1933 to 1945, over a hundred thousand gay men got arrested for loving the same gender. The German law ‘paragraph 175’ penal code of 1871, punished homosexual behavior by imprisonment. The Nazis thought gay men had diseases and that they would hurt Germany from being ‘pure’.
The Nazis wanted to purify Germany, and that meant getting rid of mostly gay men and some lesbians. It estimated they sent fifteen thousand gay men to the horrifying Nazi concentration camps along with millions of others.
It all started on Jan 30th of 1933. The German people voted Adolf Hitler chancellor. He created The Nazi Party, and they believed that the Aryan race and all Germans should have blonde hair and blue eyes. They considered this the pure ‘superior race’. The Nazis wanted to purify Germans and that meant going after gays, lesbians, Jews, Gypsies, and even Jehovah’s Witnesses.
Within a month after Hitler became Chancellor, the Nazi party ordered the lesbian and gay bars to be shut down. Soon after, mostly gay men and some lesbians were sent to concentration camps. 60% of the gay men in concentration camps did not survive; we do not know an exact number.
The gay men had to wear a pink upside-down triangle to humiliate them. First, gay men had big letters that had ‘Homo’ on the back of their shirts. Then they had to wear the letter A for “Arschficker” (a$$ fucker) or ‘paragraph 175’ on their shirts.
Finally, gay men had to wear an upside down pink triangle that identified them as a homosexual.
The Nazi’s burned and raided all books written by the Institute of Sexual Science of Berlin, founded in 1919 by Magnus Hirschfeld, a gay physician and sexologist. Some services of the Institute ranged from sex and marriage counseling, advice on contraception, psychological research and much more.
A goal of the Institute of Sexual Science was to abolish the anti-gay German ‘Paragraph 175’ law and prove being gay was natural. Magnus Hirschfeld’s work on homosexuality and cross-dressing became well known.
The word ‘transvestism’ was first coined by Hirschfeld in 1910. In 1933, Magnus left Germany and ended The Institute of Sexual Science of Berlin.
Unfortunately, the Nazi ‘paragraph 175’ law remained in effect until 1968 in East Germany and until 1969 in West Germany. Even after the war, they still kept gay prisoners for being homosexual, some up to 25 years. None of the gay men who survived the holocaust received any reparations for the crime against them.
In 1973, the Homosexual Action Group of West Berlin reclaimed the upside down pink triangle. It became a symbol of gay pride, not Nazi terrorism. It was a sign of solidarity. In 2002, Germany apologized to the LGBT community for their treatment of gay men and women in Nazi Germany. January 1, is the Holocaust Memorial Day for all those lives taken too soon.