The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee (Wissenschaftlich-humanitäres Komitee, WhK) was founded in Berlin on the 14th or 15th of May, 1897, to campaign for social recognition of homosexual and transgender men and women, and against their legal persecution. It was the first such organization in history. It produced the Jahrbuch für sexuelle Zwischenstufen (Yearbook for Intermediate Sexual Types). This, as well as reporting the committee’s activities, carried articles of scientific, polemical and literary natures. It was publish regularly from 1899 to 1923 (sometimes even quarterly) and more sporadically until 1933.
The initial focus of the WhK was Paragraph 175 of the Imperial Penal Code, which criminalized “coitus-like” acts between males — the WhK assisted defendants in criminal trials, conducted public lectures, and gathered signatures on a petition for the repeal of the law. Signatories included Albert Einstein, Hermann Hesse, Thomas Mann, Rainer Maria Rilke, and Leo Tolstoy. Petitions were submitted to parliament, in 1898, 1922 and 1925, but failed to gain the support of the parliament, and the law continued to criminalize all male-male sexual acts until 1969 and wasn’t entirely removed until 1994. Original members of the WhK included physician Magnus Hirschfeld, publisher Max Spohr, lawyer Eduard Oberg and writer Max von Bülow. Adolf Brand, Benedict Friedländer, and Kurt Hiller also joined the organization.
In 1929, Hiller took over as chairman of the group from Hirschfeld. At its peak, the WhK had about 500 members and branches in approximately 25 cities in Germany, Austria and the Netherlands. The committee was dissolved in 1933 when the Nazis destroyed the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft in Berlin where the WhK was based.