Wetterhoffinkatu, 13100 Hämeenlinna, Finland
Hietaniemi Cemetery Helsinki, Helsinki Municipality, Uusimaa, Finland
Adolf Fredrik (Fritz) Wetterhoff (July 11, 1878 - December 2, 1922) was a Finnish lawyer, historian and unofficial diplomat in the service of the Finnish independence movement. In the book Die Homosexualität des Mannes und des Weibes (1914) by Magnus Hirschfeld, there is a short but powerful section on homosexuality in Finland. Information for this section was provided by Fritz Wetterhoff.
Wetterhoff was born in Helsinki into a military and civil servant's family of German descent, who had been living in Finland for several generations. Wetterhoff's mother died early, and Fritz Wetterhoff and his sister grew up in the custody of their aunts, Rosina and Fredrika Wetterhoff, who were both active in the Finnish women's movement.
Wetterhoff first studied history at the University of Helsinki, but probably never finished his studies. He trained as a technician in a weaving mill in Aachen, Germany, after which he moved back to Finland to teach in the textile technical college in Hämeenlinna, founded and run by his aunt. Later he studied law at the University of Helsinki and after graduating in 1909, he worked as the public prosecutor and mayor of Hämeenlinna, a small town 100 km north of Helsinki.
In 1911 the local newspaper denounced Wetterhoff's homosexuality. No names were mentioned in the article, but it was not necessary in a small town. Wetterhoff moved to Helsinki and worked as an attorney. Either because of the scandal surrounding his sexual orientation, or because of a new scandal about unclear financial business, he left Finland in 1913 and settled in Berlin, where he worked in a joint Scandinavian attorneys’ office.
Wetterhoff's contribution on homosexuality in Finland to Hirschfeld's book is the earliest attempt to write about homosexual history and the current situation of gay men in Finland. He begins by discussing homosexual elements in Scandinavian Viking sagas and lists important eighteenth- and nineteenth-century personalities in Finnish aesthetics and contemporary literature, such as Gustaf Mauritz Armfelt (1757– 1814), a military figure, diplomat and opera director and Fredrik Cygnæus (1807– 1881), a writer, professor of aesthetics and contemporary literature and patron of the arts who, according to Wetterhoff, were homosexuals. Wetterhoff constructs a narrative history of the identity of Finnish homosexuals with the folklore and heroes of ‘our own’.
Wetterhoff then continues with a detailed description (almost an ethnography) of the male homosexual subculture in Helsinki at the beginning of the twentieth-century. He mentions the most important outdoor meeting places and discusses sexual practices among men (according to him, anal sex was not very popular, but oral sex and mutual masturbation were).
Wetterhoff's contribution to Hirschfeld's book ends with his own theory of the reasons for homosexual conduct: ‘homosexuals are not only “psychic”, but also biological hermaphrodites, whose cell constitution differs from normal men and women’. He ends programmatically: ‘Exact natural sciences will bring our vindication, it will be total and invincible.’
Apart from Finnish gay history, Wetterhoff is an important figure in the history of Finnish independence. Until 1917 Finland was an autonomous Grand Duchy of Russia. Since the middle of the nineteenth century, there had been an increasing national movement demanding independence (Fredrik Cygnæus having been an important figure at this stage of the movement). At the beginning of the twentieth-century, during the reign of the last Russian tsar, Nicholas II, the oppression of small nations which were under the rule of Russia became harsher.
The tsar had abolished the Finnish national army in 1905 and young men had no chance to receive military training in Finland. In 1914 young academics and students founded the so-called Jaeger movement, an organisation for armed resistance. They decided to turn to Germany in order to receive military training.
Wetterhoff had come to the same idea in Berlin and, after being authorised by the students, made use of his personal contacts with German high military officials, politicians and even members of the royal family. Wetterhoff succeeded astonishingly well, since in 1915 Wilhelm II signed an order to organise full military education for 2,000 Finnish men who illegally left Finland in order to become trained as Jaegers in Germany.
The written history of the Jaeger movement explains Wetterhoff's success through diplomatic skills, personal charm and an astonishing capability to persuade people and make the impossible possible. Some Jaegers have later, in unpublished interviews, assumed that Wetterhoff's success was due to his homosexuality. There were many homosexuals among the German senior officers and, according to the interviewees, the homosexuals were like Freemasons, always helping each other.
Wetterhoff became an unofficial diplomat, a kind of first Finnish ‘ambassador’ in Germany. His career was splendid, but short. Although young Jaegers considered it self-evident that Wetterhoff would be the leader of the national independence movement, elderly leaders of the independence movement did not consider him a proper model for the Finnish youth. The written history gives two reasons for this: his unclear financial business, for which he was said to have left Finland in 1913 – and his homosexuality.
Wetterhoff's German rival, Major Maximilian Bayer, the officer who was in charge of the Finnish Jaeger battalion, managed to get Wetterhoff jailed on the basis of false accusations of Wetterhoff being a traitor to his country. However, no charges were raised against him, and after some months in pre-trial detention, he was sent to the German western front as an ordinary soldier.
Wetterhoff had taken German citizenship in 1914 in order to secure his position – as a Finnish citizen his activities for Finnish independence from Russia would have been a severe offence from the viewpoint of Tsar Nicholas II.
The Finnish executive group of the independence movement, based in Stockholm, displaced Wetterhoff from the leadership of the Berlin bureau of the Jaeger movement and his office – actually the first Finnish Embassy in Germany – was closed.
After the war Wetterhoff returned to Berlin and held a minor position in the new Finnish Embassy in Berlin. Later he returned to Finland, where he held an unimportant job in the press department of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He died in Helsinki in 1922 at the age of 44 of heart disease. In his lifetime Wetterhoff never received any ovations for his work for Finnish independence, despite his great effort for the Finnish Jaeger movement.
In his contribution to Hirschfeld's book, Wetterhoff describes Helsinki academic gay male circles at the beginning of the twentieth-century as rather open and the atmosphere towards homosexuality as rather tolerant. This opinion probably sealed his own fate. He had probably been too open about his sexuality and the attitudes towards homosexuality had changed in the 1910s.
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