Today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day, so we are taking a moment to remember the victims of the Holocaust. I’d like to discuss, in particular, some of the forgotten members of Holocaust. Most people know of the Nazi extermination of 6 million Jews, but unfortunately, few people know that the Nazis also murdered 6 million other people in their camps and death squads. Most of these remaining people were Slavs, but there were also 2 million Gypsies and 15,000 homosexuals.
German and Austrian homosexuals were sent to concentrations camps as “defilers of German blood” and for participating in acts that were against “wholesome popular sentiment.” The Gestapo raided gay bars, arrested the patrons, and used their address books and other personal artifacts to hunt other homosexuals.
Homosexuals, arrested for no other reason than hatred, were sent to concentration camps for “rehabilitation.” At the camps homosexuals were forced to wear an upside-down pink triangle. If they were Jewish, one half of the two triangles that make up the Star of David was pink while the other was yellow, the typical color for Jews in the camp. Homosexuals were specifically targeted by the SS for hormone experiments, and several hundred were castrated. The pink triangle also singled out homosexuals in the camps for special humiliation, torture, and sexual abuse.
The investigation of homosexual persecution is a late development in Holocaust studies and only gained prominence after homosexual Holocaust survivors started talking out in the open about their brutal oppression, including Heinz Heger’s beautifully written, but haunting memoir, The Men with the Pink Triangle.
The Nazis designed the pink triangle as an instrument to shame. Currently, the triangle is often displayed inverted from the Nazi symbol, and it has become an international symbol of gay pride. Please take a moment today and remember all victims of the Holocaust.