Homocaust: The gay victims of the Holocaust
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Continued persecution

Survivors in an unidentified camp [possibly Ebensee] soon after liberation Credit: USHMM, courtesy of Wayne Larabee
Liberation for others
After the many years of ongoing persecution and Nazi terror, the freedom dreams of many concentration camp prisoners finally came true when, in 1944, the liberation began. The German army were being defeated throughout the Third Reich and as the Allies approached many camps were evacuated. Those left behind were left bewildered and confused.
On July 24th, 1944, the Soviet Red Army arrived at the Maidanek camp and liberated those inside. Other camps soon followed with the arrival of various Allied troops, although the largest of the death camps - Auschwitz - was not liberated until January 27th 1945. World War II ended on May 7th, 1945, when Nazi Germany finally surrendered to the Allied forces.

Auschwitz identity photo of man held under Paragraph 175- Credit: State Museum of Auschwitz - BirkenauContinued persecution
After the camps were liberated and the plight of the Jewish victims acknowledged worldwide, the persecution of homosexuals continued throughout post-war Germany. While many survivors were rebuilding their lives and families initially in displaced persons camps, homosexuals faced further persecution and social exclusion. In fact many pink triangle survivors were re-imprisoned under § 175, with time spent in concentration camps deducted from their pensions. Time spent in the camps contributed to their continued sentences that were then completed in prisons.
While other victims of the Holocaust received compensation for loss of family and loss of education, homosexuals remained deviants in the eyes of post-war society. In fact in Germany many more men were prosecuted under § 175 in the years immediate to the Nazi regime.

Auschwitz identity photo of man held under Paragraph 175- Credit: State Museum of Auschwitz - BirkenauSilent shame

The gay survivors who were liberated (i.e. not subject to further prison terms) often found themselves ostracized from society. Some were not welcomed back to their homes in the aftermath of war for the 'shame' they had brought on their family's reputation. Those that did return often kept their experience to themselves fearing that the sensitive nature of the horrors would bring further distress to family members. Some never spoke out about their suffering.

'In the early days after my homecoming, the neighbours made a bit of a fuss about this 'queer' concentration camp returnee.'

Gay survivor Heinz Heger (pseudonym)

In the post-war years many homosexuals tried to restart their battered lives; some entered into marriage; others struggled to find anonymity in their communities; some even entered into the armed forces. The stigma of the pink triangle was clearly a heavy burden and, without the support and contact of gay friends who were either in hiding or dead themselves, many survivors lived with the silent 'shame' of their experience in secret.

The fight for Justice

Auschwitz identity photo of man held under Paragraph 175- Credit: State Museum of Auschwitz - BirkenauWith § 175 still in place, many survivors tried hard to put their experiences behind them fearing further persecution. However, after the 'liberation' some survivors did bravely struggle for recognition through the courts. Survivors such as Karl Gorath, Heinz Dörmer, and Pierre Seel, fought many years for retribution for their imprisonment. Goraths' attempts at legal reparations were rejected both in 1953 and 1960. Pierre Seel refused to give up and continued fighting throughout the 1980's and 1990's.

In the 1945Nuremberg war crime trials that followed the liberation no mention was ever made of crimes against homosexuals. No SS official was ever tried for specific atrocities against pink triangle prisoners. Many of the known SS Doctors, who had performed operations on homosexuals, were never brought to account for their actions. One of the most notorious SS doctors was Carl Peter Vaernet who performed numerous experiments on pink triangle inmates at the Buchenwald and Neuengamme camps. He was never tried for his crimes and escaped to South America where he died a free man in 1965.

Many of the pink triangle survivors were never recognised as victims of the Holocaust during their lives and never lived to be repatriated. For those who continued to fight, it would be many years before their efforts paid off.

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This site is dedicated to the memory of the many who didn't make it. Never forget ... Never again.©2004 lewis Oswald