I want to give Germany its own post, as there have been both great revolutions and persecutions among homosexuals in Germany’s history.
Because of the dramatic suppression of homosexuality, Germany began to see an uprising in activism. In 1867, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs spoke out publicly in defense of homosexuality at the Congress of German Jurists in Munich, pleading for the repeal of anti-homosexual laws in Germany. He became the first self-proclaimed homosexual activist.
Between 1897 and 1933, The Scientific Humanitarian Committee, created by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, campaigned against anti-sodomy laws in Germany. The committee essentially fought for equality for homosexuals and transgenders. They specifically targeted the infamous ‘Paragraph 175’. Initially the law was to prosecute male sex with underage youths. When the Nazis took over, the law was expanded to include all sexual contact and relationships between males.
The Nazis believed that homosexuality was not conducive to their racial ideology of a ‘pure’ race. Gay males were considered weak, and their ‘effeminate’ nature made them unable to fight for the German nation. They were considered not likely to reproduce, thus not contributing to the growth of the Aryan race. Initially, not much was done to persecute homosexuals, as they were not perceived as a direct threat. But when SS Heinrich Himmler was appointed as Reichführer, he went after homosexuals with a vengeance.
Himmler claimed that homosexuals posed a danger to the Aryan race as it undermined the hierarchical relationships of the Nazi party. The claim that homosexuality created cliques that challenged the ‘racial conscious’ of the ‘new’ German makeup. His attack against homosexuals was fueled by psychiatrists like Albert Moll, who, in 1905, wrote that homosexuality was a mental illness. This stigma stayed until the late 1970s, when it was finally removed as a mental illness.
Paragraph 175 – Paragraph 175 was initially placed into law in 1871, criminalizing sodomy between adult males and male youths. In 1935, the Nazis broadened the law to encompass all sexual acts between men of any ages. The text never specifically targeted women, but lesbians were punished under the law as well. Overall, during the time the law was in place (1871 – 1994), 140,000 men were convicted under Paragraph 175.
Between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexuals were placed in concentration camps, where they were isolated and specifically targeted for their sexuality. In many camps, like Dachau, homosexuals were placed in separate barracks. They were forced to wear pink triangles for easy identification, and to further their isolation in the camps. There is evidence that while lesbians were not as well documented as gay males, they were forced to wear black triangles, along with prostitutes and other ‘sexually immoral’ women.
Because of the isolation in separate barracks, and the identifying markers, homosexuals became easy targets, and were often forced to perform sexual acts upon the soldiers, and were targeted for hard labor, often succumbing to dehydration and undernourishment.
The Nazis became interested in finding a ‘cure’ for homosexuality, and experimented on prisoners. Often, in exchange for survival, a homosexual prisoner would agree to castration. The experiments, conducted by SS doctors, often led to mutilation, illness, and death, but yielded no scientific knowledge. Because homosexuals were considered sub-human, they were often the subjects of these horrific experiments.
There are no statistics in regards to how many homosexuals died at the hands of the Nazis in the concentration camps.
You can click on the following link to find a very in-depth work on how the Third Reich viewed homosexuality: http://digitalcommons.iwu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1138&context=constructing
The next installment will discuss homosexuality in the United States in the 20th Century.