Wednesday, January 28, 2015

January 27

Yesterday evening Red Baron commemorated the 27th of January, the date when 70 years ago the Red Army liberated Auschwitz, the infamous concentration camp. Every year on this day memorial events are organized in Freiburg and elsewhere in Germany. As usual the commemoration took place in Freiburg's fully occupied Kaisersaal with the first rows of chairs reserved for dignitaries and organizers. I arrived early to find a seat not too far from the speakers' table, old age oblige.

This year's commemoration focused on the fate of gay people under the Nazi rule. Already in the 2nd Reich and the Weimar Republic homosexuality had been punishable as an "unnatural vice" according to §175 of the criminal code. Nevertheless same-gender contacts were tolerated as long as they did not offend public decency. An active gay scene had developed in Berlin and elsewhere during the Roaring Twenties.

Kaisersaal: Projected Röhm, taken from my seat
All this changed when the Nazis came to power although their members were not free of, as they called it, sodomite practices either. The best known example was Ernst Röhm chief of the SA. Following Hitler's Machtergreifung on January 30, 1933, Röhm's Sturm-Abteilung tried to push through their somewhat proletarian demands displeasing the dictator. During the Night of the Long Knives on June 30 to July 1, 1934, the "loyal" SS (Schutzstaffel) murdered the rest of any remaining opposition to Hitler including Röhm.

With the prominent homosexual liquidated a storm broke lose. On October 20, 1934, the police cracked down on the gay scene all over the Reich. Even uninvolved men who happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time were arrested. The following court actions applied the heightened provisions of §175a the Nazis had added. Most of those having served their prison sentences were not liberated but directly sent to the Dachau or Buchenwald concentration camps wearing the pink triangle. As inferior human beings some men served for medical experiments, others were castrated, many were just beaten to death.

Never again ...

©Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

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