Nazi ideology called for the complete dominance of an Aryan master race through the promotion of procreation between young, Aryan germans. As far as senior Nazis were concerned, therefore, all non-aryan races, and undesirable or "sexually useless" individuals were to be condemned to subjugation by the master race; indeed, Mein Kampf is littered with statements about the enslavement of lower races.

Against this background it was clear to the Nazi leadership that homosexuality would serve no use in their grand plan for world dominance; after all, how could a man possibly help if he refused to have sex with women? To some, in particular Heinrich Himmler (the leader of the SS), this was, to an extent, purely a mathematical issue. In a speech given before a conference of SS officers at Bad Tolz on 17 Feb 1937, he said:

"If you further take into account the facts I have not yet mentioned, namely that with a static number of women, we have two million men too few on account of those who fell in the war [of 1914-1918], then you can well imagine how this imbalance of two million homosexuals and two million war dead, or in other words a lack of about four million people having sex, has upset the sexual balance sheet of Germany, and will result in a catastrophe.
"I would like to develop a couple of ideas for you on the question of homosexuality. There are those homosexuals who take the view: 'what I do is my business, a purely private matter'. However, all things that take place in the sexual sphere are not the private affair of the individual, but signify the life and death of the nation, signify world power or 'Swissification'. The people which has many children has the candidature for world power and world domination. A people of good race which has too few children has a one-way ticket to the grave, for insignificance in fifty or a hundred years, for burial in two hundred and fifty years...
"Therefore we must be absolutely clear that if we continue to have this burden in Germany, without being able to fight it, then that is the end of Germany, and the end of the Germanic world."1

Nazism seemed, however, to attract homosexuals, many of them guilty of some of the worst of all Nazi excesses, in particular prior to 1939. Indeed, it has been postulated recently that Hitler himself was secretly homosexual, and compelling evidence exists to indicate this fact. One of Hitler's earliest and closest friends, August Kubizeck, became an object of Hitler's secret affections early on. After Hitler moved to Vienna, failing tests to join the Art Academy twice, Kubizeck joined him and the two lived together for four months. Hitler once wrote to Kubizeck, "I cannot endure it when you consort and converse with other young people."2

During Hitler's time in Vienna it is well-documented  that extensive German and Austrian police records existed alluding to his sexuality (it is not clear whether he was on any of the notorious "pink lists" compiled by German police forces since 1900). Following Hitler's meteoric rise to power in 1933 a huge effort was undertaken by the Nazi party to erase all evidence of Hitler's time in Vienna and his subsequent move to the "El Dorado for homosexuals", Munich.2

At Munich in September 1919 Hitler was asked by the Army to investigate the fledgling, tiny German Workers' Party, which would later evolve into the German National Socialist Workers' Party (NSDAP, the Nazi party). A party member, Anton Drexler, thrust a copy of his pamphlet, "My Political Awakening", into the young Corporal Hitler's hands as he left the meeting. Later the next morning, Hitler remembered about the pamphlet and read it, finding that it met with many of his own political opinions. He was invited to join the Party, and swiftly became an influential member due to his skills as an organiser and orator.3

One of the two most important members of the Party at the time was Captain Ernst Roehm, who was serving on the staff of the Army's District Command VII Headquarters in Munich. A charismatic, bull-necked thug, Roehm was to become the leader of the infamous SA, the brownshirts who were so instrumental in intimidating Hitler's opponents throughout the regime's rise to power and until the SS and Gestapo replaced it as the main instrument of terror. Roehm was also a homosexual. Without his help, and that of the "spiritual founder of National Socialism", Dietrich Eckart, Hitler would almost certainly never have come to power.3

To his fury, following his sweep to power in 1933, Hitler was lampooned in opposition press as an effeminate man;2 this proved to him the need for a separate, state-approved newspaper, and his Voelkischer Beobachter became Nazi Germany's main instrument for news and propaganda. In this newspaper, Hitler was portrayed as a strong, virile, masculine man, the Father of the Nation. It may never be known for certain whether Hitler was actually homosexual, but if the supposed evidence is to be believed he hated his sexuality and was driven both by ideology and personal emotions to eradicate homosexuals throughout the Reich.

Nazi Elimination of Homosexuality

In 1934 the Gestapo set up a special commission on homosexuality, the first action of which was to order every rosa List (pink list) throughout Germany. Compiled by local police since 1900, these lists contained details of all suspected homosexuals, and were to prove essential to the Gestapo and the wider Nazy Party in the eradication of the "social aberration" of homosexuality.

The Nazi party set about enshrining the ideological ideal of an Aryan master race in German law through the introduction of the infamous Blood Laws. Passed at a meeting of the Party Congress at Nuremberg on 15 Sep 1935 these guarded the racial purity of German people by prohibiting relationships between Jews and racially pure Germans.

This came after Hitler had dealt with the question of homosexuality, which had not been persecuted with much vigour under the constitution of the Weimar Republic. On 1 Sep 1935 an amendment to Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code, originally dating from 1871, went into effect. The entire text of this oppressive law (which remained in place in West Germany until 1969) is as follows:

175. A male who commits lewd and lascivious acts with another male or permits himself to be so abused for lewd and lascivious acts, shall be punished by imprisonment. In a case of a participant under 21 years of age at the time of the commission of the act, the court may, in especially slight cases, refrain from punishment.

175a. Confinement in a penitentiary not to exceed ten years and, under extenuating circumstances, imprisonment for not less than three months shall be imposed:

1. Upon a male who, with force or with threat of imminent danger to life and limb, compels another male to commit lewd and lascivious acts with him or compels the other party to submit to abuse for lewd and lascivious acts;
2. Upon a male who, by abuse of a relationship of dependence upon him, in consequence of service, employment, or subordination, induces another male to commit lewd and lascivious acts with him or to submit to being abused for such acts;
3. Upon a male who being over 21 years of age induces another male under 21 years of age to commit lewd and lascivious acts with him or to submit to being abused for such acts;
4. Upon a male who professionally engages in lewd and lascivious acts with other men, or submits to such abuse by other men, or offers himself for lewd and lascivious acts with other men.

175b. Lewd and lascivious acts contrary to nature between human beings and animals shall be punished by imprisonment; loss of civil rights may also be imposed.1

To uphold this law Himmler created the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion: Special Office (II S), a subdepartment of Executive Department II of the Gestapo. Abortion was equally abhorrent to Nazi ideology as it prevented the birth both of the master race and of social underclasses for enslavement by the Aryans. Homosexuality was abhorrent because homosexual men, by definition, would not copulate; additionally, even if they were forced to have sex with women the children would be of tainted blood and, therefore, unacceptable. For this reason bisexual men were not persecuted as vigorously by the regime, as they could still copulate. Lesbians were only arrested in very small numbers because they could still bear children (notably Paragraph 175 only outlawed male homosexuality). Those lesbians who were arrested were usually accused of being prostitutes or "asocials".

Paragraph 175 became a political tool for Hitler to use to oppress his enemies. One of the highest-profile victims of Paragraph 175 was Roehm. In 1934 Hitler's grip on power was still subject to the will of the ageing President Hindenburg, who, along with the Army, was furious about the calls from the SA for a total revolution under which Hitler would become President as well as Chancellor. It became necessary for the SA's power to be curtailed, which suited the purposes of both Himmler and Hermann Goering, who were both jealous of Roehm's closeness to Hitler. On 30 June 1934 Roehm and some of his colleagues were sleeping in barracks as Weissee. One of his chief lieutenants was Edmund Heines, the Obergruppenfuehrer of Silesia, a homosexual, who happened to be sleeping with a young man at the time that an hysterically furious Hitler and a party of supporters entered the barracks at dawn. Heines and his lover were taken outside and summarily executed under Paragraph 175 at Hitler's orders. Roehm, known already to be homosexual was then confronted by Hitler and offered the opportunity to commit suicide. When he refused he was executed in his cell, on Hitler's personal orders, under Paragraph 175 (Hitler apparently saw this as an act of mercy - he would rather execute his old friend for his sexuality than for being a traitor).

Between 1933 and 1945 over 100,000 homosexuals were arrested, many of them subjected to horrific experiments to "cure" them through castration, electric shocks, and the use of testosterone - none of these experiments yielded any useful scientific knowledge. Of these 100,000 "175ers" it is not certain how many were arrested under Paragraph 175 purely as an excuse to arrest them. What is known is that up to 15,000 of them were incarcerated in concentration camps.

The Pink Triangle

Life in concentration camps, as we know, was utterly horrific for those unfortunate enough to be an enemy of the state through birth, association, or sexuality. Nazi Identification of Prisoners was, like so many other elements of the regime, ruthlessly efficient, and was based upon a series of coloured triangular patches and other symbols sewn on to the uniforms of prisoners. The worst of all of these patches to be worn was the rosa Winkel pink triangle, or the number "175", worn on the back of the uniform. Homosexuals were usually the worst-treated in concentration camps, even by normal Nazi standards. They were picked out for torture, some of the most degrading jobs, and were bullied and attacked even by fellow inmates due to prevailing biases against homosexuality.

It was of course possible for a prisoner to combine two undesirable characteristics, for example, a gay jew. All possibilities were covered, however, and any prisoner combining two or more "undesirable" characteristics would wear as many triangles as necessary to pick him out. Under this system, gay jews would wear a pink triangle and, on top of this, a yellow triangle in a star of David shape. The use of the star of David, an important Jewish symbol, as a means of insult and punishment was deliberately exercised by the Nazis in order to offend the Jewish community.

Nazism portrayed itself as a "fair" ideology by offering a few homosexuals the opportunity to avoid concentration camps by submitting to castration, and operation that few survived, and which would often result in them being interred in any case (because a eunuch be of no use to the regime, being unable to join the army, procreate or do hard work).

After the War

The horrors discovered in Nazi concentration camps by the Allied forces following the capitulation of Germany need not be documented here. What needs to be pointed out is that homosexuals were relatively poorly-treated even by the liberating forces. Although released from incarceration in concentration camps they were often simply displaced to other prisons, albeit prisons where they were treated as prisoners, not as subhumans. Most were forced to serve out their sentences this way. For those found in concentration camps in the Soviet sector, incarceration continued in Gulags under Soviet sexual ideology, where the abuse could be even worse than in the Nazi camps.

Following the Nuremburg trials the various purely Nazi laws were repealed or amended according to the English common law model in the West or the Soviet model in the East. Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code remained, however, and was not repealed until 1969. Despite being a law virtually dictated personally by Hitler it was still considered reasonable by the Allies and the Government of West Germany.

Due to the ongoing biases against homosexuals the story of the 15,000 "175ers" and the 85,000 others arrested for their sexuality was hidden until as late as the early 1990s. Homosexuality continued to be illegal in West Germany and the Allied nations until, in most cases, the mid-to-late 1960s, so it was impossible to speak up about the abuse offered to those unfortunate enough to wear the pink triangle. The first 175er to achieve recognition was Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim.

Groszheim was first arrested in Lubeck along with 230 other men in a single day in 1937. He was arrested again a year later, interrogated and tortured. He was one of the few offered the chance to be castrated or incarcerated; he chose the former, and survived. In 1992 he broke his 54-year silence to speak about his experiences. He told his story in a film, We were Marked with a Big 'A', which is available in the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.1 Only after he spoke up did others start to come forward and the scale of Nazi persecution of homosexuals became apparent. Only then were homosexuals counted by some as victims of the Holocaust, whereas previously they had simply been viewed as criminals under the laws of the time.

Following the recognition of homosexual victims of Nazism several memorials were built to their memory, most notably at Pink Triangle Park in San Francisco. The pink triangle became one of the most popular symbols of the gay community, which many have seen as an affront to the fact that the symbol caused utter misery and torture for those forced to wear it in concentration camps. To some people it is as wrong as the notion that the Jewish community might wear yellow stars of David. The gay community counters by saying that they have subverted the Nazi meaning of the triangle by adopting it - this way no-one could use it as a symbol of oppression again.

Whether homosexuals were true victims of the Holocaust remains a contentious issue. Many people, in particular the Jewish and Christian Right, still believe that homosexuals merely fell short of the tough laws of the time, and were no more unusual than those arrested for being "asocial". Others believe that, due to the especially harsh treatment meted out to wearers of the pink triangle, homosexuals were true Holocaust victims. More militant elements of the gay community do not help the issue, some of them making wild claims that 50,000 homosexuals died in concentration camps, or were bussed to death camps (Auschwitz, Bergen-Belsen, Dachau, etc) - no evidence exists to substantiate either claim. In 1990 an organisation known as "Lesbian and Gay Veterans" attempted to place 25,000 pink triangles on 10% of the graves in Arlington National Cemetary, and a company started producing cheque books with pink triangles emblazoned on each cheque as a symbol of the pride and "financial strength" of the gay community.4

Homosexuals will never be considered to be more victimised than the Jewish prisoners. This is accepted by all sides. Jews were ritually and sadistically abused, used for horrific experiments, and only Jews could be almost certain of ending their lives in a Zyklon B gas chamber at a death camp. Nothing can demonstrate Nazi abuse of the Jews more than the fact that six million died at the hands of the regime as a direct consequence of Hitler's personal hatred.

It is clear though that homosexuals suffered at the hands of Nazism in some of its most brutal excesses. Whether you believe that there was a "Homosexual Holocaust" or not, it is vitally important that the story of Paragraph 175, the pink triangle and the pink lists is told. With each year that passes more evidence becomes available about the horrors perpetrated by Nazism, and no story should be hidden.


1., United States Holocaust Memorial Museum pamphlet on homosexual victims of Nazism (pdf format).

2.    Machtan, Lothar (trans. by Brownjohn, J), The Hidden Hitler (Basic Books, 2002)

3.    Shirer, William L, The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich (Pan Books, London, 1960)

4.    Marco, T, The "Homosexual Holocaust (Leadership University pamphlet) -

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