In commemoration of Pride Month, the Institute recognizes the LGBTQ+ people persecuted under the Nazis from as early as 1933 to the end of the war in 1945, some of whose stories are in the Institute’s Visual History Archive.They are stories of survival, resistance, rescue, and heartbreaking loss. Some of the witnesses were targeted by the Nazis for being gay under the German penal code, Paragraph 175. Other witnesses recall their encounters with gay men and women who provided rescue and aid at great risk to their own lives.

Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 was part of the German criminal code from 1871 on, and it specifically targeted sexual relations between men. While it was not illegal to identify as a gay man, it was illegal to have sexual relationships as such. Paragraph 175 did not target sexual relations between women. The Nazis believed ‘Aryan’ lesbians could be rehabilitated – and forced to bear children.

The Indexing Term “Homosexual Survivor”

Now used as a symbol of gay pride, the pink triangle was first used as a demarcation of Homosexual prisoners in the camp systems

The term “Homosexual Survivor” as an indexing term in the Visual History Archive specifically refers to men who were persecuted for their sexual orientation. After the war, paragraph 175 was still part of the criminal code in East and West Germany. East Germany stopped enforcing the criminal code in 1968. In 1994, after the reunification of Germany, paragraph 175 was dropped from the criminal code. When the Institute began taking testimony, it was still taboo for homosexual survivors to talk about their experiences.

The “Homosexual Survivor” experience group contains only six testimonies, which are conducted in German, Dutch, English and French. By the time that the Institute began recording testimony in 1994, almost 50 years after the end of the war, very few homosexual survivors of the Holocaust were still alive, being already adults during World War II. However, the Visual History Archive contains testimonies from gay men and women from other experience groups including Jewish survivors and Rescuer/Aid Providers.

Susan Dregely on Coming Out

A Jewish survivor of the Holocaust who came out after the war, Susan discusses coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian, and knowing she didn't have to change who she was even while lacking support and resources.

Gad Beck on his attempt to rescue his boyfriend from deportation
A featured clip from the profile series "Under the Shadow of Paragraph 175"

What makes Gad Beck’s story so remarkable, however, was that not only was he a “Mischling” but he was also a gay teenager living in Nazi Berlin, the epicenter of a military power antagonistic to both Jews and gay men.

Learn more about Gad Beck

Kitty Fischer on Marginalization
As a result of the lesson, students will be able to construct responses to text-based and analytical questions as they consider the impact of marginalization on individuals by engaging in close reading, discussion and analysis of audio-visual text.
7-10
grades
0.42 Hours
time
Mini Lesson
activity
Understanding Love
Through the universal topic of love, students listen closely to deepen their understanding of the importance of context when interpreting and understanding different narratives.
11-12
grades

time
Mini Lesson
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Resources for Teaching and Learning

Watch Testimony Clips from the Visual History Archive

Eva Heymann on working with gay men in her AIDS work

Eva Heymann, Holocaust survivor and Catholic nun, describes her experience working with the gay community through her AIDS work and how that exposure enabled her to understand her own sexuality in a more complex way than what she was taught in the Catholic Church.

  • Eva Heymann on working with gay men in her AIDS work

    Language: English

    Eva Heymann, Holocaust survivor and Catholic nun, describes her experience working with the gay community through her AIDS work and how that exposure enabled her to understand her own sexuality in a more complex way than what she was taught in the Catholic Church.

  • Marion Pritchard on her early attitude regarding homosexuality

    Language: English

    Marion Pritchard recalls bringing up the topic of homosexuality at the dinner table and how her father took her aside to discuss the importance of tolerance.

  • Susan Dregely on Coming Out

    Language: English

    Susan discusses coming to terms with her identity as a lesbian, and knowing she didn't have to change who she was even while lacking support and resources.

  • Gad Beck on rescuing his lover Manfred Lewin

    Language: German

    Hearing that his lover, Manfred Lewin, has been taken with his family to a transit camp, Gad Beck makes the dangerous choice to go undercover as a Hitler Youth to break Manfred out.

  • Albrecht Becker on gay life in 1934 Germany

    Language: German

    Albrecht Becker recounts the atmosphere for gays in Nazi Germany while Röhm was still in charge of the SA and how the relative freedom he enjoyed during that time changed dramatically after Röhm's assassination in June 1934.

  • Gad Beck on coming out to his family

    Language: German

    In this clip, Gad Beck recalls the day he ran in to tell his mother that he "had his first man" and her surprising reaction. It is a sweet story of family acceptance and support.

  • Bertram Schaffner on helping gay soldiers during World War 2

    Language: English

    Dr. Bertram Schaffner, who served as a military psychiatrist during World War 2, recounts how he dealt with the military's anti-gay policy while evaluating draftees.

  • Kitty Fischer on her rescue by a gay male prisoner

    Language: English

    100 Days to Inspire Respect

    Kitty Fischer recounts her time in Auschwitz-II Birkenau when as a young girl she encounters for the first time a gay male prisoner who will turn out to save her life.

  • Douglas Fox recalls a narrow escape

    Language: English

    Thanks to the quick response of a homosexual prisoner at the Oranienburg-Heinkelwerke labor camp (a subcamp of Sachsenhausen), Douglas Fox escaped from a line of transferred prisoners who were unknowingly being given a lethal injection upon their arrival.

  • Stefan Kosinski on meeting Willi G.

    Language: English

    Stefan recalls the evening of November 4, 1941, when leaving the theater where he worked in Torun, Poland, he encounters a German soldier who turns out to be a man named Willi, his first real romance.

    Foreign words in this video clip:

    • Ersatzkaffee (German): substitute coffee
  • Johan Klisser on hiding

    Language: English

    In this video clip, Johan Klisser recalls when he was 16 years old and separated from his parents in Amsterdam. At one point during his attempt at hiding from the Nazis, he stayed with a gay couple who were part of the Dutch resistance.

Albrecht Becker on Gay Life in Berlin in 1934
A featured clip from the profile series "Under the Shadow of Paragraph 175"

Albrecht Becker recounts the atmosphere for the LGBTQ+ community in Nazi Germany while Röhm was still in charge of the SA and how the relative freedom he enjoyed during that time changed dramatically after Röhm's assassination in June 1934.

Learn more about Albrecht Becker's story

"Antisemitism and Homophobia in Nazi Germany: Different but Related Hatreds"

A Lecture from visiting professor Peter Hayes (Northwestern University)

Bertram Schaffner on helping gay recruits during World War II
A featured clip from a profile on Betram Schaffner

Bertram Schaffner’s story is a unique one because of the multiple roles he played as a gay German American during the period that saw the rise of Nazi Germany and World War II.

Learn more about Bertram Schaffner

Stefan Kosinski on his relationship with a German soldier
A featured clip from the profile series "Under the Shadow of Paragraph 175"

Stefan (Teofil) Kosinski’s testimony is the only English-language testimony we have in the Visual History Archive from a homosexual survivor, which is also remarkable for the fact that Stefan is not a native English speaker.

Learn more about Stefan Kosinski's story