“Homosexuals and lesbians facing Nazism”, on France 5: the long march of these forgotten deportees

Among the victims of Nazism, there were some who had real difficulty being recognized: those whose sexual orientation was the only crime, who, when deported, wore the infamous pink triangle

“Homosexuals and lesbians facing Nazism”, on France 5: the long march of these forgotten deportees

Among the victims of Nazism, there were some who had real difficulty being recognized: those whose sexual orientation was the only crime, who, when deported, wore the infamous pink triangle. In France, it was not until the speech of Prime Minister Lionel Jospin on April 26, 2001, that official recognition of the deportation of homosexuals began. Across the Rhine, the Bundestag voted on May 17, 2002, to rehabilitate these forgotten victims before a monument, inaugurated on May 27, 2008 in the heart of Berlin, paid ostensible homage to LGBT people persecuted or eliminated by the Nazis.

To understand this delay, it is undoubtedly necessary to look back at the repression of homosexuality at the end of the 19th century and the homophobic prejudices which then took root in European mentalities, preparing the way for the radicalism of the Third Reich towards exposed populations. to a sometimes old repressive system. Thus the German penal code of 1871, in its paragraph 175, criminalizes male homosexuality, providing for imprisonment as well as the loss of civil rights – a provision which only officially disappeared in 1994. Also Nazism in power can he count on a public perception favorable to the bullying and soon to the crimes he plans.

No doubt the police confined themselves to guaranteeing respect for a facade of morality before the advent of Nazism. Under the Weimar Republic, Berlin even gained the unofficial status of “homosexual capital” of the Old Continent. Parallel to a cultural scene which displays uninhibited tolerance, the doctor Magnus Hirschfeld (1868-1935), not content with campaigning for the abolition of paragraph 175, created with his Institute of Sexology in Berlin an exceptional documentation center, including the Nazis will make a priority target, planning the looting and burning which will seal its fate from May 1933.

Racial sanitation

Three years after the pioneering exhibition at the Shoah Memorial in Paris (“Homosexuals and lesbians in Nazi Europe”, from June 2021 to May 2022), for which Florence Tamagne was the exemplary curator, Michel Viotte takes up the file with the same intelligence. The context and its dangerously favorable breeding ground established, the presentation of the Nazi logic announced from the outset by the voice of Himmler is implacable. Racial sanitation justifies the tracking down of degenerate elements whose contagion is feared. Therefore, the words of camp survivors, sometimes chilling testimonies, make it possible to measure the empiricism of certain behaviors.

After the Night of the Long Knives in 1934, which eliminated the SA, the Führer's first companions in struggle, whose leader, Ernst Röhm, was openly homosexual, it was important to guarantee Aryan purity and foreigners were only targeted if they corrupt the soldiers of the Reich, even if, interned, they can be used sexually for the recreation of their executioners. And those responsible for the appalling medical experiments will often escape justice after the war.

The worst thing is to see that, with the Reich down, sexual “offenders” find themselves in court in the name of the immutable paragraph 175, facing the same judges. The decriminalization of homosexuality will wait until 1968 in the GDR, 1969 in the FRG. For many, it will be too late.