Remembering the gay victims of the Holocaust
In collective memory, gay victims of the camps have long been neglected, but in the past few years memorialization has begun to recognize gay suffering.
Re-Victimization of Homosexual Targets of the Nazi Regime
Lisa Wade, PhD |Sociological Images
A hundred thousand men and women identified as homosexuals were imprisoned during the Nazi regime. They were detained under a law known as “paragraph 175,” which made sodomy illegal. Up to 15,000 were sent to concentration camps instead of prisons. Nearly 2/3rds would die there. The last surviving victim is believed to have died in 2011.
These men and women were not only victims of Nazi Germany, surviving torture in concentration camps, they were also denied validation as victims of the Third Reich. They were classified as criminals upon release and included on lists of sex offenders. Some were re-captured and imprisoned again.
The world went on to mourn the inhumanity of the Holocaust, but not for them. Because they were designated as non-victims, and also because they were stigmatized sexual minorities, they were largely excluded from the official history of Hitler’s Germany.
Last Known gay Holocaust survivor has died
Remembering Gay Victims of the Holocaust
By now, most people are familiar with the Pink Triangle which […] has a dark history, one that isn’t taught in school. I remember a teacher talking about nazis exterminating millions of Jews and “others,” as if the others were an insignificant footnote of world history. When pressed, he explained that the ‘others’ were made up of gypsies, socialists, deviants and political prisoners.
“ Other Victims ”
In terms of Germany’s postwar rehabilitation efforts, said Dorf, gay men were excluded from reparation claims because, until 1969, Paragraph 175 remained on the books.
“They weren’t acknowledged as victims, because they were still criminals,” she said.
Interestingly, Dorf pointed out, homosexuals are the only group of people oppressed by the Nazis whose modern descendants—the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community—have reclaimed a forced Nazi emblem. The pink triangle—an identifier much like the yellow star Jews were made to wear—is now used as a symbol of their movement for equality.
Likewise, “Paragraph 175” producer Michael Ehrenzweig — who is Jewish, part-German, Austrian-born and gay — explained to the audience, “German Television told me, ‘This is not the Holocaust, this is another story,'” when he approached them about airing the film.
He also said the immediate reaction toward the documentary by viewers at two Israeli film festivals was, “Don’t take the Holocaust away from us.”
After participating in similar panels in Tel Aviv and Haifa, Ehrenzweig said that initial attitude evolved into one of profound realization.
“Many Jews had no idea there were non-Jews involved in Nazi persecution… People realized they were in the same boat; it’s the same lack of humanity.”
However, Parks and Dorf both relayed they had been confronted by Jewish leaders and groups who felt their work on behalf of non-Jewish survivors was “negating” the fact that, as Lichti put it, “the central demonizing character for the Nazis was the Jew.”