Gays Excluded From Auschwitz Commemoration
The only victims not remembered—or invited.
Gully, February 3, 2005
By Tomek Kitlinski
WARSAW—Holocaust survivors and
world leaders held a ceremony last week in Poland to mark the sixtieth
anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp by the Red
Army. Gay victims were the only ones not remembered, and gay groups the only
ones not invited.
A thousand Holocaust survivors, the Presidents of Israel,
Russia, France, Germany and Poland, U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, and
Prince Edward of the United Kingdom, attended the Auschwitz ceremony.
Israeli President Moshe Katsav called the camp “the
largest graveyard of the Jewish people.” Between 1.1 million and 1.5 million
people, mostly Jews, were put to death in Auschwitz, the largest of the Nazi
Alongside Jews, gays, Gypsies (Roma and Sinti), Soviet
prisoners of war and Poles were killed at Auschwitz. Partial analyses of
official Nazi records indicate that as many as 15,000 gay men perished in
concentration camps. But independent scholars think this is just the tip of
The director of the Museum of the Former Camp of
Auschwitz did not reply to a request from Poland’s gay activist NGO Campaign
against Homophobia to lay a wreath to the gay victims. Neither was the
Campaign’s delegation officially admitted to the ceremony of commemoration.
“Homosexuals are the only group murdered at Auschwitz
whose representatives were not invited to the ceremony of the sixtieth
anniversary of the liberation of the camp,” reported next day Gazeta
Wyborcza, Poland’s biggest daily.
In Brussels, members of the European Parliament stood in
a minute of silence to pay tribute to the victims of the Holocaust and to mark
the anniversary. The European Parliament also passed a resolution condemning
anti-Semitism and racism and paying tribute to the victims of Nazi Germany,
The draft resolution said: “(...) the death camp at
Auschwitz-Birkenau, where hundreds of thousands of Jews, Roma, homosexuals,
Poles and other prisoners of various nationalities were murdered, is not only
a major occasion for European citizens to remember and condemn the enormous
horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, but also for addressing the disturbing
rise in anti-Semitism, and especially anti-Semitic incidents, in Europe, and
for learning anew the wider lessons about the dangers of victimizing people on
the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, politics, or sexual
Poland’s European Parliament members immediately
protested against the list of Auschwitz victims, where gays preceded Poles.
Polish deputy Wojciech Roszkowski told the Brussels body: “The life of every
human is equally important, but when we speak of big numbers, putting the
Jewish, Roma, homosexual and Polish victims together borders on the absurd.”
Poland’s largely chauvinistic and homophobic media echoed the protest. In
the final text of the resolution approved by the European Parliament, gay
victims were placed at the end of the list. At this week’s ceremony at
Auschwitz, on Polish soil, gay victims were not mentioned at all.
But history cannot be erased: “The Nazi campaign
against homosexuality targeted the more than one million German men who, the
state asserted, carried a ‘degeneracy’ that threatened the ‘disciplined
masculinity’ of Germany,” according to the United States Holocaust
Gay men were stripped of their civil rights by the Nazis
in 1935 and forced to wear pink triangles to identify them. Lesbians were also
persecuted, but less severely, in part because Nazis considered women inferior
to men and dependent on them, and did not see lesbians as a threat.
“Denounced as ‘antisocial parasites’ and as
‘enemies of the state,’ more than 100,000 men were arrested under a
broadly interpreted law against homosexuality. Approximately 50,000 men served
prison terms as convicted homosexuals, while an unknown number were
institutionalized in mental hospitals. Others—perhaps hundreds—were
castrated under court order or coercion,” concludes the Holocaust Museum.
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