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 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”
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.
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.
grades 0.42 Hours
time Mini Lesson
Watch Testimony Clips from the Visual History Archive
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.
A Lecture from visiting professor Peter Hayes (Northwestern University)
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.
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.
Visit One Archives at USC
Online Resources at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum