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May 8: Nazism and Homosexuality

May 8, 2014
9906441A speech by West German President Richard von Weizsäcker on this date in 1985, marking the 40th anniversary of the end of World War II in Europe, included the first acknowledgment of Nazi persecution of gay men by a public official. It would take until 1990 for a reunified Germany to repudiate Paragraph 175, the “sodomy” law from 1879 that the Nazis used to persecute gay people, and until May, 2002 for the German parliament to pardon retroactively all gays convicted under that law. According to the online GLBTQ Encyclopedia, during the twelve years of Nazi rule “it is estimated that more than 100,000 men were arrested on homosexual charges, and half of these were officially sentenced. Most of the convicted men were jailed in regular prisons, but between 5,000 and 15,000 of the men who were sentenced for homosexual offenses were incarcerated in concentration camps.” Among the major figures in the GLBTQ world of pre-Nazi Germany was the gay Jewish sexologist Magnus Hirschfeld, whose “Institute for Sexual Science” in Berlin was raided and destroyed by the Nazis on May 6, 1933. Martin Sherman’s play Bent (1979) was one of the first cultural works ever to break the taboo on discussing Nazi persecution of homosexuals. To read Martin Land’s archived 1982 Jewish Currents article, “Gays in Concentration Camps,” click here. “For those of us who would keep invisible the presence of the triangle within the Shield of David: It is time to complete the outline of our Jewish star.” -Rabbi Alexander M. Schindler, UAHC president, 1989