Sura Kyrka, Hammarleden 224, 735 91 Surahammar, Sweden
Eric Thorsell , born December 28, 1898 in Munktorp , died September 7, 1980 in Surahammar ,1 was a Swedish popular movement man , sober man , sex educator and at the time the leader in the fight for gay rights in Sweden. Throughout his professional life he was a worker at Surahammar's ironworks . During the 1950s judicial affairs , he was one of the few who publicly dared to criticize the moral panic and McCarthy-inspired hot pursuit of gays that resulted in the press campaigns.
As early as 1933 he gave a lecture ‘Are the homosexuals outlaws or criminals?’, perhaps the first lecture on this subject in Sweden. Thorsell never appeared openly as homosexual, but he was uncompromising in his struggle for the rights of homosexuals. He wrote no book, his media being the article and the lecture. After his death a fund was created in his memory.
Eric Thorsell was born as a illegitimate son to a 46-year-old widow who sustained herself and the son as a maid . He grew up in Malma parish and moved to Surahammar as a 19-year-old.2 During much of his life he tried to supplement the inadequate education provided by the folk school , primarily as a copywriter , in the library of the copywriter association, but eventually also through a winter course 1921-22 at Brunnsvik Folk High School and winter 1931-32, with help from a letter of recommendation from Elise Ottesen-Jensen , a half-year stay at the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin , easily by Magnus Hirschfeld .
The posthumously published A Gay Worker's Memoirs recorded by Fredrik Silverstolpe the year before Eric Thorsell's death. From these, it can be seen that Thorsell was already well aware of his homosexuality as a confirmation man and that sexual contacts after the teens were mainly cleared through visits to major cities, such as Stockholm, Gothenburg or Berlin.2
Politically, Thorsell belonged to the Social Democrats , and for a time was the municipal councilor and chairman of the sobriety board ,4 but not least during the 1950s judicial affairs were disappointed with the labor movement. 5 He was also a local home defense leader in Surahammar. 6
During the 1930s, Thorsell participated in attempts to start a Swedish magazine for gay issues, Lysis,Note 1 but the attempts ran out of sand, mainly due to financial difficulties. 7 Neither could the ideas of a national or Scandinavian association of homosexuals be realized at that time. 4 He also held, on February 10, 1933, what must have been one of the first public lectures in Stockholm on homosexuality, entitled Are they homosexuals lawless or criminals?
On the day two weeks later RFSU was formed . Thorsell threw himself, in his own words, with life and desire into the enlightenment work:
Since the press train on the Kejn business was started in 1950, Thorsell contacted Kejne9 and the others most closely involved: 10
When I read about all this myself, I thought it was a shame and shame that someone like Malmberg would destroy the rumor for Sweden's gay. I decided to seek out Malmberg and give him a proper hiatus because he made scandals about homosexuality.
Thorsell had expected to find a luxury brothel, but found a shabby bachelor's shelter where also an old church girl, an 80-year-old heir, lived.11 The brothel story on which the whole store was based turned out to be fictitious. The result of his private spying was shared with the Stockholm Police , with which, unlike the group around Kejne, he was able to establish a trusting relationship, 6 and via Ivar Harrie to the Kejn Commission . Copies of letters from the 19-year-old who was sentenced to 3 months imprisonment for false pretense after declaring that he had followed Kejne's home, and that Kejne had made a homosexual approach, were forwarded via Thorsell to the Kejne Commission who, unlike the sentencing courts, came to believe 19-year-old's honest conviction. 12
After Eric Thorsell was invited as a speaker to the newly formed RFSL , he came to play the role of senior adviser in the organization, which with his then scarce resources paid for Thorsell's trips to board meetings and other meetings. The trusting relationship with the Stockholm Police came in handy.13
In 1952, when the Haijby business was at the center of the public debate, Thorsell became angry. Not many people lined up for the gays. RFSU did just nothing. The newspapers that did not participate in the hot chase, they kept silent. Even the trade unions could be jerked with and propose the exclusion of gay members.5 To "set fire to the fire," Thorsell held a public lecture in Stockholm, From Holy Birgitta to Pastor Kejne, in March , on the historical parallels where rumors of homosexuality were used for political purposes, such as in the Eulenburg process or in the intrigue of Holy Birgitta to maneuver out Magnus Eriksson . 14 The lecture was a public success, but neither RFSU nor RFSL had dared to help. The lecture also led to a charge of defamation. Thorsell had mentioned that Kejne, by his head at the City Mission, after a tussle between them, received a gratuity of SEK 1,000 - of money raised for lost and derelict people. Thorsell was acquitted. 15
His mother's tombstone was reused to his grave site. For a long time, the stone was gone. In 2014 RFSL paid for a new stone on his grave. The initiative came from priest Mikael Mogren and the funeral contractor Bengt Gustavsson .
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