custody (Schutzhaft) in Columbia-Haus, Lichtenburg, or Dachau concentration camp.

1935 Gerd Winkelmann applied for an extension of the Transvestitenschein. Winkelmann pleaded that the discrepancy between the name on his papers and his appearance prevented him from getting a job, and that he could not wear female clothing because he was always taken to be a man. He stressed that he was not a lesbian. Three officials found his case to be plausible in that he looked like and passed as a man. They ordered the police to keep an eye on him.

By early 1935, 80 percent of the prisoners held in 'protective custody' (Schutzhaft) in the concentration camps were there for alleged homosexuality. To convict these men, it was decided to change the criminal code.

Paragraph 175 was amended. The new version of the law punished all sexual acts, defined broadly; "objectively when a general sense of shame is harmed and subjectively when there exists the lustful intention to excite either of the two men or a third party". In theory, it became a crime to look at another man with desire. Men were convicted for mutual masturbation or simply embracing each other and in a few cases when no physical contact had occurred. Under the new law, typically all participants were viewed as equally guilty whereas under the previous law, the "active" and "passive" participants were differentiated. The new law made it much easier to arrest and convict homosexual men, leading to a large increase in convictions. Under a new section 175a, the law also introduced harsher penalties for male prostitution, sex with a man younger than 21, or sex with a student or employee. The change in the law was not publicized for fear of spreading knowledge of homosexuality. Most Germans were unaware the law had changed and many of those arrested under the new law had no knowledge they were committing a crime. The law was also applied retroactively.

Trans persons were then under more pressure to prove that they were not homosexual and not sex workers.

Ossy Gades was arrested again, and sent to Lichtenburg concentration camp. This camp was one of the first and housed mostly political prisoners and gay men. He died there a year later.

1936 In April the case re Gerd Winkelmann was passed to the Geheime Staatspolizei (Gestapo), who requested a report from Professor Dr. Müller-Heß of the Berlin Institute for Forensic Medicine (Psychiatric division).

Mathias Robert S moved from Vienna to St Pölten, Lower Austria having had an operation to remove his internal female organs. He applied to have his first name changed. The Regional Sanitary Directorate argued his case as Hirschfeld had done for similar cases. However after a medical examination the request was declined. The Provincial Government emphasised that according to "current customs, the wearing of masculine dress by women occurs often enough, especially in the countryside and in spas and bathing resorts, and there are no police regulations against it. The application for a change of first name was therefore not granted in 1937 for lack of "merit"(rücksichtswürdigen).

Establishment of the Reich Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion (Reichszentrale zur Bekämpfung der Homosexualität und Abtreibung), which oversaw the registration of transvestites. It worked with Gestapo Special Bureau II S.

Heinrich Himmler, Reichsführer of the Schutzstaffel (Protection Squadron; SS), was quoted in 1937 that it was a “catastrophe if we masculinise women in such a way that the difference between the sexes, the polarity, disappears over time” and "all things that move in the sexual sector" not to be a "private matter for an individual, but they mean the life and death of the people”.

1937 In England, a clergyman and his wife consulted psychiatrist and Hirschfeld associate Norman Haire and asked him to make an application to the Home Office for a transvestism permit such as had been available in Germany. Haire asked a Cabinet Member (and husband of another of Haire’s patients) to make the request. The reply was that it was quite impossible to issue such a permit because it was not illegal to go about in public in the clothes of the opposite sex, and the Home Office could not issue a permit to condone behaviour which was already quite legal.

Hertha Wind was called up for reserve training with the Navy. On arrival she was assumed to be Frau Wind who had called to collect her husband’s papers. By luck the former captain of the battleship Friedrich der Grosse (on which Wind had served) was in the building, and Wind was able to explain to him, and he got the situation put right.

Between 1937 and 1939, nearly 95,000 men were arrested for homosexuality—more than 600 per week—representing a major investment by the Nazi police state. From 1936 to 1939, nearly 30,000 men were convicted under Paragraph 175. Unlike in the past, these men were virtually guaranteed to receive a jail sentence. The length of sentences increased; many men were sentenced to years in jail. Prosecutors, judges, and others involved in the cases increasingly cited Nazi ideology to justify harsh punishment, adopting the regime's rhetoric of "stamping out the plague of homosexuality". The use of concentration camp imprisonment increased; after 1937, those considered to have seduced others into homosexuality were confined to concentration camps.

24 January 1938 when "on the basis of § 1 of the Decree of the Reich President for the Protection of the People and the State of 28 February 1933” Gerd Kubbe was arrested for wearing men's clothing in public till recently, although her permission to do so had been withdrawn in 1933. Kubbe was incarcerated in the Lichtenburg Concentration Camp.

4 March. Mathias S formally applied to the Provincial Governor's Office for "written police permission to wear male clothing" - although this was still not required under Austrian law - and for "entry of the writer's name Mathias Robert S[...] in his passport or in a police identification document"

13 March. With the Anschluß Österreichs, the annexation of Austria, some German law was applied in Austria. That is Transvestitenscheins could now be issued, but Austria unlike Germany retained its own law against lesbianism.

Hertha Wind’s papers were still those of a man despite it being seven years since her completion surgery. Her doctor urged her to stage a showdown. She went to the public baths in Frankfurt and attempted to enter the men’s section, showing her id that said that she was a man. The kerfuffle seemed to be going nowhere, but a few months later she did receive official permission to wear women’s cloths, and the next year new identity documents but as Fraulein, not Frau. And she became Frau a year after that.

Kubbe was released on 12 October that same year, with a temporary permit, and instructed to report to the Berlin Gestapa Department II D. Kubbe was granted permission to wear men's clothing under the condition that she may not go to public places of need, baths and the like in men's clothing. In addition to the Transvestitenschein, Kubbe was allowed to take the gender-neutral first name of Gerd. In addition police surveillance was ordered.

Mathias Robert S again submitted an application to the competent authority for a change of documents or a change of the first name. S. then contacted the Institute for Forensic Medicine in Vienna where a professor agreed to provide an expert opinion free of charge. This led to provisional re-registration in November.

December. Rudolf K appeared “in men’s clothes” at the Vienna Criminal Police Headquarters. He explained that he had worn men’s clothes since 1920 "partly out of disposition, partly for the sake of easier advancement". He was actually using his brother’s papers and was registered with the police as a man. In November he had received a request from the military district command to present "for examination". However, since he knew everyone in his small town, he had "shied away" from complying with this request and turned himself in to the police. He had not applied for a Transvestitenschein, was employed as a photographer’s assistant and was supporting his blind elderly foster mother. On K’s behalf, a lawyer filed an application for a Transvestitenschein and for a legal name change.

Liddy Bacroft, who had had a Transvestitenschein in the early 1920s, but had served time for theft and ‘unnatural fornication’ was released from prison but later was re-arrested for solicitation. A few months into her new sentence, Liddy applied for "voluntary castration" in order to be cured of the "morbid passion that led me down the path to prostitution". She was forensically examined by a medical councillor who recommended subsequent preventive detention.

1939 The police surveillance of Gerd Kubbe was discontinued 25 February.

April. Rudolf K’s application was supported by an official medical certificate.

May. Rudolf K’s case was referred to the Reichsführer SS. The Reichskriminalpolizeiamt supported the application. In July the application to wear mens’ clothes was approved but with a caveat that K be instructed not to go to public places of need, baths and the like. In August the local police approved the change of name. However the Provincial Governor's Office disagreed. The the Ministry of the Interior and Cultural Affairs of the Province of Austria declined to decide and the case was submitted to the Reich Ministry of the Interior in Berlin.

June: “Agnes S” was detained in Berlin for wearing a man’s suit without a Transvestitenschein. S. feared losing his livelihood (selling fruit from a barrow).

August. The Regional Sanitary Directorate again applied for Mathias Robert S to be definitely assigned to the male sex based on the report from the Institute for Forensic Medicine. This was accepted three days later.

Toni [not Ebel] expressed a "wish for a functional vagina". In the same year, the penis was amputated, the urethra was implanted in the perineum, and "vaginoplasty by means of skin folds from the remaining scrotal skin and finally, in 1940, the creation of a vagina artificialis".

1940 February. Gerd Winkelmann’s application was reprocessed. However it was announced that Winkelmann was a woman and must dress accordingly. A change of first name from Gertrud to Gerd would not be allowed. Winkelmann attempted to live as a woman, but met great humiliation.

26 February. The Reich Ministry of the Interior in Berlin approved Rudolf K’s name change.

Mathias Robert S married.

August: “Agnes S” arrested again, but released after promising to dress as female.

Elisabeth and Hertha Wind applied to adopt a baby girl. After Hertha took a four-month Mothers’ Course and gained a diploma, they were permitted to do so.

It was later reported that in 1940 in the town of Gladbeck, North Rhine-Westphalia, two persons previously regarded as women, were declared to be men, and one of them joined the marines.

1941 The Standesämter persevered in the case of Alex Starke, arguing that it was not a private case but a matter of interest to the state. The Interior Ministry issued a ruling in May 1941. They ruled that as Starke had lived as a man since 1920, it would be an ‘unjustifiable hardship’ and maybe even ‘impossible’ for him to have to start living as a woman. The name change was not to be rescinded, however he was not to be allowed to marry.

1942 Henriett B. on completion of her sentence for draft evasion, requested castration. The health department went further and, as a matter of eugenics, did a penectomy. After returning to Hanover B. applied to change her first name from Hinrich to Henriett. No objections to this were raised.

1943 Mathias Robert S and his wife fostered a baby girl. A few years later they adopted her.

Liddy Bacroft completed her prison sentence. She was then transferred to the Mauthausen concentration camp where she was murdered.

1945. WWII ended 8 May. The concentration camps were liberated, and most surviving inmates freed. However queers, convicted under either the original § 175 or under the revised more inclusive § 175 of 1935, were transferred to regular prisons to complete their sentences.

20 September. The Malicious Practices Act, 1933 was repealed by the Allied administration.

1948 Toni [not Ebel]: Although the approval for the change of first name had been granted in October 1934, it was not until 1948 that the "rectification of the registry office records" took place, according to which the applicant was retroactively assigned to the female gender on the basis of a "medical determination". Now she also applied for "rehabilitation" and sought "judicial prosecution and punishment for the crime committed against me in 1933".

1949 After the founding of the Deutsche Demokratische Republik (DDR - East Germany) an omnibus bill was passed to repeal all Nazi legislation, thereby reverting to the original 1870 § 175. The Bundesrepublik (BDR - West Germany) retained most Nazi legislation including the revised § 175 of 1935.

1951 Toni Simon’s Transvestitenschein, cancelled in 1933, was restored.

1956 West Germany’s Bundesentschädigungsgesetz (BEG - Federal Compensation Act) offered compensation to victims of Nazism. However it specifically excluded Sinti/Roma/Gypsy/Tsigani, those who were considered asocial under the Nazi regime or men convicted under § 175 . In practice trans persons and female impersonators were also excluded.

Toni Ebel living in East Berlin applied to the DDR for and was granted compensation as a victim of Nazism.


The following were consulted:

  • Rainer Herrn. Schnittmuster des Geschlechts. Transvestismus und Transsexualität in der frühen Sexualwissenschaft. Giessen, 2005: .

  • Jane Caplan. “The Administration of Gender Identity in Nazi Germany“. History Workshop Journal, 72, Autumn 2011.

  • Katie Sutton. “ ‘We Too Deserve a Place in the Sun’: The Politics of Transvestite Identity in Weimar Germany”. German Studies Review, 35,2, 2012.

  • Ilse Reiter-Zatlaukal. “Geschlechtswechsel unter der NS‐Herrschaft”. Beiträge zur Rechtsgeschichte Österreichs, 2014.

  • Eva Fels. “Transgender im Nationalsozialismus”. 2014. Online.

  • Natasha Frost. “The Early 20th-Century ID Cards That Kept Trans People Safe From Harassment”. Atlas Obscura, November 2, 2017. Online.

  • Lisa-Katharina Nader. "Ein Mann in Frauenkleidern": Männliche Transvestiten in deutschsprachigen Printmedien der Habsburgermonarchie und der Österreichischen Republik 1895 bis 1934. Mag. phil, Universität Wien, 2017: 25-8. Online.


GVWW(La Préfecture de Police, Paris, and permissions de travestissement)