Homosexuality In Nazi Germany

Posted: November 4, 2010 in World War 2
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There is no denying that many of the early members of the Nazi Party and the SA were homosexuals. It was an open secret that Ernst Röhm, his adjutant Edmund Heines, and numerous young officers in the SA had gay parties and lived in the swirling gay underground of Berlin. When Heines was rousted out of bed on The Night of the Long Knives he had a teenage boy with him, one of the reasons why he was among the first to be shot.

Even before the turn of the twentieth century, Germany had a fairly free and open gay population, especially in Berlin. The very first organization for Gay and Lesbian rights, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, was formed in Berlin in 1897, in part to combat a law on the books, the infamous Paragraph 175, which made homosexual acts illegal. However, with the advent of Nazism, gays began to be persecuted. Nazis claimed that gay men offended the sacred purity of the Aryan family, which they were pushing as the centerpiece of their new political philosophy. For a time, as persecution of the general population of gays and lesbians began, Röhm and his gay SA cronies were protected, but as soon as Hitler decided to get rid of Röhm, the fact of his homosexuality became one of the chief rationales for doing so.

In 1935, at Hitler’s direction, the Reichstag amended Paragraph 175. Now men convicted under the law could be castrated, and “chronic homosexuals” could be sent to concentration camps, where some were subject to experiments, including testosterone implants, to change their sexual orientation. Most homosexuals in the camps were forced to wear a pink triangle to identify them as such; their lives were even more difficult than those of the average inmate.

It is hard to estimate how many pink triangle gays died in Hitler’s concentration camps. Ten to fifteen thousand is the number generally given. The death rate of gay men in the camps was three to four times higher than that of any other non-Jewish group, and gays did not even have the satisfaction of seeing their persecutors brought to justice at the Nuremberg Trials, possibly because of homophobia on the Allied side, and possibly because the infamous Paragraph 175 was still on the books in Germany and would, in fact, remain so until 1969.

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