DARK YEARS 1933-1945
The years between 1933 and 1945 will always be present in the minds of the inhabitants of the civilized world. 12 years of terror, murdering and madness changed the lives of millions of people, and left a scar in the minds of generation after generation following.
In 1933, the poor and listless German people were promised jobs, money and restored national feeling after the Treaty at Versailles of 1919. The man who promised them this was Adolf Hitler, the leader of the German National socialistic workers party - the Nazi-party. The party believed in an "Aryan" race of human beings. These were to build up a giant German Reich, which would stand up tall in a thousand years. When Hitler became Reichkansler in 1933, hundreds of thousands of people in Germany suddenly were unwelcome and despised. These included Jews, gypsies, mentally retarded, homosexuals and Jehovah's Witnesses. Nazi political enemies were also terrorized and brutally interned at concentration camps.
In September 1939, the second world war began. The totalitarian Hitler was beginning to fulfill his dream of the German Reich and the "Aryans" that were going to live there. Country after country was swept over by German tanks and airplanes. Unwelcome people increased by the hour.
Between the years 1933-39, 60 million people were killed in Europe. About 20 million were civilians. Three quarters of the European Jews and at least as many gypsies were killed in the enormous German murdering apparatus. Soviet-prisoners of war were killed in millions, the slaves were brutally treated by the Germans. They were killed in mass-executions, they were included in sadistic medical experiments and gassed. Civilians in the occupied countries were terrorized. Churchmen, communists, Jehovah's witnesses, homosexuals and even Spanish republicans were killed in thousands. I can go on, but I think I have made the point. Every people has it's own history during this horrible time in human history, and one is the fate of the homosexuals during Nazi-rule.
Fascism and Nazism are strongly homophobic political beliefs. The core of the Nazi politics; the racial issue, was also to a large extent a sexual issue. "Abnormal" sexual acts were strongly forbidden. But the prosecution of homosexuals would concentrated on males. They were considered "enemies to the State", being more feminine and woman-like, differing to the masculine ideal of the Aryan. In the 1920's homosexuals all over Europe lived more open lives. There were clubs all around the cities of the continent. The German Weimar republic tolerated homosexuality. All this darkened when the Nazis took power in 1933. Heinrich Himmler himself declared war against homosexuality. He also stated that 10 percent of the German men were gays. Actions and laws were introduced under the Nazi rule. In 1934, the entire leadership board of the SA, the "nazi lifeguards", led by the known homosexual Ernst Roehm was murdered partly under the excuse to protect the organization from homosexuality. In 1935, in the wave of the Nuremberg racial laws, rule 175 in the German law was sharpened. The paragraph -- which earlier forbade sexual acts between two men -- now also included caresses and even looks as criminal acts. Rule 175 also included rules against people having sex with animals.
Due to these laws, thousands of people were falsely arrested for homosexuality. it is estimated that between 1933 and 1939, 33,000 to 63,000 men were arrested for this. The punishments differed, but they hardened for each year passing by: For being arrested in "a typical premise" you got 6 months in concentration camp; for being arrested having dinner with your "friend" (it stated this!) you got 9 months in concentration camp; for being arrested together with your "friend" in bed, you got 2 years in concentration camp, prison and then concentration camp again. After 1940, you could choose from castration or concentration camp, and in 1942, Hitler introduced a secret law, saying that all homosexuals in the army were to be shot.
Later, the homosexual concentration camp inmates never came out again. They were treated brutally, also by their fellow inmates, who often shared the same prejudice as the Nazi guards. They had to wear a pink triangle, together with prisoners convicted for pedophilia, incest and sex with animals. The death rate was 60% -- the highest -- and surviving was hard. Many who survived became lovers to Nazi guards and concentration camp officers, and that way secured some protection. It is hard to estimate how many died in the camps, or how many who simply were shot, but some say about 5,000 to 15,000, others say 100,000.
But a great deal of the homosexuals weren't interned in concentration camps. They were out there, on the streets. The psychological pressure was enormous on these social outcasts. The German stereotype was the masculine Aryan soldier - typical for the national-socialism, and it clearly stated what was "right". Everyone was extremely careful. The police -- Gestapo -- aimed to strangle and exterminate the homosexual subculture. They surveyed the meeting places and set up registers of the men who visited there. Agents were sent out as traps, they encouraged gays to come forward, and the moment you said or did something you were arrested. The Gestapo searched through address books belonging to prostitutes, that started a snowball-effect. The subculture was totally exterminated and the few organizations were crushed. Homosexuals couldn't go out doing the things they liked to do. Many men married to seem "normal". They suppressed their feelings, and many committed suicide.
It needs to be said that female homosexuality wasn't criminal. But lesbians suffered the same blow as male homosexuals, when their clubs, organizations, papers and the surveillance began of bars where they met.
They were few compared to the rest of the victims, but the crime was as hideous as the rest. The killing-machine of the German Reich stretched its arms to include all people differing from the "ideal" German. The fact is one of the dark episodes in the history of homosexual men and women, and it will always be in our minds.
NOTE: The facts in this text were primarily taken from two Swedish books, and Martin Gilbert's: "The Holocaust" (1985). A highly recommended book is "The men with the Pink Triangle" by Heinz Heger, a story by an Austrian homosexual who survived the concentration camps at Flossenburg and Sachsenhausen.
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