Speech of Ilse Kokula

Ilse Kokula during the commemoration ceremony in Rüdersdorf © Private archive 2003

Documentation of the speech of Ilse Kokula ("discoverer" of the first writing of Johanna Elberskirchen, attained a professor to "Sozialwissenschaftlerin" and 1985 first Gastprofessorin (professor) on the van Zuylen “Wechsellehrstuhl” in Utrecht/Niederlanden), she made during the commemoration ceremony for Johanna Elberskirchen and Hildegard Moniac on August 23 2003 on the cemetery Rudolf Breitscheid road in Rüdersdorf:

Ladies and Gentlemen, dear friends,

remembering and non–forgetting

under this slogan I would like to place the present day. Groups and individuals, who are not remembered, who are forgotten, who are discriminated against. I thank the municipality of Rüdersdorf and their representatives cordially for breaking the taboo of forgetting and for honouring two deceased lesbian members of their community by this ceremony.

I have been asked to report about the "discovery" of Johanna Elberskirchen. More than 25 years ago I began searching for my lesbian "ancestors". At the beginning of the 70's we young women and men of the liberation movement of the lesbians and gays did not know that we had a history of pursuit and a history - no longer visible resistance. We did not know at that time that we had predecessors. We were given only the books of the psychiatrists, psychologists and priests for orientation. As a consequence of the Nazi period and the “cold war” we did not know anything about "our history". I wanted to trace this hidden history and investigated in the context of my diploma and dissertation. Like others I entered new ground, because in the libraries only very little could be found, in the Nazi period it has been "cleaned"! Rather by coincidence at the end of the 70's I discovered Johanna Elberskirchen, which shortly after the turn of the century had written and published a great deal. We, who had set ourselves on tracing, were browsing in archives and second-hand bookshops and exchanged our findings.

In 1981 my book "female homosexuality around 1900 in contemporary documents" appeared, which became part of my dissertation. This work includes a longer excerpt of the disputation of 1904 of Johanna Elberskirchen "What has the man made out of woman, child and himself? Revolution and liberation of the woman".

Soon thereafter I discovered a further writing of her and communicated this to Manfred Herzer - who I shared discovery with at that time. He was just working on a "bibliography to Homosexuality" at that time, the first listing in German of non-belletristic documentations of female and male homosexuality from the years 1466 to 1975, which appeared in 1982. He thanked me for this on June 06 1981 and wrote: "So far I haven't known anything of the writing of Elberskirchen It is a genuine delicacy." So "The love of the third sex. Homosexuality, a bisexual variety. No degeneration - no guilt "of 1904 found it's way into the bibliography.

We remember that women received the right to study in Germany first in 1908, and the right to vote in 1918. Beyond that there were still further measures, in order to keep women away from looking after their interests and to prevent them from academic discussion. Thus there were regulations, which forbade a common participation of women and men in meetings where sexological topics were discussed. Inspite of these restrictions Johanna Elberskirchen was one of the most productive women in the area of the sexological literature. For her "the affection of persons of the same sex to each other" was not a "pathological expression of the sex impulse". In the three big clearing-up volumes of "man and woman. Their relationships to each other and their relations to the civilized life of the present is to be found the extensive article "The sex life of woman” of 1907 ", in which she describes her understanding of lesbian love. Here she speaks of "my scientific conviction" and assumes, that that "the sexual impulse, that is directed toward the own sex, is just as little to be designated as pathological as the normal (heterosexual)".

Johanna Elberskirchen represented thereby a point of view, which only now - at the beginning of the third millennium - is slowly gaining acceptance by the public.

This celebration contributes to it. I thank you for it.

© Ilse Kokula (Berlin/Rüdersdorf 2003)
Angelika Wichert (Translation, Berlin 2005)