From William A. Percy
Jump to: navigation, search


This European country traces its existence to 1180 when Frederick Barbarossa convicted Henry the Lion of treason and confiscated his estates, dividing Bavaria proper from its eastern extension which became Austria. Defeating Otokar I of Bohemia in 1278, the Emperor Rudolf I granted Austria as a fief to his son Albert I, the first Habsburg to rule there. From 1278 until 1918 Habsburgs reigned in Austria, adding to their domain more by astute and fortunate marriages than by conquest.

Joseph II (1741-1790), great-great-grand nephew of the emperor Rudolf II (possibly homosexual) and son of Maria Theresa, was one of the most admired of Austrian monarchs. Inspired by Voltaire and the Encyclopedists and by the example of Frederick the Great of Prussia, he began in 1761 (after his mother associated him into the government) to draw up memoranda, many of which he put into effect after her death. Joseph was the first monarch in Europe to emancipate the Jews (in 1791). In reforming the penal code, he followed the humane principles of Count Cesare Beccaria, eliminating torture and cruel and unusual punishments, reducing the number of capital offenses, and decriminalizing many activities. He reduced the penalty for homosexuality from death at the stake to life imprisonment.

In Joseph II's time, Vienna emerged as the musical capital of Europe with such giants as Mozart and Haydn. Franz Schubert, the only major composer of the group actually to have been bom in Vienna, was probably homosexual. Suspicions that have been voiced about Beethoven's interest in his nephew are hard to substantiate.

The Habsburg Empire that Maria Theresa and Joseph II had solidified endured the revolutions and Napoleonic wars and rose under Metternich during the Congress of Vienna to dominate European diplomacy until his overthrow by the Revolution of 1848, during which the 18-year old Franz Joseph succeeded upon his father's abdication. This grand-nephew of Joseph II reigned until 1916, trying to patch together the old system against the rising tides of nationalism and socialism, and to hold together his dominion served by three armies—a standing army of soldiers, a sitting army of bureaucrats, and a creeping army of informers. The decadence of Franz Joseph's reign contrasted with the brilliant intellectual and artistic life of his capital, which became one of the gay centers of Europe.

In the field of sex research, the first major figure of modem times was Richard Freiherr von Krafft-Ebing (1840—1902), called from Germany to Graz and then to Vienna, which had become the world's leading medical school. His Psychopathia Sexualis (first edition 1886) disclosed to the educated public the existence of homosexuality and other sexual "perversions," of which he assembled a picturesque dossier on the basis of his own and others' observations mainly in prisons and insane asylums that left the public with the conviction that all who engaged in forbidden sexual activity were in some way "mentally ill." At a symposium he criticized Freud's presentation of his seduction theory. Also, Moritz Kaposi (1837—1902) was professor of dermatology at Vienna from 1875 until his death; in 1872 he had published the article that first described Kaposi's sarcoma, which later became significant in AIDS.

The misogynist and Jewish anti-Semite Otto Weininger, who committed suicide in 1903 on discovering too much of the feminine in his own personality, invented the modern concept of bisexuality—or perhaps borrowed it from the Berlin physician Wilhelm Fliess, who had not published it. Anna Freud seems to have had a long-term lesbian relationship with an American woman in the Vienna of the 1920s. The leading modernist writer Robert Musil described in Young Törless (1906) how two older boys at a preparatory school he attended forced a younger boy to have sexual relations with them. The witness, presumably the author, had a nervous breakdown. Hermann Broch's The Death of Vergil (1945), which he completed after his emigration to America, relates Vergil's musings about the boys he loved. The Austrian penal code of 1852, which criminalized lesbianism, reduced the penalties imposed by the Josephine code for male homosexuality, and generally came closer to the provisions of the Pmssian code of the same year. But the existence of the law did not prevent Vienna from having a lively homosexual subculture at the turn of the century, with its cafb, restaurants, bathhouses, and places of rendezvous all under the surveillance of the police,who like their counterparts in Berlin kept systematic lists of those who engaged in homosexual activity.

The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee founded in Berlin in 1897 acquired a branch in Vienna in 1906 under the leadership of the engineer Joseph Nicoladoni and the psychoanalyst Wilhelm Stekel. Freud is reported to have made small donations to it, and Isidor Sadger used the periodical of the Committee to locate subjects for his (not particularly sympathetic) psychoanalytic studies. Among the minor gay literary figures of this time were Emil Mario Vacano, Karl Michael Freiherr von Lewetzow, Joseph Kitir, and Emerich Graf Stadion, who published in the journal Poetische Flugblattern, edited by Kitir.

In 1901 the writer Minna Wettstein-Adelt published under the pseudonym Aimée Duc a novel entitled Sind es Frauen? [Are They Women?] that depicts a circle of self-consciously lesbian women in Geneva, the center of which is a Russian named Minotschka Fernandoff. The feminist Marie von Najmajer (1844-1904), born inHungary, saluted the new century with a "Hymn to the Daughters of the Twentieth Century" that had strong lesbian overtones. Yet the lesbian subculture of Vienna took little interest in the literary treatment of the natives of the city; it preferred works showing the Viennese lesbian abroad or the foreign lesbian drawn to the Austrian capital. Compared with the network of enterprises catering to the male homosexual the lesbian subculture remained small and marginal. One of themyths that later circulated abroad was that the Viennese of the early decades of the century were sexually repressed to the point of neuroticism, when in fact the capital had much the same ambiance in contrast with the provinces as did Paris in relation to therest of France. As the focal point of the homosexual emancipation movement, Berlin garnered more than its share of attention, but Vienna until 1918 was the cosmopolitan center of a multi-national empire where erotic pleasure was always sought-and frequently found. Ludwig Wittgenstein cruised the Prater, where the ferris wheel is located, during the 1920s, and often went to a classy cafC, a chess club with newspapers by day and a flaming gay club at night. After the 1938 Anschluss, which joined Austria to Hitler's Reich, a number of the country's homosexuals became victims of the holocaust.

The strength of the Catholic church in Austria, particularly the state that remained after the Treaty of Saint-Germain, kept law reform from occurring until 1971, two years after the Federal Republic of Germany amended Paragraph 175. There is a higher age of consent for male homosexuals (18) than for heterosexuals and lesbians (14). Moreover, article 220 of the 1971 penal code provides for up to six months imprisonment for anyone who advocates or states approval of homosexuality, while article 221 stipulates the same penalty for anyone belonging to an organization that "favors homosexual lewdness." These provisions have never been enforced. The major gay organizations Homosexuelle Initiative (HOSI) operate quite successfully under the shadow of this legislation, while gathering data about gay people in the Warsaw pact nations of Eastern Europe. From 1979 this information has been recorded in the quarterly Lambda Nachrichten (HOSI Wien), which even received an official press subsidy in 1987. Vienna also has a gay and lesbian community center, Rosa LilaVilla.

BIBLIOGRAPHY. Neda Bei, et al., eds., Das lila Wien um 1900, Vienna: Promedia, 1986.

William A. Percy

Personal tools