Nazi Homosexuality – “Paragraph 175” – Documentary by Karl Muller
PARAGRAPH 175 – Movie
Made by German historian Karl Muller. His research now forms a part of the Holocaust Memorial Museum.
Academy-award winning documentary filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman direct this harrowing, lyrical look at the persecution of homosexuals during the Third Reich narrated by Rupert Everett.
German historian and member of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum Klaus Muller interviews the dozen or so surviving victims, now frail and wizened, who recount their experiences. Jewish resistance fighter Gad Beck recalls how he posed as a Hitler Youth in an ultimately vain attempt at saving his lover. One man was freed from a sentence at Dachau only to be interned again at Buchenwald. Another recalls hearing, in the distance, a ‘singing forest’ — the sound of gays bound and tortured by Nazis in a local grove.
Epstein and Friedman fashion a layered narrative consisting not only of interviews but also archival footage depicting background life in Weimar Germany.
What was Paragraph 175?
This was the anti sodomy law against homosexuals enacted in Germany since 1871. Until the Nazi rule, this provision was seldom used. The provisions were vastly expanded by the Nazis in 1935. The 2 Germanys retained the law much after the war, and it was finally repealed only in 1994. The provisions were faithfully adopted and strengthened by the Soviet Union and its satellites and continue to guide state policy in those countries.
Germany in the 1920s
Weimar Germany was a liberal bastion and Berlin was the most gay friendly capital in the western world. Paragraph 175 existed and was used as a tool for police blackmail. The most prominent face of gay friendly Berlin was intellectual Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, founder of The Institute of Sexual Research and an early activist for LGBT rights. When he was travelling outside Germany, the Nazis burned down his building. His library was burned along with books by other subversives.
Germany under the Nazis (1930-1945)
In the quest for racial Aryan purity, the first casualties were the Jews and Roma (gypsies). Christian Germans were initially left alone as long as they were not communists, trade unionists or other enemies. Homosexual men came under scrutiny as they were considered infertile and did not produce more Germans. Lesbian women were not directly targeted as the Nazis felt they could still produce babies. Over 100,000 homosexual men were arrested under paragraph 175. About 15,000 were sent to concentration camps. In these camps, they were forced to wear a pink triangle for identification.
False security of German Homosexuals – Ernst Roehm
Roehm was Hitler’s right hand man till the “Night of the Long Knives” (1934), when he was killed along with many of Hitler’s enemies. Roehm was an openly homosexual man and was therefore hated by the army. Roehm founded the precursor of the notorious SS – Hitler’s army of thugs. When the notorious Reichstag fire took place, the Nazis and the Communists blamed one another. Roehm, his alleged lover and all homosexuals were also blamed. From then on it was open warfare between the Nazis and homosexuals. Roehm was killed along with 300 enemies.
Arrests, concentration camps
From 1930, the first prisoners started arriving at Dachau camp. Homosexuals thought they were German citizens, but were wrong. The Nazis considered Homosexuality a disease that would weaken and destroy the Fatherland. Most arrests were German Christians and escaped the gas chambers. However, they were made to do slave labour and be subject to medical experiments. Two-thirds of the inmates perished.
End of the war
From mid 1944 the tide turned against Hitler. The Soviets approached from the East. The British and Americans were advancing on the western front. Air raids became a regular feature and most German cities were destroyed. The concentration camps were, however, left unbombed, and they had to be physically liberated by ground troops. Survivors were rescued. However, for the homosexuals still left in the camps, rescue did not take place. The liberators left the homosexuals to serve out their terms. For homosexual victims of the camps, the war did not end.