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Homosexuality Aspects in Nazi Germany Term Paper

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Introduction

Nazi Germany was characterized by a number of ideologies. The Nazis were driven by their impulsion for establishing a lasting and solid rule within the German population. While the persecution of the Jews in Nazi Germany is well documented, there is very little written evidence about the persecution of homosexuals. This is because of the fact that these persecutions were not a priority in the Nazi regime. Nonetheless, one cannot ignore the plight of this outlawed group. This essay shall attempt to unravel the issues surrounding the extermination of German homosexuals during the 1933 nationwide ultimatum. (Grau, 1995).

Reasons behind the persecution of homosexuals prior to this event

The horrific acts committed in the year 1933 were consigned partly as a result of some ideological beliefs. Nazis believed that homosexuality would ruin the youth. They also realized that homosexuals could not reproduce and would therefore be unable to perpetuate their ‘superior race’. At that time, there was ideological propaganda going around that the Germans were the only pure race in the world. Consequently, there was a need to ensure their continuity; this was a process that would only be achieved through reproduction. It was impossible for homosexuals to reproduce and this meant that they were undermining the German coz. Homosexuals liked forming assemblies and this was perceived as a threat to their Nazi rule. Homosexuals also threatened Germany’s moral society. At that time, homosexuality was perceived as a sickness. German authorities kept claiming that homosexuals would spread their way of life to other ‘normal’ persons if they were allowed to interact freely with them hence the reason for their isolation.

The Nazis strongly believed in a society where everyone had their duties and responsibilities clearly spelled out. They believed in heterosexual families because such an arrangement would only have room for one superior; the man of the house. The ideal German society was one in which wives had no say in their home and were answerable to their husbands. Dominating such a household would be quite easy for the German authorities because all they had to do was to convert the husband and the rest of the family would follow without question. However, homosexuality would not make this possible. The latter arrangement encouraged families comprised of two men and such people were quite difficult to control and dominate.

In order to achieve some form of control, the Nazi authorities decided to spread propaganda about the gay community. They convinced the rest of the population that homosexual men were not as masculine as they should be. In order to ‘restore’ their masculinity, Nazi authorities would make gay men work harder than other men in society. Additionally, they would punish others by castrating them because they wanted to communicate the thought that these men were ‘useless’. However, one must not be fooled by these ideologies as they were nothing more than propaganda. The German authorities were simply trying to discourage homosexual practices and homosexuality in general by making their life harder. The ideologies were used as a weapon for justifying their practices. (Oosterhuis, 1991).

The Nazis, through their leader Hitler, claimed that the youth were easily ‘corruptible’. It was therefore necessary to keep a watchful eye over them in order to prevent their health endangerment. There were severe penalties for homosexuals who tried having relations with young boys. Hitler and the Nazis asserted that the youth should be protected from becoming disrespectable men in the future through those punishments. Some of them included treatment as a sexual offender and also castration for some. The truth of the matter was that these punishments were meant to prevent further conversions to homosexuality in order to protect the perpetuation of their ‘supreme race’.

Another reason that could have led to the constant abashment of homosexuals was the fact that this group could turn put to become a political movement. The Nazi regime thrived upon a lack of cooperation among its inhabitants. Any group that was perceived a highly close-knit could ruin the Nazi reign because they would be well coordinated. Consequently, the Nazis used their ideologies to make their inhabitants share their disregard for homosexuality. This would prevent future cases of homosexuality and would also go a long way in ascertaining that the rest of the population was kept in check. Actually, life for homosexuals was intolerably hard. They had o put up with isolation in camps. As if this was not enough, their friends and families would abandon them and they were left with nothing else apart from their homosexual partners. Hitler’s beliefs were applied to all members of the gay community even despite the fact that most of his friends subscribed to that notion. Because of the negative treatment surrounding homosexual acts, most youth would shun such behavior because they were aware that there would have to face dire consequences for their actions. (Lauritsen and Thorstad, 1974).

It should be noted that the German defeat in the World War had a large part to play in the future treatment of homosexuals. Most authorities claimed that Germany lost because there were some people who had betrayed them. They asserted that their representatives in the War did no support the German government fully; there were some enemies in their midst. The authorities felt that if they identified some of these backstabbers, then they would claim back their lost glory and prevent future instances of betrayal. Consequently, the Nazis tried looking for scapegoats or people they could blame and homosexuals were among the first to fall victim to this. The German government has constantly faced the possibility of a revolution. Since this could come from anyone’s source, it would be advisable to nip it in the bud through prosecution of any organized groups. (Grau, 1995).

The events surrounding the war had a huge impact on the way the Germans treated their citizens. This was because the War took up a lot of physical and emotional resources from German society. After they lost, there was very little left in society a lot of them were economically disadvantaged. Consequently, there was rising inflation and unemployment in the country. People were frustrated and they used marginalized groups as scapegoats for their actions. They needed a group to vent out their frustrations on and homosexuals became victims of this.

It should also be noted that the Nazi regime thrived on the establishment of a radically racist nation. The people of this nation had been brainwashed to believe that only a certain category of people was permissible in society. All others had to be eliminated. The Jews were the first in line because they represented a deviation from the norm. The homosexuals who were not second by were still among this ‘abnormal’ group. Since the German society had already become accustomed to exterminations and ill-treatment of peculiar individuals, then there was fertile ground for persecuting the homosexuals in such a society.

The persecution of German homosexuals started as early as the late eighteenth century. At that time, there was a gay rights movement. The movement was characterized by regular meetings between gay men. There was also a publication called Self Owner. Self Owner mostly talked about the gay lifestyles through some scholars, it also centered on art and literature. Art, in this case, was mostly depicted through photographs and most of these images happened to be very erotic. The journals also served as linkages between various homosexuals in Germany because subscribers could list their contacts there and were, therefore, able to meet with one another. (Plant, 1996).

However, this was a very daring act because they were defying the law. Prior to 1929, the law in paragraph 175 of their penal code claimed that it was an offense to have relations with a person of the same sex. Consequently, the journal had very few members; they were less than two thousand. The key editor of the Self Owner became the object of persecution. This was because he had very he was criminal according to their law. The police raided his home time and time again. They eventually decided to imprison him because of these activities through a two-month-long sentence.

It should be noted that subscribers of the Self Owner publications were not political movements. Most of them were simply interesting in expressing their sexuality through the book. However, these undertakings eventually become a political movement after the formation of the Scientific Humanitarian Committee in the late nineteenth century. The Committee was formed with the main aim of protecting gay rights through favorable legislation. They believed that they could fight for their rights to gays through the abolition of paragraph 175. Additionally, this political movement was also interested in educating the masses about the myths surrounding homosexuality. They did this through a number of avenues. Some of them gave lectures about it, others gave homosexual literature to libraries and they also conducted exhibits and tours around the nation.

Despite the fact that most of their major objective of changing paragraph 175 was not achieved, the Scientific Humanitarian Committee was able to spread knowledge about homosexuality and they caused sparked numerous conversations about the topic. They also gave some homosexuals the courage to stand up before the rest of their colleagues and declare their sexual preferences. It should however be noted that most of these homosexual revolutions were centered on males. Consequently, lesbians and women movements were not a major component of the Committee. Women were yet to become accepted into the mainstream homosexual movement. (Grau, 1995).

After the First World War, there were numerous gay bars that flourished in Berlin. This was because the activities prior to the war had served to reinforce homosexual behavior; the gay rights movements and the Committee. Despite the fact that they were outlawed, there were many Gay bars in the 1920s. Some have even claimed that the number of gay bars in the twenties is far greater than it is in the 1980s. However, this openness later became the source of their demise. The people of Germany were plagued with numerous problems after losing the war. They realized that Berlin (which had the highest number of gar bars) was also synonymous with corruption and inefficiency. People started looking for groups that they could blame for their economic failures and homosexuals became scapegoats.

The large numbers of these gay men caused their needs and want to resemble those of their heterosexual counterparts in many respects. They wanted to prosper their nations through participation in military and other economic aspects of their republic. Consequently, a substantial number of gay men joined the military. Some of them served as senior men within their areas of specialty. However, this placed a lot of attention upon their activities especially from one of the most influential Nazi leaders; Adolph Hitler. Hitler was not particularly fond of homosexuals as he has been quoted saying that these homosexuals were abnormal and that they were contradicting nature. (Rector, 1981).

Adolph Hitler was very intelligent. He utilized the very arguments that homosexuals used to justify their actions. One such argument was that homosexuality was seen as an expression of their inner sex. One of the proponents of this theory claimed that homosexuals were simply women who found themselves in men’s bodies. Hitler used this argument to counter their lifestyles. He claimed that if they were really women trapped in men’s bodies then they were subordinate to real men and that they were unwanted in the community.

The event

During the years 1923 and 1924, the German authorities investigated some murder cases of about one hundred boys. They found that the person who was responsible for these actions was called Haarmann. Things got out of hand when the perpetrator was a homosexual. As if that was not enough, an expert witness invited to give his views about the case was also found to be a homosexual. Therefore his contributions were not given the importance they deserved and this impeded administration of justice by the courts. The expert witness was known as Hirschfield and had been involved in a lot of research revolving around the gay community.

Hirschfield had been committed to the homosexual coz. His work in this field had managed to convince some members of the political arena about the need for tolerance. As a result of his efforts, some members of the Social Democratic party voted against the elimination of a section of the law that penalized homosexuals. He even managed to convince some political activists to speak on their behalf. However, his actions had a minimal impact on the rigid thought processes in German society. Most of them had already made up their minds about this group. However, Hirschfield’s words penetrated into many aspects of society. For instance, he was able to work with the women’s movement thus getting them behind his side; they championed the gay political rights coz. (Rector, 1981).

In relation to these activities, the latter mentioned philosopher founded an institute for Sexology. The institute was involved in counseling members of the community about sexuality. He gave numerous lectures about this subject and made drastic changes to conventional perceptions. He was able to get many people to attend his lectures and he left most of them convinced about his coz. It should however be noted that this person’s actions were not left unabated. He was quite a nuisance to the Nazi authority and there was a need to get rid of him. The Nazis felt that he undermined everything they stood for. They were looking for reasons to persecute him and they found three main ones:

  • He was gay
  • He was a Jew
  • He was a ‘fake’ scientist

Because of all these elements, German society constantly chased after Hirschfield. He was a very insecure person and he was always afraid of the fact that he could be eliminated. However, his influences did not just die with him. He managed to convince a category of individuals to side with him in his research. Kurt Hiller was able to take his place after he started getting old. However, the Nazis did not let him go. They decided to arrest him in the year 1933 and they took him to concentration camps. After that fateful arrest, the Nazis began arresting homosexuals; for their actions and most of them would have to face open hostility and ill-treatment thereafter.

The year 1933 saw the establishment of radical reforms against the gay community through Nazi leader Adolph Hitler. This leader created laws that would renew the hatred against homosexuals. Before 1933, most gays had become very bold. They became comfortable with their preferences and most of them did not feel the need to hide since police were not reinforcing paragraph 175. However, in the year 1933, Hitler changed all this. He ordered all gar bars to close down. He also asserted that there would be no room for homosexual publications such as Self Owner. As if this was not enough, Hitler urged the hotel owners who hosted mostly gay patrons to close down. This order also applied to cafes and bathhouses too. (Lauritsen and Thorstad, 1974).

Hitler also ordered that one of the most prominent institutes championing the gay coz be closed down; this was the Sexology Institute. He urged policemen to take up a large number of their publications and to burin them in public. This also took place in that fateful year.

Despite the fact that some gay supporters thought that there would be some sort of sexual revolution in the 1920s, these thoughts came to a fast halt. Most lesbians and gay men had to keep their activities under the radar otherwise most of them would suffer huge consequences for their actions. It was now a law that openly gay men were to be taken into concentration camps where they would serve sentences. Sometimes when things got really bad, some of these gay men would die mostly out of neglect, starvation, and harsh conditions.

How homosexuals were treated in concentration camps

One of the most notorious persecutors in the camp was called Himmler. Himmler was able to conduct cruel and inhumane acts because of a number of reasons. First of all, he had some psychological problems during his earlier days. He was brought up as a very unhappy child and was a bitter and resenting individual. Secondly, he had taken part in a political inquiry involving the cats committed by what Nazis considered as wrongdoers. But before this inquiry, Himmler had put his thoughts to paper through a diary. In the dairy, he wrote down his thoughts about foreigners. He clearly demonstrated how he could not stand foreigners. He was a sort of person who was driven by conventional roles in society. He believed that women should be inferior to men. He also had the firm conviction that immorality should not be tolerated in society. This was why he stressed the importance of marrying virgins. (Grau, 1995).

His character was heavily influenced by his parents and the social-cultural situation facing him. His father taught the wealthy children and he was therefore exposed to the level of social disadvantages that his family had to endure. This was the point at which he developed a hatred for the elite. Himmler also had minimal social skills. His school-going days were characterized by low levels of interaction with his peers; he rarely engaged in sports and even when he did, the results were not very appealing. He tried accessing the elite social circles to no avail; this was partly because his educational background was limited. Because of his low social status, Himmler could not get higher education. Another major influence on his life was his father. He was a strong and dominating individual and was responsible for making Himmler submissive to authority. This was the reason why Himmler could go about persecuting people after getting orders to form his superiors.

The economic situation also had a part to play in this scenario; there was a lot of inflation and right around that time. Consequently, Himmler’s family had lost most of their wealth. They could barely keep their heads above the tide and Himmler looked for away out of his distress. Later on, it was established that concentration camps became profit-making institutions and this would serve as a source of wealth for Himmler. (Plant, 1996).

This individual was also known for his persecution of sexual deviants. He believed that most of them were immoral and had no place in society. Evidence of these beliefs can be seen even during his twenties. At one time, he found that the lady who was betrothed to his brother was not straightforward. He decided to hire a private investigator to solidify his claims about her infidelity. He could not tolerate such actions and felt that his brother was making a grave mistake to marry such a woman.

As Himmler got older, he started forming links between the issue of sexuality and its importance to the state. He asserted that homosexuals were a threat to world dominance by German society. This is because they prevented rapid population increases that were necessary for outnumbering Germany’s enemies. It was therefore necessary to institute a mechanism that would get rid of them. Additionally, he believed that homosexuals were weaker than other conventional men. Consequently, this weakness could also be manifested in the physical sense through poor fighting skills. He, therefore, felt that most of these individuals had to be eliminated in order to leave room for the so-called stronger men. These stronger men would fight well for the German society and help in its expansion. (Rector, 1981).

All in all, one can conclude that there were some character traits that describe some of the homosexual persecutors (like Himmler) in the concentration camps. They can be summarized as follows:

  • the belief that they know more about morality than others
  • they tend to be authoritarians
  • they tend to hate unconventional persons
  • they tend to place too much emphasis on chastity
  • they tend to ‘cleanse’ society of its sexual pervasions

In those concentration caps, most homosexual officials were immediately replaced by a heterosexual official in 1933 and after. This was because Hitler had realized that there was quite a large number and that most of them were a threat.

In 1933, anti-gay officials such as the above-mentioned Himmler and Roach instituted torturous systems to make life hell for the inhabitants. Someone like Himmler justified his actions by saying that if homosexuals were tortured harshly enough; it would drive out their sense of immorality. The troops deployed to concentration camps were told to create some sort of artificial hell for the residents in those camps. It was, therefore, necessary to make sure that this was implemented in the letter.

It should however be noted that there were some elements of hypocrisy within those concentration camps. Officials and guards were supposed to ensure that all homosexuals; especially those who defiled young boys, were punished. However, some books, diaries, and publications have indicated that there were some officials who committed the same offenses they were supposed to punish. For example, in a certain concentration camp called Treblinka, there was an administrator called Max Bielas. Some survivors claimed that he used to have a sexual preference for young boys falling below the age of seventeen. He used to dress them up in fancy clothes and then give them special rooms to stay in. Survivors reported that this administrator had created some sort of barracks for his young boys. The barracks were decorated in such a way that they looked like a playhouse for them. (Oosterhuis, 1991).

However, this special treatment of young homosexual boys was different and crueler in other camps. For example, some survivors in another camp claimed that there was once a homosexual who had been defiling young boys. This man used to work for a power cable unit, however, afterword went round that he was committing these homosexual acts; the power station was attacked and burned down. He was caught and tortured thoroughly so that he could give out the name of his other homosexual counterparts. However, he did not yield to these tortures and was then taken to a concentration camp. Some people claim that he died in those concentration camps because they never heard from him again.

The boy who had a relationship with the above-mentioned power administrator was also arrested. He was taken to prison in the concentration camps and was tortured too. They wanted him to dispel the names of other homosexual counterparts but this boy did not say anything as well. Consequently, they decided to kill him so that he could serve as an example to the other homosexuals in the republic. The executioners did this through a rope. They hanged the boy up and some other camp inhabitants found his limp body hanging from the roof. These young boys died a painful death because they had not been killed instantly. He was left half dead and stayed alive for close to half an hour.

The earlier mentioned Bielsa’s victims also suffered the same fate. Bielas was replaced by Franz Kurtz. Kurtz was a heterosexual and was determined to punish homosexuals. First of all, prior to Kurtz’s ascension to power, his predecessor Max was killed by a prisoner. The new administrator made sure that he looked for Bielsa’s little boys and he executed them personally. (Rector, 1981).

Kurtz also caused substantial changes to the concentration camps. It was reported that there were some boys who were almost taken to the gas chamber by this shrewd administrator. It was reported that a fellow homosexual saved this boy from the wrath of the administrator. As if these actions were not enough, he brought a certain number of women who would be given as prizes to heterosexuals. His intentions fell flat on his face after prisoners began abusing those women. There were orgies in the camp and there were many critics labeled against Kurtz. This is because he claimed to take up a moral perspective by killing or destroying homosexuals yet at the same time he was reinforcing immorality through the issue of prostitutes.

As it can be seen from the above arguments, homosexuality in the concentration camps after the 1933 event (Hitler’s reforms) was quite contradictory. There were certain instances when homosexuality was frowned upon. This was especially in public. Nazis claimed that it was wrong and that there was no room for it in German society. However, there were some Nazi officials who practiced homosexuality in private. Some of them were well known by prisoners in concentration camps and most of them used young boys as mates. It can therefore be said that most of these practices were adopted because they would further the Nazi regime. Condemning homosexuality in public was simply a tool used to suppress the people and to deepen Nazi rule. (Lauritsen and Thorstad, 1974).

Conclusion

The essay examines the issues surrounding the public persecution of homosexuals in concentration camps. These persecutions were instituted in the year 1933 after Hitler took overpower. He banned all gay bars and publications. He also told his officials to arrest any homosexuals after which they were supposed to take them to concentration camps. The concentration camps thrived because of personalities such a Himmler. Himmler’s past is instrumental in the process of understanding why homosexuals were persecuted to such an extent. However, the situation was also different for some gay prisoners. They were treated in a special manner if they granted certain Nazi officials special favors. However, most of these administrators were eventually found and put to death. All in all, homosexuality was a weapon used by the Nazi regime to oppress their inhabitants and suppress political movements.

References

Lauritsen, J. and Thorstad, D. (1974): The Early Homosexual Rights Movement; New York: Times Change Press.

Oosterhuis, H. (1991): Homosexuality and Male Bonding in Pre-Nazi Germany; New York: Harrington Park Press.

Plant, R. (1996): The Pink Triangle; New York: Henry Holt and Co.

Rector, F. (1981): The Nazi Extermination of Homosexuals; New York: Stein and Day.

Grau, G. (1995): Hidden Holocaust; London: McMillan Press.

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