Ernest Borneman
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Ernest Borneman

Ernst Wilhelm Julius Bornemann (April 12, 1915 – June 4, 1995), also known by his self-chosen anglicisation Ernest Borneman, was a German crime writer, filmmaker, anthropologist, ethnomusicologist, psychoanalyst, sexologist, communist agitator, jazz musician and critic. All these diverse interests, he claimed, had a common root in his lifelong insatiable curiosity. From 1982 to 1986 he was president of the German Society for Social-Scientific Sexuality Research. In 1990 he was awarded the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for sexual science. From the 1990s onwards, he has been criticized for having made a contribution to the sexualisation of children through passages in his work advocating for sexual intercourse between children and adults.

Life and work

Ernst Bornemann was the only child of the Jewish couple Curt and Hertha (née Blochert) Bornemann. Born and raised in Berlin, he says he was "sexually mature at fourteen, politically mature at fifteen, and intellectually mature between fourteen and sixteen".[] As a pupil he made the acquaintance of German Marxist poet Bertolt Brecht and also worked at the counselling centre for workers established by Austrian-Jewish psychologist Wilhelm Reich's Socialist Association for Sexual Counselling and Research, an organisation Reich had moved from Vienna to Berlin in 1930.

Another important influence in Bornemann's early life was music, especially from overseas. As a ten-year-old, at the world's fair in Paris, France, he saw musicians from Belgian Congo who fascinated him. He went to concerts in Berlin as soon as they would let him in, listening, among others, to Marlene Dietrich, the Weintraub Syncopators and jazz saxophonist Sidney Bechet. A distant relative, the ethnomusicologist Erich von Hornbostel, introduced him to his field of study, and after school Bornemann attended Hornbostel's lectures and on weekends helped out in his archive. It was Hornbostel who initiated Bornemann into the world of jazz.

A member of the Communist Party of Germany, he fled Germany in 1933 after the NSDAP came to power. He deceived authorities by posing as a member of the Hitler Youth on his way to England as an exchange student. On arriving, he sought and was granted political asylum. He soon anglicized his first name to Ernest and, by dropping the second n, his family name to Borneman.[]

In England, Bornemann did not procure regular employment, and instead became a writer. In 1937, Gollancz published Bornemann's The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor, which he had completed before turning 20. By 1968 he had written six novels, five under his anglicized name and one using the pseudonym Cameron McCabe.[]

In London Bornemann met the Hungarian-Jewish anthropologist and psychoanalyst Géza Róheim, through whom he became interested in anthropological problems. He also took personal analytic treatment under Roheim.[] During his London years Bornemann was preoccupied with jazz, both theoretically and practically. He went to the concerts of famous musicians touring Britain, such as Duke Ellington and Cab Calloway, He played the piano, the double bass and the drums, and went to sea playing in dance bands on transatlantic cruise ships. He spent many hours in the British Museum Reading Room and at other institutions of learning. His notes on the origins and development of jazz grew steadily, and in 1940 he sent the first version of his study, a 580-page typescript entitled Swing Music: An Encyclopaedia of Jazz to Jewish-American anthropologist Melville J. Herskovits, then the most prominent U.S. specialist in African American studies.[]

In 1940 after the British declaration of war on Germany Bornemann was deported to a detention camp in Canada as an enemy alien. He was later released to work for the BBC and on miscellaneous film projects, including one with Orson Welles.[]

In 1960 Bornemann moved to West Germany, at the invitation of Chancellor Konrad Adenauer, to build up a state-owned television station called Freies Fernsehen Gesellschaft (FFG, "Free TV Company"). However, following a decision of the German Federal Court the station was prevented from broadcasting. Bornemann then began studies in scientific sexology, a subject that had interested him ever since his time with Wilhelm Reich and later Géza Róheim. He received a doctorate in 1976 for a comprehensive study of the origins and future of patriarchy, published as Das Patriarchat. He went on to publish many more studies of sexuality, language and power, and later was appointed to a professorship at the University of Salzburg in Austria. The German Society for Social-Scientific Sexuality Research honored him in 1990 as the first-ever recipient of the Magnus Hirschfeld Medal for Sexual Science, for his pioneering work in investigating early childhood sexuality. Professionals working with survivors of sexual abuse of children criticized Bornemann's support for the so-called sexual liberation of children which proposed that "every child should have the right to sexual intercourse with a grown-up". They accused him of condoning pedophilia.

In the final decades of his life Bornemann lived in Scharten, Upper Austria, where he committed suicide at the age of 80 after the collapse of a love affair with a colleague 61 years his junior.



  • The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor (1937) (as Cameron McCabe); London : Picador Classic, 2016 (with an introduction by Jonathan Coe), ISBN 978-1-5098-2981-1
  • Tremolo (1938)
  • Face the Music (1954)
  • Tomorrow Is Now (1959)
  • The Compromisers (1961)
  • The Man Who Loved Women (aka Landscape with Nudes) (1968)


Jazz writings

  • "Swing Music. An Encyclopaedia of Jazz" (unpublished typescript, 580pp., 1940)
  • A Critic Looks at Jazz (1946; collected criticism from his column in the jazz periodical The Record Changer, "An Anthropologist Looks at Jazz"; the only jazz book ever published by Borneman)


  • Lexikon der Liebe und Erotik (1968)
  • Psychoanalyse des Geldes. Eine kritische Untersuchung psychoanalytischer Geldtheorien (1973)
  • Studien zu Befreiung des Kindes, 3 vols. (1973)
  • Der obszöne Wortschatz der Deutschen—Sex im Volksmund (1974)
  • Das Patriarchat. Ursprung und Zukunft unseres Gesellschaftssystems (1975)
  • Die Ur-Szene. Eine Selbstanalyse (autobiographical, 1977)
  • Reifungsphasen der Kindheit. Sexuelle Entwicklungspsychologie (1981)
  • Die Welt der Erwachsenen in den verbotenen Reimen deutschsprachiger Stadtkinder (1982)
  • Rot-weiß-rote Herzen. Das Liebes-, Ehe- und Geschlechtsleben der Alpenrepublik (1984)
  • Das Geschlechtsleben des Kindes. Beiträge zur Kinderanalyse und Sexualpädologie (1985)
  • Die neue Eifersucht. Starke Männer zeigen Schwäche: Sie werden eifersüchtig (1986)
  • Ullstein Enzyklopädie der Sexualität (1990)
  • Sexuelle Marktwirtschaft. Vom Waren- und Geschlechtsverkehr in der bürgerlichen Gesellschaft (1992)
  • Die Zukunft der Liebe (2001) (his last book)

Borneman was also a scriptwriter for the British TV series The Adventures of Aggie (1956) about the adventures of a fashion designer on international assignments.

Borneman directed the 20 minute Canadian documentary Northland (1942) and also the 15 minute documentary written by Leslie McFarlane, Target - Berlin (Objectif Berlin) (1944).


  • "Afterword". In: Cameron McCabe: The Face on the Cutting-Room Floor (Gregg Press: Boston, Mass., 1981) (includes the tapescript of a long interview with Borneman conducted in 1979 by Reinhold Aman, the editor of the scholarly U.S. periodical Maledicta; reprinted in the 1986 Penguin edition of the novel)
  • Ein lüderliches Leben. Portrait eines Unangepaßten, ed. Sigrid Standow (2001).

External links

  This article uses material from the Wikipedia page available here. It is released under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share-Alike License 3.0.



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