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social sciences

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Nazism and the Holocaust  
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In 1957 the West German Federal Constitutional Court even ruled that the Nazi version of Paragraph 175 was constitutional because it "did not interfere with the free development of the personality" and it "contained nothing specifically National Socialist." The court stated explicitly that homosexual acts "unquestionably offended the moral feelings of the German people," thus reiterating the Nazi accusation that homosexual acts were against volkisch values.

Homosexuals murdered by the Nazis received their first public commemoration in a May 8, 1985 speech by West German President Richard von Weizsäcker. The speech marked the fortieth anniversary of the end of World War II.

Sponsor Message.

Four years after re-unification in 1990, Germany abolished Paragraph 175. In May 2002, the German parliament passed legislation that pardoned all homosexuals convicted under Paragraph 175 during the Nazi era.

Homosexualization of Nazism

Paradoxically, and sadly given the historical record, homosexuality was used following the war and the demise of the Nazi regime to discredit the regime itself. In popular post-war representations, Nazism is often homosexualized.

Homosexuality became such a distinguishing trait of Nazi leaders in the popular imagination that Hitler himself was sometimes portrayed as gay. For example, Roberto Rossellini's Neo-Realist film Roma, Città Aperta (1945) very clearly portrays the Nazi commander and his female aide as a gay male and a lesbian.

Even an event such as the murder of Ernst Röhm has been made the subject of titillation. In Luchino Visconti's film The Damned (1969), the event is fictionalized as taking place in the middle of a homosexual orgy. Andrea Slane has documented how Hollywood representations of Nazism also frequently link it with homosexuality.

Popular works such as these have contributed to the erasure of the gay and lesbian Holocaust from the collective cultural and historical memory. As Martha Sturken points out, "memory provides the very core of identity." Yet acts of remembrance are necessarily selective and can never be a copy of the historical experience. Therefore, memory becomes "a form of interpretation" and all memories are created together with a process of forgetting of the past. Such forgetting is often highly organized and strategic, as in the forgetting of the Nazis' persecution of homosexuals.

Recent Developments

As late as 1997, Kai Hammermeister lamented the absence of a gay Holocaust literature. He cited Martin Sherman's play Bent (1979) as an important exception. The first documentary film on gay victims of the Holocaust that received a decent circulation was Paragraph 175 (1999) by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman.

Recently, however, historians of the Holocaust have begun to acknowledge the homosexual victims of the Holocaust. In 2003, the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum presented a major traveling exhibit entitled "The Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals, 1933-1945." A version of the exhibit is on-line at the museum's website.

The Schwules Museum in Berlin has also commemorated the victims of Nazism. The persecution of homosexuals by the Nazis was the immediate impetus for Amsterdam's Homomonument.

Luca Prono

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social sciences >> Overview:  Austria

A small German-speaking country in middle Europe, Austria is now home to a thriving glbtq subculture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Berlin

Notable in the twentieth century both for its pioneering efforts in homosexual emancipation and for the subsequent Nazi persecution of homosexuals, Berlin is now a major participant in the struggle to gain legal recognition of gay relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Germany

While Germany, until recently, never officially accepted or welcomed members of the glbtq community, German culture and homosexuality have a long and significant history.

social sciences >> Overview:  Libraries and Archives

Libraries and archives have been the sources of information crucial to the difficult process of identity formation and have been significant repositories for the restoration and reconstruction of queer history.

social sciences >> Overview:  Prague

The capital and largest city of the Czech Republic, Prague is the hub of the country's gay and lesbian life and the center of its glbtq political movement.

social sciences >> Overview:  Switzerland

Switzerland is a very cosmopolitan nation with a vibrant glbtq community, but it has lagged behind much of Europe, particularly the Nordic countries, when it comes to assuring equal rights.

arts >> Overview:  Symbols

The various symbols of glbtq pride render marginalized communities visible and assert self-esteem in the face of discrimination and oppression.

social sciences >> Overview:  Vienna

The capital of Austria, Vienna is also the country's largest city, as well as its political, economic, and cultural center, and the undisputed hub of Austrian gay and lesbian life.

arts >> Barcelona Monument

The gay monument in Barcelona, dedicated in March 2011, commemorates the sufferings of glbtq people.

social sciences >> Brand, Adolf

Editor, photographer, and activist, Adolf Brand was the leader of a faction of the early German homosexual emancipation movement whose cultural views were expressed in Der Eigene (The Self-Owner), the first homosexual literary and artistic journal.

arts >> Epstein, Rob

Writer, director, and producer Rob Epstein is one of the most accomplished documentary filmmakers of his generation, having worked on a number of landmark gay-themed films.

social sciences >> Haider, Jörg

Right-wing Austrian politican Jörg Haider reinforced the stereotype of hypocritical politicians who privately enjoy the freedoms won by the glbtq movement while opposing equal rights.

social sciences >> Hiller, Kurt

German writer and activist Kurt Hiller contributed to several pacifist and intellectual movements, including the fight to repeal Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexuality.

social sciences >> Hirschfeld, Magnus

German-born Magnus Hirschfeld deserves recognition as a significant theorist of sexuality and the most prominent advocate of homosexual emancipation of his time.

arts >> Homomonument

Amsterdam's Homomonument is one of the world's foremost public memorials acknowledging the persecution endured by gay men and lesbians during World War II and throughout history.

arts >> Mahlsdorf, Charlotte von

Preservationist and museum founder Charlotte von Mahlsdorf was admired by many for her bravery in the face of persecution and for her openness as a transgender public figure in perilous times.

arts >> Mann, Erika

Writer, actress, and intellectual refugee from the Third Reich, Erika Mann was one of the twentieth century's most intriguing nonconformists, noted especially for her anti-fascist cabaret satire.

social sciences >> Nietzsche, Friedrich

One of the most influential and most misunderstood of modern philosophers, Friedrich Nietzsche in his work searched for a primal joie de vivre that he felt had been distorted by religion and that he was unable to realize in his own life.

social sciences >> Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 was the German law prohibiting sex between men; strengthened by the Nazis, it was the statue under which homosexuals were sent to concentration camps.

social sciences >> Pink Triangle

Originally a mark of criminalization and persecution under the Nazis, the pink triangle was later reclaimed by gays both as a memorial and as a celebration of sexual identity.

literature >> Roellig, Ruth Margarete

Chronicler of Berlin's lesbian club scene of the late 1920s, writer Ruth Roellig was part of the lively gay counterculture of Germany's Weimar era.

social sciences >> Röhm, Ernst

Ernst Röhm, both an avid supporter of Hitler and the national socialist movement in Germany and a homosexual, was assassinated in 1934, when the German leader "cleansed" the party of homosexuals.

arts >> Schwarzenbach, Annemarie

Swiss writer and photojournalist Annemarie Schwarzenbach documented social conditions from Afghanistan to Alabama; her fiction reflected the tormented attachments and recurring loneliness that plagued her short lifetime.

arts >> Schwules Museum [Gay Museum]

Berlin's Schwules Museum [Gay Museum] is a private institution dedicated to preserving, exhibiting, and discovering homosexual history, art, and culture.

social sciences >> Seel, Pierre

Sent to a Nazi concentration camp because of his homosexuality, Pierre Seel remained silent about his ordeal for decades but finally chose to speak out, demanding recognition of the suffering of gay men and advocating for glbtq rights.

arts >> Sherman, Martin

Best known for his groundbreaking play Bent, iconoclastic playwright and screenwriter Martin Sherman has created an impressive body of work.

arts >> Wagner, Siegfried

Siegfried Wagner, the son of composer Richard Wagner, was himself a prolific composer and conductor; his bisexuality was the source of both scandal and also of elaborate attempts to erase it from histories of the Wagner family.

social sciences >> Wolff, Charlotte

The life of German-British medical practitioner, psychologist, and writer Charlotte Wolff spanned nearly a century of almost unimaginable changes in the status of both women and glbtq people.


Circolo Pink. Le ragioni di un silenzio: la persecuzione degli omosessuali durante il nazismo e il fascismo. Verona: Ombre Corte, 2002.

Consoli, Massimo. Homocaust: Il nazismo e la persecuzione degli omosessuali. Ragusa: Edizioni "La Fiaccola," 1984.

Duberman, Martin, Martha Vicinus, and George Chauncey, eds. Hidden from History: Reclaiming the Gay and Lesbian Past. London: Penguin Books, 1991.

Elman, R. Amy. "Triangles and Tribulations: The Politics of Nazi Symbols." Journal of Homosexuality 30.3 (1996): 1-11.

Hammermeister, Kai. "Inventing History: Toward a Gay Holocaust Literature." German Quarterly 70.1 (1997): 18-26.

Heger, Heinz. The Men with the Pink Triangle. David Fernbach, trans. Boston: Alyson, 1980.

Hohmann, Joachim S., ed. Keine Zeit für gute Freunde: Homosexuelle in Deutschland, 1933-1969. Berlin: Foerster/PRO, 1982.

Jones, James W. "Nazism and the Holocaust." Gay Histories and Cultures. George E. Haggerty, ed. New York: Garland, 2000. 633-36.

Lautmann, Rudiger, ed. Seminar: Gesellschaft und Homosexualität. Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1977.

_____. "Gay Prisoners in Concentration Camps as Compared with Jehovah's Witnesses and Political Prisoners." A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis. Michael Berenbaum, ed. New York: New York University Press, 1990. 200-21.

Plant, Richard. The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War against Homosexuals. New York: Henry Holt, 1986.

Rector, Frank. The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals. New York: Stein and Day, 1981.

Slane, Andrea. A Not So Foreign Affair: Fascism, Sexuality, and the Cultural Rhetoric of American Democracy. Durham, N. C.: Duke University Press, 2001.

Sturken, Marita. Tangled Memories: The Vietnam War, the AIDS Epidemic, and the Politics of Remembering. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997.

United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. "Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals, 1933-1945."


    Citation Information
    Author: Prono, Luca  
    Entry Title: Nazism and the Holocaust  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated December 6, 2005  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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