International Journal of

Arts , Humanities & Social Science

ISSN 2693-2547 (Print) , ISSN 2693-2555 (Online)
DOI: 10.56734/ijahss
Jacob Heiss and the Gay Nobel Laureate: Homosexuality in Nazi Germany


The historical and scientific literature is replete with the extraordinary story of the 1931 winner of the Nobel Prize in Medicine or Physiology, Otto Heinrich Warburg. What all publications have in common when telling the Warburg story are two main themes, his religion, and his theory as to the cause of cancer. A recent biography of Warburg that has garnered a great deal of attention in the media has again targeted his theory on cancer and the role glucose plays in tumor survival. Earlier biographers while addressing his personal life to some degree, have shied away from, or have only tangentially addressed the issue that Warburg was gay or in the vernacular of the era a homosexual.

In what has been called by some historians as the great intellectual migration 1500 Jewish scientists trained at some of the best institutions in the world fled for the United States or other safe havens following the ascension of Adolf Hitler. Among those who fled were physicists such as Albert Einstein, as well as numerous biologists, most of whom would go on to become Nobel laureates. While his Jewish colleagues fled Germany, Warburg opted to stay, where he not only survived the war, but thrived. While the story of the Jewish scientist who survived Nazi Germany is extraordinary and to this day leaves many unanswered questions, it is but half the story, it is the other half of the Warburg story that has all but been erased. While in no way an attempt to minimize what we now know about the ultimate plight of millions of Jews; I however, have chosen to focus the plight of gay men under Nazi rule and  to point out that the 1931 winner of a Nobel Prize Otto Warburg was gay and the often-neglected fact that he was in a loving relationship with his partner, right-hand and on occasion his protector for over 50 years, Jacob Heiss.