WHAT HAPPENED? (1)
On January 10th, 2014, a memorial in Tel Aviv, Israel was unveiled to honor the gays and lesbians who were persecuted by the Nazis. Though Israel has many memorials for genocides, this is the first one that memorializes Jewish and non-Jewish victims alike.
The memorial is shaped like a triangle, resembling the pink triangles that gay men had to wear in concentration camps.
Tel Aviv councilman Eran Lev wanted to add a universal aspect to the memorial, as a gay public official in Tel Aviv. He wanted to recognize that there were victims of the Holocaust beyond the Jewish population.
Though there was no plan to eradicate homosexuals like there was to eradicate Jewish people, they were seen as a public health problem because they couldn't reproduce.
Moshe Zimmerman, professor from the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, categorizes the memorial as a big step toward Israel feeling a "monopoly on victimhood."
He feels that, in creating a memorial that commemorates victims beyond Jewish people, that they are shedding the feeling of being the only and the ultimate victim. "We can learn from this that by recognizing the victimhood of others, it does not diminish the uniqueness of your own victimhood."
GAYS AND LESBIANS IN NAZI GERMANY (2)
In late February of 1933, a crackdown on homosexuality began. The Nazi Party launched its purge against gay organizations and clubs. Books about homosexuality were burned. Homosexuals within the Nazi party were executed. Early on in this purge, many gay men and lesbian women were able to escape, or would start heterosexual relationships to conceal their identities.
Between 1933, 100,000 gay men and lesbian women (primarily gay men) were arrested, with 50,000 being sentenced. They were tortured into giving away identities of other homosexuals. Though most went to regular prison, between 5,000 and 15,000 went to concentration camps, where up to 60% of them died.
In the concentration camps, gay men received extremely cruel treatment. Many of them were used for target practice, the shooters aiming for their pink triangles that showed that they were gay. Other forms of torture included having their testicles boiled or being sodomized. Gay men also were given more extreme, difficult or dangerous work assignments in the camps. Additionally, many were beaten by other prisoners.
Beyond the torture just for torture's sake, they were tortured through human experimentation, with many believing homosexuality was a curable disease. The human experimentation was allowed, citing that it would benefit the state, as the gay men were "menaces to reproduction".
Experiments included making incisions in their groins to place an artificial gland that released testosterone, as some believed lack of testosterone caused homosexuality. Some men claimed to be cured, but it is widely believed they simply said it to be freed. If it didn't work, the men were considered incurable. 12 gay men were used in the experiments, and 2 died.
They also forced gay men to have sex with female sex slaves, obviously traumatic for both parties. It was used as a form of conversion therapy for the men. Lesbian women were forced to perform sex acts in German camp brothels.
Other experiments included castration and burning their skin under sun lamps.
The majority of information about the persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust focused on gay men, because most lesbian women fell under the "asocial" category, getting black triangles instead of pink. Asocials consisted of addicts, homeless people, criminals, alcoholics, or people who's lifestyles were generally disagreed with.
The numbers available for homosexual persecution do not include people who were Jewish and gay: Only people who were in the concentration camps solely for being gay.
Though we know now that the LGBTQ+ community was treated horrifically during the holocaust, their persecution was not really acknowledged by anyone after the war was over.
Anti-gay policies and homosexuality weren't seen as appropriate for historians and educators. It wasn't until the 1970s and 1980s were it became more widely talked about, with some mainstream work being created and survivor memoirs being published.
Reparations and state pensions that were made available to other groups were not provided to gay men. In fact, many of them were re-imprisoned and kept on sex offender lists.
It was not until 2002 that Germany formally apologized for its treatment of homosexual men and women.
Now, many memorials, including the one in Tel Aviv, have been created to commemorate the gay men and lesbian women who died in the Holocaust. Similar memorials can be found in Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco and Sydney.
Further, the pink triangle gay men were forced to wear has been reclaimed, being used as a symbol for gay rights, AIDS awareness and other issues.
Though 87 years have passed since the purge aimed toward Germany's gay population began, memorials are being created to commemorate these victims as recently as 6 years ago today, demonstrating the lasting affect felt by this community.
The Holocaust was terrible in every imaginable way, and the treatment and genocide of the Jewish population is just about as horrendous an event as they come. It can be easy to forget that many other people were victims, too.