LGBT HISTORY – The Gay Holocaust

gay holocaust

WE MUST NEVER FORGET

In 1928 there was an estimated 1.2 million “out” homosexual men living in Germany.  As Adolf Hitler rose in power, gay organizations were banned and scholarly books regarding homosexuality were burned. Hitler’s racial state ideology branded homosexuals not only as “parasites” and degenerates, but as enemies of the state. In 1935, the Nazi government significantly expanded the criminalization of homosexuality.

Under the direction of SS head, police drew up “Pink Lists”, and embarked on a vicious crackdown on homosexual men and women. Many were sent to mental hospitals, others were castrated by court order, and 100,000 of these men were sent to concentration camps.The pink triangle (now a symbol of Gay Pride) was placed on the prisoners to mark that they were homosexuals. An estimated 55,000 were executed

Heinz Dormer, spent nearly ten years in prisons and concentration camps. He spoke of the “haunting agonizing cries” from “the singing forest”, a row of tall poles on which condemned men were hung: “Everyone who was sentenced to death would be lifted up onto the hook. The howling and screaming were inhuman, beyond human comprehension”.

Color Description Of Badge Worn
Yellow (Star of David) Jewish. This symbol was used prior to the camps in the ghettos and when Jews were in the general population
Pink Gay men convicted under Paragraphs 174, 175 and 176 of the Reich Penal Code
Purple Jehovah Witnesses
Red Political prisoners
Black Antisocial/Romany
Green Criminals
Continued 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 as homosexuals remained deviants in the eyes of post-war society.
gay holocaust
Silent 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.

No Justice
In the 1945 Nuremberg 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.

Recognition did eventually come but late for many of gay victims & survivors, who lived the rest of their lives as criminals in the eyes of the law. While memorials remember the many other victims of the Holocaust, it was 54 years before one included the gay victims. In January 1999 Germany finally held its first official memorial service for the homosexual victims at the former Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

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Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial, Green Park, Darlinghurst
Gay and Lesbian Holocaust Memorial, Green Park, Darlinghurst

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