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In particular, Hirschfeld mentioned as a reason for his gay rights activism, the story of one of his patients: a young Army officer suffering from depression, who killed himself in 1896, leaving behind a suicide note saying, despite his best efforts, he could not end his desires for other men, and so had ended his life out of his guilt and shame.In his suicide note, the officer wrote that he lacked the "strength" to tell his parents the "truth", and spoke of his shame of "that which nearly strangled my heart".

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However, the officer's use of Sie, the formal German word for you, instead of the informal Du, suggests Hirschfeld's relationship with his patient was strictly professional.

A figure frequently mentioned by Hirschfeld to illustrate the "hell experienced by homosexuals" was Oscar Wilde, who was a well known author in Germany, and whose trials in 1895 had been extensively covered by the German press.

During his visit to Britain, Hirschfeld was invited to a secret ceremony in the English countryside where a "group of beautiful, young, male students" from Cambridge gathered together wearing Wilde's prison number, C33, as a way of symbolically linking his fate to theirs, to read out aloud Wilde's poem The Ballad of Reading Gaol.

The officer could not even bring himself to use the word "homosexuality", which was instead conspicuously referred to as "that" in his note.

However, the officer mentioned at the end of his suicide note: "The thought that you [Hirschfeld] could contribute a future when the German fatherland will think of us in more just terms sweetens the hour of my death".

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