New Perspective on Gay Victims of Nazi Persecution
Gay Association, Spring 1981
US Holocaust Memorial Counci1, which will make recommendations on the proposed
National Museum on the Holocaust, will receive a copy on May 18th
of a recently translated manuscript on Gay victims of Nazi persecution.
Triangle: The Social History of Anti-homosexual Persecution in Nazi Germany,
written by Ruediger Lautmann and Erhard Vismar and translated by Page Grubb,
supports the demand by the Gay Activists Alliance of Washington, an IGA member
organization, that Gay victims of Nazi terror should be honored in all
activities and exhibitions commemorating the Holocaust.
The emotions aroused by the horrors of the Holocaust are strongly shared by
the Gay community and are reinforced by the contemporary awareness of the
plight of homosexuals in Nazi Germany. Recent research by historians Lautmann
and Vismar confirms this brutalization of Gays during the Nazi terror, yet it
also clarifies the homosexual's position in the concentration camp hierarchy.
The unique value of this manuscript--which still has not found an American
publisher*-- is its exhaustive material obtained from the
International Tracing Service, a repository in Germany for all remaining
concentration camp records. Even those records are far from complete, the
authors observe, since many camps never had good records and many other files
were destroyed by the Nazis themselves at the end of the war in order to
of the key chapters in this manuscript is slated for publication this year in
the Journal of Homosexuality.
The authors also studied memoirs of camp survivors (only a few of which
were written by homosexuals) and conducted interviews with the relatively few
Gay ex-prisoners still alive and willing to describe their experience.
the Lautmann-Vismar manuscript should provide a solid foundation for ending
the decades of silence about Gay victims of Nazi persecution, the authors also
correct some misconceptions which are prevalent within Gay liberation circles.
activists have frequently claimed that as many as 250,000 homosexuals were
killed under Hitler. The authors estimate, however, that "the total
number of officially-defined homosexual prisoners ever incarcerated in the
camps was about 10,000 (but it could be as low as 5,000 or as high as
frequently assumed that both Lesbians and Gay men were persecuted by the
Nazis. The authors find, however, that although "sanctions against
homosexual males were tightened to the utmost degree, Lesbianism was
passed over as being of no consequence."
frequently noted that to this day the West German government has refused
to allow any reparations to be paid to Gay ex-prisoners, on the grounds
that the Gays were common criminals for violating the anti-sodomy laws
which both preceded and survived the Nazi era. The authors point out that
homosexuals are not the only victims of this unfair policy. Only those
persecuted because of overt political opposition to Naziism or for racial,
religious, or philosophical reasons were made eligible for compensation.
- We have frequently assumed that homophobia was nearly as central to Nazi
ideology as anti-Semitism. But the authors document that far more
homosexual men were convicted for homosexual "offenses" than
were ever sent to concentration camps. Himmler in 1937 exempted artists
and actors from prosecution for being homosexual. The number of new
homosexual prisoners dropped off after the war began, and their relative
status within the camps improved. In addition, some homosexual prisoners
were released from the camps for being "rehabilitated," i.e.,
capable of heterosexual intercourse with prostitutes. While such facts
hardly exonerate the Nazi treatment of homosexuals, they at the same time
do not reflect the ferocity of the monomania which drove the Nazis to
genocide of the Jews, even at the expense of their war effort against the
War Against the Jews 1933-1945 by Lucy S. Dawidowicz.)
authors devote considerable attention to the question of the treatment of
those homosexuals who were sent to concentration camps, a controversial
subject since the play Bent was first produced. More often then not,
Gay men were indeed at the bottom in the camps, grossly abused by the camp
authorities and often victimized by their fellow prisoners.
authors again ask their readers to keep things in perspective:
"Homosexuals were not in all places at times exceptionally badly treated,
and they were not the only category of inmate subject to extreme
authors explore in detail some of the reasons why brutality against homosexual
inmates was so common and why homosexuals were unable to deflect that
brutality. Solidarity was a key to survival in the camps, and this was a trait
often expressed within circles of political prisoners, criminals, and other
categories. Communists, for example, looked out for each other and established
their own protective devices. But homosexuals, isolated within the camps, did
not collectively resist their oppressors. What emerges from this analysis is a
powerful case for the survival value of a gay community ethos: there is no
safety to be found by scurrying back into the closet while letting the world
go to hell.
[Home] [World] [Germany]