On this Holocaust Day of Remembrance, please take a moment to learn of the little-known story of the beginning of the Nazi reign of terror. It was not acts of cruelty and violence against the Jews. Instead it was the systematic rounding up and extermination of LGBT citizens.
In the 1890s, a social movement was begun by Magnus Hirschfeld, father of the first gay rights movement, who established the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in 1897. By the 1910s, thousands of books and pamphlets on sexuality had been printed, and attempts were being made to eliminate Paragraph 175, a law that made acts of “sodomy” illegal. That was finally accomplished in 1918.
As Hitler’s Nazi Party slowly took control of Germany, many gays felt a sense of false security. It was widely known gay soldiers operated within the Nazi military, and that one of Hitler’s closest advisers, Ernst Röhm, was gay. This façade was shattered soon after Hitler took power, as one of his first actions was the destruction of the Hirschfeld Institute, declaring it “an unparalleled breeding ground of dirt and filth.” Röhm was removed from power, along with all other suspected homosexuals, and arrested along with over 50,000 other German citizens.
Marked with yellow armbands, and later with pink triangles, homosexual and transgender people were set apart from others in the camps for particular cruelty and humiliation. They were regularly raped, beaten, starved, and lesbians were gathered into brothels for German soldiers. Some were later subjected to experimental hormone treatments, castration, and other attempts at “curing” them of their sexual orientation. In the end, very few survived, and fewer had the courage to tell their stories after the war, being subject to discrimination and embarrassment even then.
Some estimates put the murder of LGBT people as high as 200,000. Please remember them today, along with the millions of others including gypsies, the mentally ill, the mentally retarded, the disabled, and the Jewish who perished in Hitler’s insane attempt to “purify” humanity.