The Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals
INTRODUCTION (back to index page)

When the word “Holocaust” is mentioned, the first statistic that comes to mind is that of the six million Jewish victims who died in either concentration camps or by other Nazi tactics.  However, five million additional individuals were persecuted, including a significant proportion of homosexuals.  Our report does not include female homosexuals because at this time sexual relations between women was not illegal and therefore they were not persecuted for their sexuality.

The estimate of homosexual victims of the Holocaust ranges from less than 10,000 to one million, as the result of a variety of factors.  First of all, Nazis had little concern over the number of homosexuals they killed; therefore, they did not maintain precise records.  Secondly, along with the rest of the records of those killed during this time, when the Nazis realized the prospect of losing World War II, they likely destroyed the few records of homosexual victims they did keep.  Lastly, since homosexuality remained illegal in West Germany until 1969, those released from camps were not eager to admit their homosexuality for fear of punishment. Along these lines, in order to emigrate outside of Germany, those avoiding persecution were forced to lie about their homosexuality on travel documents.  Survivors are therefore afraid to come forward with their stories for fear of losing their visas.

Discrimination against homosexuals was not a new phenomenon to the Nazi regime.  In 1871, Section 175 was added to the Reich Penal code, which criminalized homosexuality under German rule.  Adolf Brand pushed for the reform of this section in 1928 until the government on October 16, 1929 approved it.  Though these reforms were approved in 1929, they were not put into effect until after the Great Depression, when the German government once again had the means to enforce these policies.  In 1933, the Nazis’ came to power and put their anti-homosexual campaign into effect.  In the following years, between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 63,000 were convicted of homosexuality, many of which were sent to concentration camps.

Once convicted, those sent to concentration camps were required to wear a pink cloth triangle about three and a half inches high.  Their insignia was significantly larger than those of the other prisoners, making them easily distinguishable from other prisoners.  Often homosexuals received the worst treatment within the camps since they found themselves the victims of both the guards and the other prisoners.  In an attempt to improve their status, many stole other insignia to wear, sometimes even resorting to the yellow Star of David that classified Jews.  Homosexuality at this time was considered a disease.  To prevent “contamination” of other prisoners, some camps isolated homosexuals or made attempts to “cure” them through forced sexual acts with women prisoners, mainly Jews and gypsies.  Throughout our readings, we found many incidences in which guards ordered sexual favors from homosexuals.  Interestingly, some Nazi guards preferred homosexuals over Jewish women.
When the camps were liberated, homosexuals were released along with the other prisoners.  Unlike other prisoners, homosexuality remained illegal until 1969 and these victims were therefore classified as criminals and were unable to receive compensation for their incarceration.  After their release, families often refused to accept the homosexual ex-inmates, and former homosexual friends likely perished in camps or left Germany, leaving survivors on their own.  To this day, homosexuality has a negative connotation, preventing full research of Nazi persecution of these individuals to be completed.  

Course Homepage
Web Projects index page
Homosexuals under Nazism:
Review of:
Hidden Holocaust
Review of: Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals
Review of:
The Men with the Pink Triangle
Review of:
The Pink Triangle:
The Nazi War against Homosexuals