the forgotten Holocaust': Length of article: 1000
27th January the world stopped to remember the victims
of the Holocaust: TV showed documentaries; world leaders laid
reefs at the Auschwitz concentration camp; even the Queen had
tea with some survivors. But as people around the world remembered
the six million dead Jewish victims they seemed to forget
that another five million more were victims of the same
Nazis were just as intolerant of other groups including Gypsies,
Jehovah's Witnesses, all ethnic groups, the Freemasons, and
the Gays. Gay people were persecuted for no other reason than
their sexuality. At the end of the Holocaust eleven million
people lay dead, at least 10,000 of them were gay. Welcome
to the forgotten Holocaust: The Homocaust:
1920's and 30's the rise of the bohemian movement left some
European cities with a positively cosmopolitan attitude to homosexuality:
Berlin alone had over 100 gay bars and clubs. Gays and
lesbians met, had sex, fell in and out of love, much as they
do today. And then things changed.
the fall of the Second Reich, middle-class Germans suddenly
found themselves on the breadline. They began looking to radical
political groups that promised to lead Germany back to greatness:
Enter Hitler's National Socialist (Nazi) party. Hitler's'
obsession with power and genetics (tracing the German master
'Aryan' race back through generations to biblical times) quickly
gained support and rose to office in 1933.
identified as non-Aryan soon became the scapegoat for all that
was going wrong in Germany. Radical laws were introduced reducing
the rights of Jews and other groups that were 'undesirable
to the future of Germany': among them the Gays.
was seen as a degenerate threat to the purity of the German
master race and gay men and women quickly became targets of
police raids and interrogation. Bars and clubs were outlawed,
prominent homosexuals were arrested and widespread persecutions
there are records of gay women being persecuted under Paragraph
175 the Nazis largely ignored them considering lesbianism
a 'non-permanent condition'. Gay men weren't so lucky.
Nazis persecuted approximately 100,000 gays under a paragraph
of an existing Penal Code. Paragraph 175 made sexual acts between
men a criminal offence. Hitler broadened it to include further
punishable acts, such as indecency, making arrest and charges
much easier. By 1944 all that was required for arrest was a
suggestion of homosexuality and many more men found themselves
arrested about 50,000 were sentenced to serve prison
terms while 15,000 were sent straight to concentration camps,
where they were selected for the toughest forced labour. Many
worked in stone quarries carrying huge heavy loads for hours
identified by the large pink triangle that all homosexual
prisoners had to wear at all times, gay inmates were often kept
in separate barracks away from other prisoners. The pink triangles
were treated with utter contempt in the camps and many lived
in fear of their lives at all times. Few other inmates communicated
with them for fear of reprisals brought on by association.
Nazi SS routinely tortured them and excelled in finding new
ways to humiliate their victims. 'Punishments' varied from a
whipping horse to hanging prisoners from wooden post attached
by the hands tied at the back leaving the victim dangling while
their body weight slowly pulled their arms up until both shoulders
became dislocated. Another was 'egg boiling' - involving dipping
a prisoners' testicles into a bowl of first boiling and then
freezing cold water repeatedly.
Nazis initially thought homosexuality was curable and SS
doctors began performing operations on prisoners to prove
their theories. At some camps gay men were injected with implants
containing huge levels of testosterone to make them more aggressively
masculine. Many more were tricked into undergoing 'voluntary'
castration under the promise of an early release.
the SS largely abandoned these theories, preferring their new
'Extermination through work program', specifically designed
to literally work homosexuals to death. It is not surprising
that for pink triangle inmates the death rate was as high
camps were finally liberated at the end of the war in 1945 and
the world learnt of the horrors of the Holocaust. But while
the other victims received financial compensation for loss of
family and loss of education, gay survivors received little
sympathy in post-war society.
many pink triangle survivors were re-arrested and re-imprisoned
under the same charges, with time spent in concentration camps
actually deducted from their pensions. Time spent in the camps
contributed to their continued sentences that were then completed
survivors bravely struggled for legal recognition of their suffering,
fighting many years for retribution for their imprisonment.
Acknowledgement did eventually come but was too late for many
gay victims & survivors, who lived the rest of their lives
as criminals in the eyes of the law. Today less than five
gay survivors are known to be alive.
be easy to consider these victims consigned to a tragic history:
numbers and statistics that are better left in the past so as
not to upset the balance of the present. And it is easy to forget.
Modern life throws up enough tragedies for the gay community
to deal with (the Soho bombing of 1999; the recent murder of
) It remains easy until the realization strikes
that these persecuted images are of gay men like us: gay men
with names, with families and friends, gay men whose only 'crime'
was to be gay, and 60 years ago what happened to them would
have happened to us.
the world stops to remember the victims of the Holocaust, and
the Jewish community rightly remembers their dead brothers and
sisters, isn't it time that we, as the gay community, did
the same for ours?
information about the Homocaust can be found at www.Homocaust.org
while the award winning 'Paragraph 175' documentary is available
to buy at most gay interest shops or directly at www.tellingpictures.com