May 31, 2011 | by Phil Reese
Munich to break ground on memorial to gay Holocaust victims
Pre-Holocaust gay life

Pre-Holocaust gay life. (Blade Archive photo)

The human cost of the Holocaust is well known, but largely glossed over in the teaching of the history of the great tragedy is the murder of over 50,000 gay people at the hands of the Third Reich. That terrible tragedy is the origin of the pink and black triangles as symbols sometimes used to represent the gay community, which would have been worn on prison uniforms by gay and lesbian inmates respectively. The city of Munich, however, is joining the city of Berlin to bring more visibility to a darker page in gay history.

As part of a larger urban renewal plan, Munich will construct a memorial to the gay victims of the holocaust at the site of a large gay bar where many of the city’s gay victims would have been rounded up on October 20, 1934, and sent to prison camps. The Scwharzfischer had been the center of one of the most vibrant gay scenes in Europe prior to the passage of a law called “Paragraph 175” by the Nazi party criminalizing homosexuality. According to the United Kingdom’s PinkNews, the memorial–part of a larger pedestrian-focused neighborhood redevelopment–will be located at the corner of Oberanger and Dultstrasse, where the bar once stood.

When the Allied troops freed the prisoners of the Concentration camps, most of the gay prisoners in Germany were re-imprisoned, and served the remainder of their sentences, unlike other groups freed after the end of World War II. According to the same PinkNews report, the law remained on the books until 1969.

Berlin unveiled a similar gay-specific memorial in 2008, and a pink and black triangle plaque was installed at the memorial at Dachau–one of the most brutal prison camps–in 1995.

 

3 Comments
  • There is NO documentation, or even a claim in the Pink News article that was apparently your source re the proposed memorial, for your assertion that “over 50,000 gay people [were murdered] at the hands of the Third Reich.” Further, in addition to the fact that, in general, lesbians suffered no direct oppression by the Nazis other than closing of their meeting places and periodicals, the viral claim that the “black triangle” was a symbol for lesbians in the camps is revisionist myth. According to German historian Dr. Claudia Schoppmann in “Days of Masquerade: Life Stories of Lesbians During the Third Reich,” herself a lesbian and author of some 10 books on the period: “Lesbians did not make up a separate category of prisoners.” Some were arrested as “prostitutes” or under the catch-all “asocials,” and, as both categories [along with vagrants, pacifists, et al.] were assigned the black triangle, that is from which the myth arose that it “meant” “lesbian” in the same way the pink triangle meant “homosexual.” Ella Smula and Margarete Rosenberg were arrested as lesbians and sent to Ravensbruck, but, in another example of the inconsistency of the Reich, they were assigned red triangles which meant “political prisoner.” One example of a lesbian sent to a concentration camp and executed was Henny Schermann. While her prisoner record in Ravensbrueck included the fact that she was gay, her imprisonment and death was because she was also a Jew.

    Schoppmann: “A desire to identify with historical victims might be understandable from a psychological perspective, but it prevents an unobstructed view of the differences that actually existed. Under some circumstances…lesbians were among the perpetrators, the bystanders, and the victims.”

    Thank you.

  • billy wingarden

    Teh gay mass murders by the nazis were well known. Note that the allies even kept the gays in prison for the restof their sentencce.

    And Bedwell is just an apologist for the Nazis. They hated Jews, gays, slavs, the simi and Roma people (gypsies , and darn near everyone else.

    One would think that Bedwell would sing a different tune after 55 million died in WWII. But a nazi is a nazi is a nazi. YOu cant change the minds of people like him, you just expose him for the liar he is, and let him be seen as such.

    Tehre are even people who say hitler and his gang were gay. Yes, one man, Rolm was known to be gay. Hitler needed Rolm to gain control of the army. Once he did this, Rolm got his own dose of lead poisoning. in 1934

    Some peoples hate is so extreme that they will do anything , including lie about mass murder to keep their sick minds sick. Again, you cant fix them any more then you can fix any nutcase by tellign him he is a nutcase. Try the loughner guy who shot up Tuscon some months ago. Classic schizo per my psychology pro\fessor (ps I am working on my phd in psychology

  • The figure of 50,000 given in this article is misconstrued. The historical records indicate that there were approximately 50,000 convictions under Paragraph 175 during the 12 years of the Nazi regime — not 50,000 deaths. Paragraph 175 was the German law forbidding sodomy between men; the Nazis revised it to outlaw a wider variety of male same-sex erotic expression and to make conviction easier. The consensus of historians is that 5,000 to 15,000 men were sent to concentration camps as homosexuals, and that approximately 60 percent of those men died in the camps.

    Persecution of lesbians took a somewhat different form from that directed at homosexual men because the Nazis — and German society as a whole — regarded women as both less important and less threatening than men. The Nazis shut down lesbian nightclubs, bars, associations and other spaces of public assembly and banned lesbian publications. At the same time, the penal code in most of the Reich (with the exception of Austria) did not outlaw sexual acts between women. Instead, lesbians were more generally constrained by the oppressive measures the Nazis used to limit the liberty and self-determination of all women.

    The Nazi persecution of both homosexual men and lesbian women represented the apogee of the wave of state-sponsored homophobia that swept most Western countries in the mid-20th century. The reliable historical evidence demonstrates its severity and its lasting consequences for both the individuals and the cultures that were targeted. There is no need to exaggerate the record of what happened during this period. We best honor the memory of those who suffered persecution by recognizing legitimate historical research and by taking a critical approach to overstated claims about the subject.

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