The First Gay Rights Movie, Destroyed By The Nazis
“Different From the Others”, begins with a concert violinist infatuated with a young student and ends with blackmail and suicide. In between there are visits to bars and brothels, brawls in swanky digs, creepy shakedowns and a cameo by Oscar Wilde. It opened in the summer of 1919 to sold-out houses across Germany.
But as much as some critics and audiences took to the film, others found it indecent, un-watchable. There were catcalls at some screenings; at others, riots and walkouts. It wasn’t just that the two romantic leads were men. The film also had the audacity to claim that homophobia, not homosexuality, was a scourge of society. The following year, censors banned “Different From the Others” throughout Germany, claiming that the film could endanger public safety or turn impressionable youths gay. When the Nazis came to power, they destroyed every copy they could find. In doing so, what many consider the world’s first feature film to showcase sympathetic gay characters and themes was lost.
Every trace of the film might still be lost today if not for Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, who both appeared in the film as himself and was the film’s co-writer and resident sexologist. In 1927, Hirschfeld yanked 40 minutes of footage from the original film, scrambled the order of scenes and inserted them into his own feature, “Laws of Love”.