HOMOSEXUALITY IN THE
We have now arrived at one of the most sensitive topics in our discussion
of homosexuality in Nazi Germany. As we have noted, revisionists have attempted
to define homosexuals as a class of people who were targeted for extermination
by the Nazis. One homosexual group went so far as to stage a high-profile
pilgrimage to the Yad Vashem Holocaust Memorial in Jerusalem in May of
1994. They were met by a delegation of Jewish Holocaust survivors who were
so overcome with outrage that some of them had to be restrained from physically
assaulting the contingent of (mostly American) political activists. One
man cried, My grandfather was killed for refusing to have sexual relations
with the camp commandant. You are desecrating this place... (The Jerusalem
Post, May 30, 1994).
Yet, as we have noted, some homosexuals did in fact die in Nazi concentration camps. We do not diminish the tragedy of any life lost under the Nazi reign of terror; however, we must reject the implication that homosexuals as a class should be given moral equivalency to the Jewish people and other victims of genocide. There are five reasons why we must reject this claim of the revisionists.
First, we know that regardless of Himmlers anti-homosexual rhetoric, homosexuals as a class were never targeted for extermination, as their continued role in the Third Reich demonstrates.
Second, those homosexuals who died did so primarily as the result of mistreatment and disease in slave-labor camps -- not in the gas chambers. As reported in the Washington Blade
230 Homosexuality in the Concentration Camps
John Fout, professor of history...said his research shows that about 50,000 men were imprisoned for homosexual related offenses by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945. Most of them, he said, were imprisoned for relatively short sentences and in regular German prisons, not concentration camps as has been generally believed (Researcher says Nazi persecution not systematic, The Washington Blade, May 22, 1998).
Third, though we cannot condone the form of punishment meted out by the
Nazis, homosexual sodomy was a legitimate crime of long-standing for which
individuals were being jailed both before and after the Nazi Regime (and
in this country during the same time period). Indeed, Fout acknowledges
that rather than being arrested indiscriminately simply for being a homosexual,
the overwhelming majority of those arrested...were charged with engaging
in sex in public places, such as parks and public restrooms (ibid). This
is in contrast to the internment of Jewish people, whose ethnicity is morally
(and in pre-Nazi Germany, legally) neutral.
Fourth, the actual number of homosexuals in the camps was a tiny fraction of both the estimated number of homosexuals in Germany and the estimate of the camp population. The camp homosexual population, estimated at 5,000-15,000 by Fout and by Joan Ringelheim of the US Holocaust museum (Rose:40), contained an undetermined percentage of non-homosexuals falsely labeled as homosexuals (see section titled Anti-homosexual Policies above). Homosexuals who died were a small fraction of less than 1 percent of homosexuals in Nazi-occupied Europe (S. Katz:146), compared to more than 85 percent of European Jewry. To be more specific, Buchenwald was the camp with the highest number of supposed homosexual prisoners. According to Grau, its annual population count of pink triangles peaked at just 189 in 1944, with fewer than 100 such prisoners in the years prior to 1942. The figures were small in comparison with the total number of prisoners there -- well below one percent in every year (Grau:264).
Fifth and last, many of the guards and administrators responsible for the infamous concentration camp atrocities were homosexuals themselves, which negates the idea that homosexuals in general were being persecuted and interned.
The Nazi system of concentration camps began with Dachau in 1933, but by the fall of the Third Reich the number of sites which had held prisoners in German occupied territory surpassed 10,000 (Parshall:57). It is not generally known that only six of these camps were the notorious death camps. In his introduction to Jean-Francios Steiners Treblinka, Terrence des Pres addresses this distinction:
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232 Homosexuality in the Concentration Camps
The first Nazi camps, which were set up soon after Hitler came to power in 1933, were designed as places of detention and as training grounds for the SS. Dachau and Buchenwald were among the most notorious, and although we cannot forget that thousands of people perished in these places, we should keep in mind that camps of this kind were not intended or equipped to be instruments of genocide...however, as the Nazi policy of extermination took shape with the Jews as primary target, the major killing centers, as they came to be called, began to operate...The great killing centers were six: Auschwitz-Birkenau, Sobidor, Chelmno, Belzec, Maidenek, and Treblinka (Steiner:x-xi).
We make this point simply to show that the internment of homosexuals in
the concentration camps was not equivalent to that of Jews and other racial
groups who were, under Nazi policy, targeted for extermination. As terrible
as life could be in the work camps, it offered better chances than being
herded into gas chambers or shot in front of mass graves.
An additional point that deserves mention here is that the uniform pattern of brutality for which the camps are known was established as a deliberate and calculated policy by the SA under Ernst Roehm in 1933. Heiden writes that [t]he S.A. had learned...that the will of an imprisoned mass must be broken by the most loathsome cruelty (Heiden, 1944:565). He later adds that [f]rightening reports also trickled through from the concentration camps, and the public began to realize that the Fuehrers picked troops had organized artificial hells in Dachau...Roehm admitted publicly that these things seemed unbearable to many people, but said he saw no reason for stopping them (ibid.:732f). Though Roehm was soon killed, his system of mass torture and degradation endured.
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The Guards and Kapos
There is one aspect of life in the concentration camps that is seldom noted
by historians, yet is profoundly significant in this discussion. That aspect
is the unique status of homosexuals in the camps. For while any prisoner
could be chosen as a Kapo (a slave overseer), none other of the interned
groups except homosexuals had counterparts among the Nazi guards and administrators
(for example, there were no Jewish guards or administrators). Stephan
Ross, founder of the New England Holocaust Museum, estimates that about
20 percent of those guarding Jewish prisoners were homosexuals. Ross
was himself interned for five years in Nazi camps as a child and was repeatedly
sexually abused by the guards. [T]hey would beat you and make you do
that [perform oral sex] he said. To this day I am very angry about it
(Holocaust Survivor: Molested by Guards, The Massachusetts News, April
Examples of the homosexuality of the concentration camp guards can be found in many of the personal accounts of Holocaust survivors. Elie Wiesel, sent to the Buna factory camp in the Auschwitz complex, for example, acknowledges this in his book Night:
234 Homosexuality in the Concentration Camps
The head of our tent was a German. An assassins face, fleshy lips, hands like wolfs paws. He was so fat he could hardly move. Like the leader of the camp he loved children...(Actually this was not a disinterested affection: there was a considerable traffic in young children among homosexuals here, I learned later) (Wiesel:59).
In Treblinka, the narrative account of the Treblinka uprising, Steiner records the story of another Nazi administrator, taken from interviews with survivors:
Max Bielas had a harem of little Jewish boys. He liked them young, no older than seventeen. He had a kind of parody of the shepherds of Arcadia, their role was to take care of the camp flock of geese. They were dressed like little princes...Bielas had a little barracks built for them that looked like a dolls house...Bielas sought in Treblinka only the satisfaction of his homosexual instincts (Steiner:117f).
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Walter Poller, a German political prisoner who was interned in the Buchenwald concentration camp, also noted the homosexuality of certain guards. In Medical Block Buchenwald Poller describes the camp practice of mass beatings, and reports on the perverse pleasure these guards derived from the torment of the prisoners:
If the camp doctor happened to pass by after a mass whipping, and knew that a certain type of homosexual ScharFuehrer [platoon leader] and SS officer stood at a certain gate, he arranged a little special entertainment for them, which he called a medical examination (Poller:103).
Poller leaves the details of these medical examinations to our imagination. But this brief glimpse into the ranks of the SS guards reveals much about the camps. Pollers distinction between types of homosexual SS officers, for example, implies that there were more than a few such guards. Furthermore, their homosexuality was a matter of public knowledge. Both of these inferences are supported in another passage which tells of the retaliation against the Jewish prisoners following the attempted assassination of Hitler in July, 1944:
Two Scharfuehrer came along the empty camp roads at about nine oclock. One of them was...an Oberscharfuehrer [commander of platoon leaders] known to the prisoners by the nick-name of Anna, because of his undisguised homosexuality. They entered one of the Jewish barracks, and there indiscriminately chose five Jews and brought them outside. From a second barracks they brought out eight more. From a third they selected another seven...the twenty Jews were ...[marched] off under Annas orders...Some time later we heard a burst of firing from the direction of the stone quarry. It was now clear that the earthly existence of our...Jewish comrades had ended (ibid.:136f).
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Plant, though a revisionist, admits that a few SS guards were homosexual and that they made some younger inmates, usually Poles or Russians, their dolly boys (Pielpel) (Plant:166). These homosexual antics were not carried out in secret. Plant writes that such guards would occasionally compete with Kapos for these teenagers. They even drew lots to determine who should go to whom (ibid.:166). Primo Levi, in Survival in Auschwitz notes that young attractive homosexuals had a much higher survival rate than average prisoners (Levi:81). Younger children were not spared from abuse, but in fact many suffered more harshly. Dr. Judith Reisman writes that Nazi industrialist Alfried Krupp maintained a childrens concentration campcalled Buchmannshof where very young children were used in sexual experiments.
Infants and children under six years of age were torn from their Krupp enslaved mothers and interned in Buchmannshof for their brief lives. Buchmannshof children died at the rate of some 50 per day for years, newly born or taken from parents brought to the Krupp slave camps. Krupps older slave children were called slave youth and little is known about their lives (Reisman, Kinsey: Crimes and Consequences:311).
Reisman believes that the Krupp camp was one source of the appalling child
orgasm statistics cited in Table 34 of the 1948 Kinsey report (ibid.).
Krupp, an exceedingly ruthless and cruel man, was tried and convicted
at Nuremberg, but not for his involvement with Buchmannhof. The existence
of the camp was never mentioned in the Krupp indictment (Manchester:537).
(Significantly, Alfried was the grandson of Fritz Krupp, the notorious
pederast who committed suicide when his sexual abuse of boys became public
knowledge in Germany. The Krupp scandal exposed a powerful and corrupt
homosexual clique in the government and led to high-profile courtroom trials
between 1907 and 1912. For more on this chapter of German history see Lively,
Germanys National Vice Revisited, in The Poisoned Stream, 1997).
Although homosexuals constituted one of the smallest numerical minorities in the camps (Plant:153), they apparently were appointed in disproportionally large numbers as Kapos (roughly the equivalent of trusties in our penal system). Psychoanalyst and medical doctor Edmund Bergler writes that [i]t is...well known that the capos in Hitlers concentration and extermination camps were only too frequently recruited from the ranks of homosexual criminals...I had firsthand information on this point from a patient who had spent six years in the infamous camp at Dachau (Bergler:279). Jan D. (who wishes to remain anonymous), in Auschwitz and Gross Rosen from 1940-1945, comments on the role of these prisoners: The most cruelty inflicted on the Concentration Camps prisoners was done by the Capos (work detail supervisors), mostly German criminals and homosexuals (Private letter).
In Hidden Holocaust?, Gunter Grau includes a report from the Buchenwald archives. It reads,
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The kapo, Herzog, was a former member of the foreign legion, extremely brutal, apparently homosexual-sadistic and with a frightening tendency to become frenzied; if someone was beaten by him it was all over (Grau:268).
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These testimonies are supported by Raul Hilberg, author of The Destruction
of the European Jews and a member of the (U.S.) Presidents Commission
on the Holocaust. Rector cites a December 10, 1979 Village Voice article
in which Hilberg said that homosexuals were highly valued prisoners [relative
to the Jews], and that many kapos inmates who administered the barracks
and dispensed instant discipline (beatings and killings were common) were
There seems to have been a great dichotomy between the experiences of homosexuals in the camps. While on the one hand, Plant claims that homosexuals were treated more harshly than the members of other groups, citing Kogons Dachau memoir, The Theory and Practice of Hell, other researchers refute this. Shelly Roberts, one of the Shoah Foundations researchers posted the following comment on the World Wide Web, March 6, 1997.
I am one of the privileged who is interviewing holocaust survivors for
the Spielberg video history project....I have encountered at least half
a dozen survivors who offer fragments and indications and scraps of information
that some German lesbians and international homosexual men were in fact
treated better (a really relative term here) than the average Jewish prisoner....This
is separate to any Nazi officer who collected young boys to keep in his
private collection (read harum [sic]). These boys were not given any options.
If the information I am hearing from these nice Jewish survivors, who dont appear to have any axes to grind, is true, than [sic] it WOULD seem that (some?most?all?) homosexuals...may have been given some kind of favored status.
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Roberts, interestingly, is no fan of The Pink Swastika, which she (or he)
characterizes as a spite-filled revisionist document on the net that purports
to be a reality-based treatise on privileged gays (ibid).
In any case, there are conflicting claims about the status of homosexuals relative to other prisoners in the camps. To some extent this may simply reflect the differences between camps and the philosophies of their administrators. But the enduring Butch/Fem conflict clearly had a substantial bearing on the treatment of homosexuals.
Plant writes of one survivor who reported that the guards lashed out with special fury against those who showed effeminate traits (Plant:172). And Rector records a statement from an interview with a former Pink Triangle named Wolf (a pseudonym) in which the issue of effeminacy was raised. The ones who were soft, shall I say, were the ones who suffered terribly (Rector:157).
Rudolf Hoess, the infamous commandant of Auschwitz, defined genuine homosexuals... [by their] soft and girlish affectations and fastidiousness, their sickly sweet manner of speech, and their altogether too affectionate deportment toward their fellows (Hoess in ibid.:137f). These genuine homosexuals were considered incorrigible and held in special barracks, while many non-effeminate homosexuals were released (ibid.:137). It is probable that Hoess was homosexual. He had been a member of Gerhard Rossbachs homosexual Freikorps and a close friend of Edmund Heines (Snyder:301), the procurer of boys for Roehms pederastic orgies.
Wolfs testimony about the homosexual behavior of the SS guards also reveals the sadistic characteristic of the Butches. In the cell next to mine was a young male prostitute from Steglitz who the SS forced into [sexual acts] (Rector:156). He also described a game the SS played each evening. There were holes in the walls and they would reach through the holes and play with the genitals of the men sleeping close to the holes. Then they would say that they had caught them jacking off, and they would beat them (ibid.:156). During his imprisonment, Wolf was also forced to witness an execution of six political escapees who had been recaptured by the guards. They were stripped naked, tied to the table spread-eagle face up, and beaten to death with clubs, one by one, he reported. You could see that the SS executioners became sexually stimulated while beating the screaming prisoners to death (ibid.:157).
This extreme savagery exhibited by the "Butch" homosexuals of the camps was not rare, but some accounts of brutality are more gruesome than others. At Auschwitz, for example, Kapo Ludwig Tiene became the most prolific mass murderer of all time by strangling, crushing and gnawing to death as many as 100 boys and young men a day while he raped them (ibid.:143). Incidentally, the second most prolific serial killer in history was also homosexual, the infamous Bluebeard. The man believed to be the legendary mass killer, Bluebeard, is Gilles De Rais, born in Machecoul, Brittany, in 1404. In The Gay Book of Days, Martin Greif, reports that after being arrested on charges of blasphemy, Gilles de Rais confessed to having killed some 150 boys for the pleasure and gratification of my senses...He decided that sodomizing his victims would satisfy both his needs and the Devil's, and so more and more boys disappeared into his castle, never to be seen again (Greif:21).
Perhaps the most grotesque story of all, however, is told by Rector in his chapter on the camps, grotesque not because it is bloodier, but because it reveals how widespread and acceptable these extremes of perversion had become among the Nazi elite. He writes,
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As for the SS, their behavior was typical among those who engaged in sexual bestiality. An example is a film, in color with a sound track, that was secretly made for the pornographic enjoyment of a select coterie of Nazis showing a wild drunken orgy of beautiful boys and handsome young men being whipped, raped and murdered by the SS (Rector:144). (Note: Rector adds that this film is still today very discreetly and very privately shown to only an inner circle of certain homosexuals in Europe).
No study of homosexuality in the Nazi concentration camps would be complete
without mentioning a book called The Men with the Pink Triangle. In recent
years this book has become a standard text for revisionists because it
is purportedly the only autobiography written by a former pink triangle
prisoner. The book itself, however, written by Heinz Heger, cannot be considered
reliable. It is presented as an autobiography, yet translator David Fernbach
admits in his introduction that Hegers account is not his own but is the
story of an anonymous victim of the Nazis, an Austrian (Heger:9). And
though it contains quite a number of anecdotes about homosexuality among
the SS guards which would otherwise be useful in this discussion, these
stories all have a distinct quality of sexual fantasy. We are asked to
believe that nearly every male authority figure whom Heger encounters
requires him to perform oral sex, for example.
Other ostensibly true-life histories of camp survivors are sober chronicles of enslavement and degradation, but Hegers account is almost whimsical in places and includes numerous implausible scenes, such as one in which Hegers Kapo lover countermands an order to punish Heger which comes from the camp commandant himself. For this reason we will not credit the many examples of homosexual sadism reported in this work.
Before we leave the subject of guards and Kapos, we must mention one of the few accounts of lesbians in Nazi history, again in connection with the prison system. In Paris Under the Occupation, Historians Perrault and Azema describe the activities of the French Gestapo. They identify Sonia Boukassi, a drug addict, and Violette Morris, onetime French weight-lifting champion, both lesbians, [as] the chief womens interrogators in the notorious torture chambers of La Carlingue (Perrault and Azema:38).
242 Homosexuality in the Concentration Camps
Homosexual prisoners did not integrate well into the prison populations,
writes Eugen Kogon. The prisoners ostracized those whom the SS marked
with the pink triangle (Kogon:44). Kogon attributes this dislike to the
fact that the homosexual population included criminals, and especially
blackmailers...Hostility toward them may also have been partly rooted in
the fact that homosexuality was at one time widespread in Prussian military
circles, as well as the SA and the SS (ibid:44).
Kogon implies that the prisoners associated homosexuality with their tormentors and thus saw the pink triangles as objects of fear and hatred. Plant supports this view, noting that homosexual prisoners were often tainted by the crimes of the homosexual guardseven though they themselves were often the victims (Plant:167). There is evidence, as well, that the homosexuals in the camps alienated their fellow prisoners because of the predatory nature of their sexual drive. Polish sociologist, Anna Pawelczynska, in Values and Violence in Auschwitz, describes this situation:
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Sometimes a confirmed homosexual would lead a prisoner of normal inclinations into homosexual practices. Such relationships were usually deeply immoral or deeply demoralizing. A prisoner-functionarys [Kapos] desire to satisfy his or her pederastic sexual needs could also manifest itself in various brutal forms of terror and blackmail used to bring the partner into compliance (Pawelczynska:98).
Pawelcznskas record also refutes Plants suggestion that homosexual prisoners were utterly disunited and therefore powerless. She cites the use of prostitution as a form of currency among the homosexual prisoners. This was likely a common means of getting favors from the homosexual guards as well. She writes,
...paid prostitution existed in the camp and the choice of erotic partners was dictated by ones ability to pay either in the form of help in gaining a better place in the camp structure or, at each visit, in the form of food or better clothes. Homosexual erotic availability became a coin of incommensurate worth, in return for which the chance of biological survival could be won, depending on the clients possibilities (ibid.:99).
In Buchenwald, however, we are told that [a]ssisted by isolation from
the other camp and more supported than supervised by the SS, a number of
bandits were completely terrorizing the workforce, stealing the packets
they were supposed to receive since winter 1941, and holding real orgies
of brutality and the most shameless sadism. Sexual abuse and the foulest
murder were the order of the day (Grau:268).
There is one other distinction between homosexual and other prisoners. Toward the end of World War II, many homosexuals were released from the concentration camps and drafted into the Wehrmacht (Shaul:688). A leading historian of the period, Steven Katz cites records that indicate that 13% of all homosexual camp inmates were reprieved and released (S. Katz:146). This, of course, happened as the Nazis frantically increased their production in the death camps, trying to exterminate every last Jew in Europe before the Allies could liberate the camps.
Were these homosexual volunteers mere cannon fodder in the Nazi military? Not for those with the right sadistic temperament. Many homosexual men chose to transfer to a delinquent battalion like the vicious Strafbataillon Dirlewanger(IGLA Euroletter 52, August, 1977).
Oskar Dirlewanger, a former Freikorps commander in the 1920s, was the creator of this extremely barbarous unit, also known as the Sonderkommando Dirlewanger, the most notorious of Waffen-SS units under perhaps the most sadistic of commanders (36th WaffenGrenadier-Division der SS, www.wssob.com). Dirlewanger put together this unit from concentration camp inmates after he himself was released from a camp after serving a sentence for sexual assault of a female child under fourteen and other sex crimes of a vile nature (www.eliteforcesofthethirdreich.com).
Survivor Stephan Ross says that many homosexuals were released without any requirement of military service:
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All they [those accused of homosexuality] had to do to get out [of the camp] was to sign a paper to say that they had been rehabilitated and wouldnt do it [engage in homosexual behavior] anymore...They were not targeted to die. Not like we were. (The Massachusetts News, April 5, 2000).
Before we leave this subject we should mention the fact that many of the non-effeminate homosexuals interned in Nazi work camps were former Storm Troopers whose allegiance had been to Ernst Roehm and not to Hitler. When Roehms Avengers began killing SS leaders in retaliation for Hitlers assassination (Snyder:298), Himmler cracked down on these homosexual former SA soldiers and many were sent to the camps. (This would account for many of the incidents of sadism and brutality.) Holocaust survivor Eugen Zuckerman wrote the following in a letter to the New York Post, protesting the portrayal of homosexuals as Nazi victims in the New York Holocaust museum.
246 Homosexuality in the Concentration Camps
As a Jewish ex-inmate of several concentration camps, including Mauthausen, and as one who grew up in Berlin from the late 1920s until October 1939 and knows the history that led to the internment of gay men in concentration camps, I am opposed to a memorial to homosexuals...The first thousands of homosexuals interned were all members of the Sturm Abteilung (SA), the Nazi Storm Troopers (New York Post, February 16, 1997).
(For the reasons he cited above, Raul Hilberg also believes that the inclusion
of homosexuals in any memorialization of Holocaust victims would be a
travesty -- Hilberg in Rector:139).
Thus, if we add up the numbers, it appears that very few of the millions of European homosexuals were ever sent to concentration camps and of those who were, only a fraction were interned for purely sexual reasons. If, of the 5,000-15,000 homosexuals interned, the first thousands were SA Brownshirts and many others were non-homosexuals falsely charged with homosexuality, it is possible that mere dozens or hundreds were actually sent to camps for homosexuality over the twelve years of Nazi rule.
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9. Use in medical experiments
Jews were used as guinea pigs in horrific
experiments which usually resulted in mutilation or death.
To increase the breeding population, some homosexuals received surgical implants to raise testosterone levels or were forced to have sex with female prostitutes. Some were castrated. Death was rare and unintended.
10. Punishment for harboring
Punishment for hiding Jews was death.
There was no punishment for harboring homosexuals. Many were protected by Nazi leaders.
11. Representation among camp guards
There were no known Jewish guards in the concentration camps.
By some estimates, up to 20% of camp guards were homosexuals.
12. Responsibility for the Holocaust
The Jews were not in any way responsible for the Holocaust.
A high percentage of Hitlers cronies associated with Nazi atrocities were homosexuals.
13. Use of Holocaust victim status as a political tool
Jewish groups do not flaunt the yellow star or exploit the Holocaust for political gain.
Gay activists use the pink triangle as their movements symbol and routinely invoke the Gay Holocaust myth for political advantage.
14. Relationship of Holocaust memorial sponsors and benefactors to victims
Jewish sponsors and benefactors of Holocaust memorials are often family members of victims. Non-relatives still share a 6,000 year ethnic and cultural heritage.
The only bond that links homosexuals in todays movement with those interred in Nazi work camps is the common practice of sodomy and a shared sense of social ostracism because of it.
248 Homosexuality in the Concentration Camps