HOMOSEXUALITY, POLITICS AND THE MEDIA: THE EULENBURG SCANDAL (1906-1909)
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The article is concerned with the political campaign undertaken by the rightwing journalist Maximillian Harden, who aimed at depriving of political influence Philipp von Eulenburg, an adviser to Kaiser Wilhelm II, and the politicians close to him. To this end Harden published a series of press articles, which presented Eulenburg and his milieu as a powerful 'conspiracy' of homosexuals who professed cosmopolitan and pacifist views and influenced German foreign policies rendering the country lenient vis-a-vis other powers. This accusation applied primarily to relations with France (the councillor of the French embassy in Berlin, widely associated with homosexual inclinations, was frequently seen with Eulenburg and his friends). The articles triggered off a series of lawsuits extensively related by the press. The reports published for the public went into details of the intimate life of the politicians. In court Harden discredited many of his adversaries and even managed to demonstrate that Eulenburg's declaration, delivered under oath, in which the politician denied ever having homosexual intercourses, was false. An additional result of the court procedures was the revealing of homosexual and prostituting practices among the Kaiser's horse-guards. Alongside the analysis of the scandal, the author reflects on the role of the press (articles, caricatures and satirical verse) in the brutalization of the public debate. He also points out that the economic and political changes of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th century resulted in diminishing of tolerance towards groups displaying 'improper' social behaviour, although he concedes that the inhabitants of the German great cities (Berlin's in particular) tolerated the existence of homosexual milieus. Due to that factor the notorious paragraph 175 of the German penal code, which prohibited homosexual contacts between men, was relatively rarely put into practice.
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