After the Night of the Long Knives, the Nazis increased their attacks on gay men. Many Germans applauded the move. Homophobia was not uncommon in German society; homosexuals had long been the target of bigotry and discrimination. In 1871, Germany had enacted a provision in the criminal code, known as Paragraph 175, that made homosexual acts a crime. (Several other nations had similar laws at the time.) That law was still on the books, and many homosexual men were harassed or arrested by police throughout the years of the Weimar Republic. Nevertheless, in Berlin and a few larger German cities, tolerance of homosexuality increased in the 1920s and 1930s, and homosexual culture flourished. Many were able to live their lives openly without hiding their sexual orientation. The Reichstag was even considering abolishing Paragraph 175 before the Nazis came to power.1

The Nazis believed that homosexual men were “defective” and an obstacle to the goal of creating a master “Aryan” race. They did not embody, in the Nazis’ view, the masculinity of the ideal German man. The Nazis also feared that if homosexuals held leadership positions in the Nazi Party or government (like Ernst Röhm; see reading, The Night of the Long Knives), they would be vulnerable to manipulation or blackmail by anyone who threatened to expose their sexual orientation. The Nazis were not nearly as concerned about lesbians, who, as women, they presumed would be passive and could be forced to have children.2

When Hitler took over in 1933, enforcement of Paragraph 175 was stepped up. A man who lived near Hamburg recalled:

With one blow a wave of arrests of homosexuals began in our town. One of the first to be arrested was my friend, with whom I had had a relationship since I was 23. One day people from the Gestapo came to his house and took him away. It was pointless to inquire where he might be. If anyone did that, they ran the risk of being similarly detained, because he knew them, and therefore they were also suspect. Following his arrest, his home was searched by Gestapo agents. Books were taken away, note- and address books were confiscated, questions were asked among the neighbors. . . . The address books were the worst. All those who figured in them, or had anything to do with him were arrested and summoned by the Gestapo. Me, too. For a whole year I was summoned by the Gestapo and interrogated at least once every fourteen days or three weeks. . . . After four weeks my friend was released from investigative custody. The [Nazis] could not prove anything against him either. However, the effects of his arrest were terrifying. Hair shorn off, totally confused, he was no longer what he was before. . . . We had to be very careful with all contacts. I had to break off all relations with my friend. We passed each other by on the street, because we did not want to put ourselves in danger. . . . We lived like animals in a wild game park, always sensing the hunters. 3

In June 1935, the Nazis strengthened the law to make it easier to arrest any man presumed to be homosexual.

Citations

  • 1 : Geoffrey J. Giles, “Why Bother About Homosexuals? Homophobia and Sexual Politics in Nazi Germany,” lecture, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum Center for Advanced Holocaust Studies, Washington, DC, May 30, 2001), accessed March 18, 2016.
  • 2 : Doris L. Bergen, War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 57.
  • 3 : Quoted in Michael Burleigh and Wolfgang Wippermann, The Racial State: Germany 1933–1945 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 194.

Aislando a los Homosexuales

Después de tomar el control de Alemania, los nazis incrementaron sus ataques contra los hombres homosexuales. Muchos alemanes aplaudieron el movimiento. La homofobia no era rara en la sociedad alemana; los homosexuales hace mucho son objeto de intolerancia y discriminación. En 1871, Alemania había promulgado una disposición en el código penal, conocida como Artículo 175, que convertía los actos homosexuales en un crimen; (en ese momento eran varias naciones las que tenían leyes semejantes). Esa ley aún estaba en los libros, y muchos hombres homosexuales fueron hostigados o arrestados por la policía en los años de la República de Weimar. Sin embargo, en Berlín y en otras ciudades alemanas grandes, la tolerancia a la homosexualidad se incrementó en las décadas de los veinte y los treinta, y la cultura homosexual floreció. Muchos pudieron vivir sus vidas abiertamente sin ocultar su orientación sexual. El Reichstag incluso estaba considerando abolir el Artículo 175 antes de que los nazis llegaran al poder.1

Los nazis creían que los hombres homosexuales eran “defectuosos” y un obstáculo para la meta de crear una raza “aria” dominante. No encarnaban, según los nazis, la masculinidad del hombre alemán ideal. Los nazis también temían que si los homosexuales ocupaban cargos de liderazgo en el Partido Nazi o en el gobierno, serían vulnerables a la manipulación o chantaje por parte de cualquiera que amenazara con exponer su orientación sexual. Los nazis no estaban tan preocupados por las lesbianas, quienes, por ser mujeres, supusieron que serían pasivas y podrían ser obligadas a tener hijos.2

Cuando Hitler tomó el poder en 1933, se incrementó el cumplimiento del Artículo 175. Un hombre que vivía en Hamburgo recordó:

Con un golpe, empezó una ola de arrestos de homosexuales en nuestro pueblo. Uno de los primeros en ser arrestado fue mi amigo, con quien había tenido una relación desde que tenía 23 años. Un día la gente de la Gestapo vino a mi casa y se lo llevó. No tenía sentido preguntar dónde podría estar. Si alguien preguntaba, corría el riesgo de ser igualmente detenido, debido a que lo conocía y, por lo tanto, sería sospechoso. Después de su arresto, su casa fue registrada por agentes de la Gestapo; confiscaron libros, notas y libretas de direcciones, hicieron preguntas a sus vecinos… Las libretas de direcciones fueron lo peor; todos los que figuraban allí, o tenían algo que ver con él fueron arrestados y citados por la Gestapo. Incluyéndome. Durante un año completo fui citado por la Gestapo e interrogado por lo menos cada quince días o tres semanas… Después de cuatro semanas liberaron a mi amigo de la custodia por investigación. [Los nazis] tampoco pudieron comprobar nada contra él. Sin embargo, los efectos de su arresto fueron aterradores; le raparon la cabeza, estaba totalmente confundido, no volvió a ser la persona de antes… Teníamos que ser muy cuidadosos con todos los contactos. Tuve que romper relaciones con mi amigo; nos ignorábamos en la calle, porque no podíamos arriesgarnos… Vivíamos como animales en un parque de caza, siempre presintiendo a los cazadores.3

En junio de 1935, los nazis reforzaron la ley para facilitar el arresto de cualquier hombre presuntamente homosexual.

Citations

  • 1 : Geoffrey J. Giles, “Why Bother About Homosexuals? Homophobia and Sexual Politics in Nazi Germany,” conferencia, Centro de estudios avanzados del Holocausto del Museo Estadounidense Conmemorativo del Holocausto, Washington D.C., 30 de mayo de 2001, consultado el 18 de marzo de 2016.
  • 2 : Doris L. Bergen, War and Genocide: A Concise History of the Holocaust (Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2003), 57.
  • 3 : Citado en Michael Burleigh y Wolfgang Wippermann, The Racial State: Germany 1933–1945 (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1991), 194.

Audio Version

A man who lived near Hamburg recalls what happened when the Nazis increased attacks on gays.

Connection Questions

  1. What beliefs and circumstances motivated the Nazis to target homosexual men? How did their attitudes toward homosexual men differ from their attitudes toward lesbians?
  2. How did the Nazis’ arrests change relationships between partners, friends, and neighbors?
  3. How did the Nazis use fear to maintain some control over individuals’ decisions? 

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