Summary and Review
In the gay and lesbian
history book Out of the Past, Neil Miller quotes Heinrich Himmler's plans
for the homosexuals of Germany: “These people will obviously be publicly degraded
and dismissed and handed over to the court. After…they will be…taken
into a concentration camp and in the camp they will be shot while escaping”(1). This is an overall description of
the fate of the homosexuals in Nazi Germany. In Frank Rector’s book
Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals, he discusses the events of the Nazi
persecution of homosexuals. It was written like a history textbook,
which meant that it was very informative in terms of dates and events, but
also was able to analyze it from a personal point of view. He discussed
thoroughly his frustration with the lack of information about the homosexual
victims, the events surrounding Ernst Rohm’s murder, as well as how the Nazis
used propaganda against gays.
As is discussed on the introductory page, there are many factors which contribute to the lack of information about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. Another factor that Rector expresses great frustration with is that, still today, homosexuality is a “dirty” word. Although this society has come far in its acceptance of gays and lesbians, a majority of Americans are still closed-minded and therefore the following isn’t too surprising. There are two sections of photographs in this book which illustrate some of the events Rector talks about. One of those photographs is a U.S. Army photo showing a distinguished group of American journalists standing over some of the prisoners’ bodies in liberated Auschwitz. The caption explains that these people were slave laborers who were deliberately worked to death, many of them homosexuals, “a fact that was common knowledge at the time in Dachau and elsewhere but mentioned only as a “footnote,” or not mentioned at all, by that distinguished group of journalists,”(2). Rector blames this on the world’s bias against homosexuality. Similar to this, the Danish King who allegedly wore the Star of David to show his support for the Jewish victims willingly sent off his homosexuals. This was yet another sign of the world’s opinion of gays.
Although it was clear the Nazi party viewed homosexuals negatively, as was evident from the destruction of Magnus Hirschfeld’s Institute of Sexual Science in Berlin, “some gays [in the SS] may have been reconciled by the knowledge that Hitler’s right hand man, Ernst Rohm, was a homosexual,”(3). However, after the June 30, 1934 murder of Rohm and many of those faithful to him, including many SS gays, their worries were brought to life. Although it seems that Hitler’s reasoning for having Rohm killed is based on political competition, Hitler used Rohm’s sexuality to discredit him to the nation. Hitler decided “it was far more effective to defame Rohm as a homosexual--everyone knew about that--than it was to try and discredit him as a traitor to the Movement”(4). In retaliation to the Blood Purge, 155 SS men who were involved in the killing were murdered by surviving SS homosexuals and by straights loyal to Rohm’s ideals.
Hitler’s use of Rohm’s sexuality as propaganda against him was typical of the Nazis’ propaganda against gays. The party’s campaign against gays began in 1933 using similar tactics as those they were using against the Jews. “Propaganda films were distributed…, youth leaders were supplied with prepared speeches on the subject, decrees were issued, and repressive measures were taken by the Party,”(5). In a speech in Munich, the party used the idea of survival and procreation to denounce homosexuals: “It is not necessary that you and I live, but it is necessary that the German people live…therefore we reject you, as we reject anything which hurts our own people,”(3). Since homosexual lovers cannot procreate, they were seen as of no use. The sensitivity of the weakened state Germany was left in after WWI and the depression is used later in the speech: “Let’s see to it that we once again become strong!”(3). These, along with Rohm’s death, were ways in which the Nazis used propaganda to create support for their actions against homosexuals.
Although a large book, these three topics were shown to be of great importance to Rector due to the amount of time he spent discussing them.
focused a good amount of time on Martin Sherman’s 1979 play, Bent and
the subsequent film. This play, featuring Richard Gere, was released
at a time when most people knew nothing about the homosexual victims of the
Holocaust. Interestingly, “in the succeeding years, plaques commemorating
the deaths of these Nazi victims were finally placed at various camps, often
after much dissension”(1). Eighteen years later, Sean Mathias made a
film about the play, which was selected as one of the top ten gay and lesbian
films of 1997. A review of this film, with a little bit of history,
is located at:
In December 1997 Brandon Judell interviewed Sean Mathias and Martin Sherman for IndieWire. He also discusses how the play and the film brought to light information not known to most people. Judell has some intriguing reasons why he thought homosexual victims were fairly unknown: “[Until now] historians either didn't believe the subject merited their attention or they were afraid to tackle the matter…[Also] survivors felt that if homosexuals were said to have also been victimized by the Nazis, that would devalue the memory of their own loved ones who'd died”(6). This fascinating interview can be found at:
Judell, Brandon. PlanetOut. Dec. 1997. 12 Nov. 2003. <http://www.planetout.com/pno/popcornq/db/getfilm.html?2218>
2 Rector, Frank. Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals. New York: Stein and Day, 1981. Photo page
3 Rector, Frank. Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals. New York: Stein and Day, 1981. Pg. 105
4 Rector, Frank. Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals. New York: Stein and Day, 1981. Pg. 107
5 Rector, Frank. Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals. New York: Stein and Day, 1981. Pg. 106
6 Judell, Brandon. IndieWire. 9 Dec. 1997. 12 Nov. 2003 <http://www.indiewire.com/people/int_Mathias_Sherm_1_971209.html>
The Men with the Pink Triangle
The Pink Triangle:
The Nazi War against Homosexuals