Throughout pride season we’ll be taking a closer look at the history of queer persecution. The Nazis subjected all kinds of minority groups – all kinds of otherness – to relentless persecution. About 53,000 men who were persecuted as homosexuals were convicted by the Nazi judiciary.

The persecutees were sent to psychiatric institutions and concentration camps, forcibly castrated, or murdered. Lesbian women and queer people also faced significant risks during the Nazi era, and there is still much work to be done on researching their fates. We have a lot to share with you over the coming weeks, including interviews about new research on queer history in the Nazi era, insights into biographies of individual persecutees, and live Instagram broadcasts with activists and experts.

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The long road to legal reform
The long road to legal reform

It took 123 years before homosexual men in Germany were able to express their sexuality openly without fear of official punishment. Paragraph 175 was not removed from the penal code until 1994. 

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Joanna Ostrowska

»The Polish government and the Catholic Church refer to LGBT+ people as ideologists and don´t see them as people. I think that the situation we are experiencing now is a consequence of the lack of awareness of queer history.«

Joanna Ostrowska, Historian, film scholar and dramaturge

Erinnern in Auschwitz: New research about queer history

“Erinnern in Auschwitz – auch an sexuelle Minderheiten“ is the title of the new book from the Polish and German-Dutch researchers Joanna Ostrowska, Joanna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska, and Lutz van Dijk. Their goal: to find a new of way of talking about and remembering victims of the Holocaust who belong to minority groups like the queer community or the Sinti and Roma.

Nazi persecution of queer people
Nazi persecution of queer people

(Allegedly) homosexual men were criminalized on the basis of §175 of the German Criminal Code, which had been introduced during the German Empire already and was revised by the National Socialists in the 1930s, making it much harsher.

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The Nazis put an end to their happiness
The Nazis put an end to their happiness

Vienna-born Ruth Maier and her Norwegian partner Gunvor Hofmo met in 1940 and were a happy couple. They were torn apart in 1942 when the Nazis deported Ruth Maier to the Auschwitz concentration camp and murdered her a few days after her arrival. More information about the two women is available in our guest article by Raimund Wolfert.

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Arrested for homosexuality: Roman Igler
Arrested for homosexuality: Roman Igler

Our guest author, Polish scholar Joanna Ostrowska, has written a report describing the persecution suffered by Roman Igler. As a homosexual in Poland, he was sentenced to two years in prison for fornication with men in 1941. He was 28 at the time. The Nazis deported Igler to the Auschwitz I concentration camp in 1943.

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Joannna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska

»We would like to show that the past is not just a thing of the past, it is actually something which we are confronted with in the present day. The prejudice and the persecution of homosexuals and LGBT+ groups in Poland are part of the same mechanism, which is familiar to us from the past. This is very dangerous.«

Joannna Talewicz-Kwiatkowska, Assistant professor at the Institute of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology in the University of Warsaw

“They didn´t destroy me”

For three years, Rudolf Brazda went through the hell of Buchenwald Concentration Camp, and survived. 96-year-old Brazda was one of the last known former inmates from the group of homosexuals persecuted by the National Socialist regime. In 2009 he visited the Arolsen Archives.

Alice Carlé and Eva Siewert: A love story
Alice Carlé and Eva Siewert: A love story

Alice Carlé met and fell in love with Eva Siewert in 1938. Alice was Jewish and was deported to the Auschwitz extermination camp in 1943. It is presumed that she was murdered there by the Nazis. Eva created a touching memorial to her friend in at least two stories she wrote in the post-war period.

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Persecuted as homosexual and trans
Persecuted as homosexual and trans

The transsexual Liddy Bacroff was sentenced in 1938 to three years in prison with subsequent preventive detention for sex work as a “dangerous habitual offender”. She was put into prison, and in 1942, she was sent to the Mauthausen concentration camp, where she was murdered in 1943. Her biography shows that the persecution of homosexuality by the National Socialists was not limited to gays.

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Five lost years: Alojzy Pawłowski
Five lost years: Alojzy Pawłowski

Arrested and locked up in various concentration camps – Alojzy Pawłowski was forced to spend a total of five years of his life in prison because he was queer.

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Accused of being homosexual

Stefan Blaszkowski spent almost two years in prison because a German Gestapo man accused him of being homosexual and claimed to have been insulted by him. The mere suspicion was sufficient to convict Stefan. This example shows that Paragraph 175 could also be applied in cases that did not involve intimate relationships.

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