The Men With The Pink Triangle (London, 1986)

by Heinz Heger

Review by: Rachael Binning (authors page) (back to index page)[small corrections 11/14/2015]


The Men With The Pink Triangle is a gripping personal account of the gruesome persecution that took place against homosexuals during World War II.  This book stresses the point that although homosexuals were treated as horribly as Jews, or if not worse, there is little recognition of the abuse homosexuals did endure.  This in part had to do with the fact that even after the war homosexuality was considered a crime in Germany and even today is still considered a controversial topic, therefore preventing survivors from sharing their stories.

   Heinz Heger gives a chilling and detailed account of his experiences in prison and the Sachsenhausen concentration camp in Germany.  Heger was born in Vienna in March 1939 January 1915 [corrected 11/24/15] and was a university student at the time of his arrest. Unlike many homosexuals during this time, he had revealed his homosexuality to his mother and was still accepted in his family. Under paragraph 175 of the criminal code Heger was arrested without warning in March 1939 and taken to a prison where he remained for six months with criminal inmates.  Although he was promised release after six months he was then transported to the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He was later transferred to the Flossenbürg camp, where remained until its liberation by US forces in April 1945..

Much of Heger’s autobiography is devoted to the description of the terrible condition the inmates were forced to survive in and the methods Heger used for survival.  Although many men, including Heger, were put into concentration camps because of their homosexuality, this did not prevent other men, not convicted as homosexuals, to participate in homosexual acts.  In fact, Heger was able to survive by becoming a “dolly-boy” for several Capos.  In return for sexual favors, Heger received increased rations of food and protection from severe treatment and punishment.  Because Heger maintained a good reputation in the camp, towards the end of his imprisonment, Heger became the first homosexual Capo and remained in this position till the camp was liberated.

Similar to other camps, as the Nazis were becoming dangerously close to defeat they began a “death march,” where all of the prisoners were marched on foot, many miles towards Dachau.  This march was particularly gruesome and many men died of exhaustion.  One morning during the march the prisoners woke up to find that the SS men had abandoned them.  Heger and several other men took this opportunity to run away and eventually found a farm where they were kindly greeted and received food.  Eventually Heger did make it safely back to his home.  Sadly his mother only greeted him, for his father had committed suicide due to the abuse he received because his son was a homosexual.  Although Heger was extremely happy to be home and was accepted by his family, his community did not receive him with open arms.  Homosexuality was still looked down upon and was considered illegal.  Because of this he did not receive compensation for his time in the concentration camp unlike other survivors.  Heger ends his novel with the important message that the many victims should never be forgotten

Book Review

This book was my first introduction to the topic of the homosexuality during the Holocaust.  Although the introduction by David Fernbach gave several important facts concerning the treatment and law against homosexuals during the Holocaust, most of the book was not dedicated to facts, but rather to Heger’s story and the abuses he suffered.  It is now clear to me why this book has reached such a high status, because it reveals a part of the Holocaust that was discussed or researched for many years.  As Heger implied at the end of his memoir, many homosexual victims were apprehensive about telling their story because after the war homosexuality was still illegal and not accepted in most societies.  Because of this, little is known about the treatment of homosexuals during this time compared to the information known about Jewish victims.  One point stressed throughout Heger’s story was the horrific treatment that the homosexuals endured.  At this time homosexuality was considered by many to be a disease.  Because of this homosexuals were isolated in their own bunks, where they were forced to sleep with the lights on at all times and their hands were never allowed to be under their blankets or covers.  At one time during Heger’s imprisonment Himmler even forced homosexuals to sleep with Jewish and Gypsy women in an attempt to “cure” their “disease.”  First published in 1972, Heger’s personal account was one of the first books to expose the horrible abuse homosexuals endured during the Nazi regime.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Webpage Summary

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, located in Washington D.C. is one of the premier institutes on the Holocaust and is known around the world for its extensive research and exhibits on the Holocaust.  The web site for this museum is full of information about many aspects of the Holocaust, including homosexuality.  By typing the key word “homosexual” in the search button on the main page it is easy to find endless numbers of sites and documents about this subject.  Not only does the site include facts about the treatment of homosexuals at this time, it also includes many personal stories and events taking place at the museum relating to homosexuals.

Webpage Commentary

After looking at several web sites I found that this one contain the most information about homosexuals during the Holocaust.  The site is clearly organized, has an abundance of information, and is fairly interactive.  While looking as several informative pages one is able to click on pictures of people persecuted during the Holocaust and also to read their stories.  This site is an excellent supplement to The Men With The Pink Triangle because it provides the facts behind Heger’s story and also gives information about several other homosexuals who were targets of persecution, similar to Heger.

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