Memorial at Buchenwald Concentration Camp
Memorial at Buchenwald Concentration Camp

The Roots of Genocide

The Nazis ,when they came to power in 1933 ,were able to make use of existing laws to persecute and try to exterminate gay men. On the unification of Germany in 1871 the Penal Code was applied to the entire second reich under Kaiser Wilhelm.Paragraph 175 made sexual acts between males punishable in a court of law. In 1877 the German Supreme Court of Justice narrowly defined ‘unnatural indecency’ as an “intercourse like act’.This made convictions hard to obtain and in the dying days of the Weimar Republic in the late 1920s and very early 1920s there was,in effect, a considerable degree of tolerance—-far greater than existed in this country under the 1885 Criminal Law Amendment Act, Indeed, as Christopher Isherwood wrote in “Goodbye to Berlin’ [on which the film ‘Cabaret ‘ was based, “Berlin meant BOYS!’
and the cities bars and clubs became a magnet for gay men across Europe. One such was Scottish born Berlin hustler ,John Henry Mackay wrote this poem about gay love in 1924 in his book Die Eigene


“Since you think it is a dirty thing
Have dragged it through fear and infamy
And kept it under lock and key
This love will i freely sing.

To loves persecuted my song I bring
And to the outcasts of our time
Since happy or not this love is MINE
And this love dare I loudly sing

But things were to get a whole lot worse when the Nazis came to power. And they were able to utilise a strengthened Paragraph 175 to try to wipe gay people from the face of the earth, And -amazingly- a variant of Para 175 was to survive the war and gay men were still to be persecuted under it,


To the Nazis gay men [and to a lesser extent lesbian women] were–like Jews ,Gypsies and others a subhuman species who served only to be exploited,experimented on ,locked up and exterminated. The function of a patriotic Aryan man was to father more Aryan children for the battles ahead. The duty of a good Aryan wife was to give birth to as many of them as possible. To be Jewish AND Gay -to qualify for wearing the yellow and pink triangles was to be the scum of the earth.
They lost no time in launching the attack.Gay venues were closed.So were gay organisations. Scholarly books—-such as those published
by the world renowned Institut fur Sexualwissenschaft run by Magnus Hirschfeld were burned -along with other ‘anti-Aryan’ books -were burned.It is not clear whether Hirschfeld’s greatest crime in the Nazis eyes was being Jewish or being Gay
The Gestapo compiled lists of suspected gay men. Some—-as in Britain at the same time- married in a desperate attempt to prove that they were ‘normal’The arrests ,torture, and imprisonment began, They included —inevitably—some top Nazis such as Ernst Roehm executed in 1934 for allegedly plotting to overthrow Hitler.
It is almost impossible to know how many victims there were. It is believed that at least 50000 were locked up in brutal conditions. Most went to civilian jails. It is estimated that 10-15000 were sent to the camps where most wore the infamous pink triangles—so that other inmates had someone to target. Most died—-but only after a regime of brutality, being worked to exhaustion, and subject to cruelmedical experimentation such as castration. The latter of course a ‘cure’ also to be offered in this country although to be fair usually as an alternative to prison instead of a standard part of the prison or camp regime

Gerhard Beck [1923-2012] Last known  inmate of the camps who  was Jewish AND Gay
Gerhard Beck [1923-2012] Last known inmate of the camps who was Jewish AND Gay


In some ways though ,perhaps the most shameful aspect came AFTER the war —-in the sense that then we COULD have done something about it. A modified Para 175 remained on the statute book. Allied soldiers who liberated gays from the camps simply transferred them to civilian jails to serve out the remainder of their sentences. Victims often remained silent about their experiences because as in this country they were still regarded as criminals. Indeed gay British soldiers who helped liberate the camps could themselves be locked up or dishonourably discharged if they were open about their sexuality right up until 2000 after a limited degree of tolerance during the war—-as demonstrated in the testimony of Dudley Cave-archived by Peter Tatchell that during the war questions were not asked—and indeed hat openly gay soldiers served their purpose—but after the war there was a crackdown and go servicemen -together with those they had sought to liberate-lived in fear again,
Gay men were not recognised as victims at Nuremberg. None of those who carried out the vilest medical experiments were charged. Because many gay victims dare not speak out the existence of a gay holocaust was largely denied. It was not to be until 1969 before most of para 175 was removed, or 2002 before the German Government recognised them as victims of the Nazis and issued an official apology. In 2005 the European Parliament recognised homosexuals as one of the groups along with the Jews and others who were victims of the holocaust. Sadly by now there were very few survivors who could speak to the world of their experience- and that in just a few of the worlds cities official monuments to the LGBT victims of the holocaust began to appear since about 2000. Here are those in Berlin and Tel Aviv, We await one in this country.

Memorial To Gay Holocaust Victims  in Berlin
Memorial To Gay Holocaust Victims in Berlin

Memorial To Gay Victims. Tel Aviv Israel
Memorial To Gay Victims. Tel Aviv Israel

Is it not time we had one in his country and exonerate those who suffered under our own anti-gay laws?


CWL 25/1/2017

One thought on “The Silence and the Sorrow.On Memorial Day we remember the LGBT victims of the Holocaust

  1. This is what happens when we ‘other’ people. Instead of embracing difference it becomes a problem. And it’s happening again. We live in scary times


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