Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals Subject of Traveling Exhibit
Thousands of homosexuals, primarily gay men, perished at the hands of the Nazis in concentration camps by the Nazis along with millions of Jews and other victims including, Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the handicapped during World War II and the Holocaust.
The story of what happened to homosexuals in Nazi Germany is the subject of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s exhibition, “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945.” The exhibition has been circulating to cities across the country. More than two years in development, it is the first major exhibition on the subject for English-speaking audiences and draws on materials from more than 40 archives and other repositories in eight countries.
“This exhibition reflects the Museum’s commitment to recognizing all the victims of Nazism,” says Fred S. Zeidman, Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the Museum’s governing body. “Poles, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war, the handicapped, and Jehovah’s Witnesses all were targeted by the regime, and 5 million of them were murdered along with the 6 million Jews between 1933 and 1945. We created this as a traveling exhibition to tell this important story in communities throughout the U.S.”
In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler assumed power, an estimated 1 million homosexual men lived in Germany. Nazi policy asserted that homosexual men carried a “degeneracy” that threatened the “disciplined masculinity” of Germany. As homosexuals were believed to form self-serving groups, the emergence of a state-within-the state that could disrupt social harmony was also feared. Additionally, the Nazis charged that homosexuals’ failure to father children was a factor in Germany’s declining birth rate, thus robbing the nation of future sons and daughters who could fight for and work toward a greater Reich.
“The exhibition explores why homosexual behavior was identified as a danger to Nazi society and how the Nazi regime attempted to eliminate it,” says exhibition curator Edward Phillips. “The Nazis believed it was possible to ‘cure’ homosexual behavior through labor and ‘re-education.’” As their efforts to eradicate homosexuality grew more draconian, gay men became subject to castration, institutionalization, and deportation to concentration camps.
Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality, and of these, approximately 50,000 were sentenced for the crime. Most of these men spent time in regular prisons. An estimated 5,000 – 15,000 were sent to concentration camps where an unknown number of them perished.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust. Since opening in April 1993, the Museum has welcomed more than 18.5 million visitors. The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.
The exhibit can be seen:
May 23, 2012 through July 22, 2012
Jewish Community Center of Greater Rochester, New York
November 27, 2012 through January 27, 2013
Compass Community Center,Lake Worth, Florida
Visit your local library for more information about the Holocaust.
Why Bother About Homosexuals?: Homophobia and Sexual Politics in Nazi Germany (PDF).
Geoffrey J. Giles, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, (2001).
Explores the genesis of the Nazi opposition to homosexuals, and traces the shifts in the wording and enforcement of Paragraph 175. Describes the harsh treatment homosexuals faced in the camps, providing examples from individual cases of imprisonment or castration. Includes detailed end notes. Originally presented as a lecture at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in May 2001.
Hidden Holocaust?: Gay and Lesbian Persecution in Germany, 1933-45
Günter Grau, (1995).
Uses original records, including previously unpublished papers from East German archives, to describe the Nazi policies against gay men and lesbians and to reconstruct the daily terror under which these groups were forced to live. Traces the systematic campaigns of legal discrimination, documents the methods employed to persecute gay men and lesbians, and examines the fate of homosexual prisoners in Nazi concentration camps. The Library also has an edition in German under the title, Homosexualität in der NS-Zeit: Dokumente einer Diskriminierung und Verfolgung.
A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis,
Michael Berenbaum, editor, (1990).
“Gay Prisoners in Concentration Camps as Compared with Jehovah’s Witnesses and Political Prisoners.” by Rudiger Lautmann compares the social profiles and death rates of three groups imprisoned in the concentration camps for reeducation rather than for issues of racial purity. Presents statistics showing the different rates of death and survival of each group.
The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals
Richard Plant, (1986).
A comprehensive work detailing the persecution of homosexuals under the Third Reich. Explores the increase in sexual prejudice that accompanied the Nazi rise to power. Discusses official Nazi policy toward homosexuals and the strategies that developed to eliminate them. Describes the horrors faced by those gay men imprisoned in concentration camps or tortured at the hands of the SS.
The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals
Frank Rector, (1981).
Traces the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. Explores the personal life of Hitler and other Nazi leaders while attempting to explain why they were driven to try to eliminate homosexuals. Includes testimonies from two gay survivors of the Holocaust.
An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin
Gad Beck, (1999).
A unique first-hand account of life as a gay, Jewish youth in Nazi Germany. Describes the author’s role in the Zionist underground, where he managed to save numerous other Jews and survive the Holocaust. The Library also has an edition in German under the title, Und Gad ging zu David: Die Erinnerungen des Gad Beck 1923 bis 1945.
Aimée & Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943
Erica Fischer, (1995).
The true story of two women, Elisabth Wurst (Aimée), the wife of a Nazi officer, and Felice Schragenheim (Jaguar), a Jewish lesbian, who unexpectedly fall in love against the backdrop of the Holocaust. Brings the story to life with letters, diaries, documents and photographs. Originally published in German as Aimée & Jaguar: eine Liebesgeschichte Berlin 1943.
The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps
Heinz Heger, (1994).
Tells the story of a gay Austrian man arrested by the SS and imprisoned for being homosexual. Describes the conditions in the camps at Sachsenhausen and Flossenburg and the brutal treatment gays received at the hands of camp guards and other prisoners. Includes an introduction by Klaus Müller, that provides an overview of Nazi anti-homosexual policies and practices. Earlier editions have an introduction by David Fernbach.
Christopher and His Kind
Christopher Isherwood, (1996).
An autobiography covering 1929-1939, the ten years in the writer’s life that he spent in Berlin and traveling around Europe. Explores his homosexuality and the struggles he and other gay men faced with Hitler’s rise to power.