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“Now you must raise your children up in a world where that union of man and box turtle is on the same legal footing as man and wife…”
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Posts for August, 2011

Last Known “Pink Triangle” Holocaust Survivor Dies

Jim Burroway

August 4th, 2011

Rudolf Brazda, who is believed to be the last surviving gay Holocaust survivor, has died at the age of 98. The Berlin branch of the Lesbian and Gay Association said that he died on Wednesday. He died peacefully in his sleep in a nursing home, where he resided since last June.

Born in 1913, Brazda grew up in Meuselwitz near the Czech border, where he frequently ran into trouble with local authorities over his homosexuality. Meuselwitz later became the site for a subcamp for the Buchenwald concentration camp. Brazda spent three years from 1942 through 1945 at Buchenwald, after having been convicted of homosexuality by the Nazis as a “repeat offender.” After the war, he moved to the Alsace region of eastern France. Last year, he co-authored Itinerary of a Pink Triangle about his internment, forced labor, beatings, and harassment. The book is not yet available in English.

During the Nazi regime, an estimated 54,000 men were arrested by the Nazis under Paragraph 175, the criminal code which outlawed male homosexuality. Upwards of 15,000 of them were sent to concentration camps, where it is estimated that approximately 60% died. The end of the war meant liberation for the much larger interned populations of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, and other undesirables, but allied forces often returned gay men to post-war prisons to continue to serve out their terms. Homosexuality wasn’t formally decriminalized in Germany until 1994.

Brazda’s funeral will be held on Monday. In accordance with his will, Brazda’s remains will be cremated and his ashes placed alongside those of Edward Meyer, his life partner of more than 50 years who died in 2003.

Earlier this year, Brazda was awarded France’s Legion of Honor. An interview with Brazda was posted on YouTube last October.

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Interview With Last Known Surviving “Pink Triangle”

Jim Burroway

October 15th, 2010

Rudolf Brazda, 97, is probably the last surviving “Pink Triangle”, gay men who were rounded up by the Nazis and detained in concentration camps for being gay. They were made to wear pink triangles as an indication of their reason for imprisonment. Brazda spent three years from 1942 through 1945 at Buchenwald. Some estimates push the number of gay men who died in the camps at somewhere between 5,000 and 15,000.

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Memorial for Gays Persecuted By Nazis Opens

Jim Burroway

May 27th, 2008

Berlin’s memorial to gay victims of Nazi persecutionToday marks the opening of a new memorial in Berlin dedicated to the memory of gays who were persecuted by the Nazis. The memorial in Berlin’s Tiergarten parks sits just across from the Jewish Holocaust Memorial, and it echos the larger memorial’s field of concrete blocks of varying sizes. The gay memorial, designed by Danish and Norwegian artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, consists of a single grey rectangular block with a small opening through which visitors will see a short film of two men kissing. “A simple kiss could land you in trouble,” says the text which accompanies the memorial.

Until recently, there was little public acknowledgement of Nazi atrocities towards homosexuals. It’s been estimated that about 54,000 were arrested by the Nazis, with 7,000 being killed in concentration camps. While the end of the war meant liberation for the much larger interned populations of Jews, Gypsies, Poles, Russians, and other undesirables, allied forces often returned gay men to post-war prisons to continue to serve out their terms. Homosexuality wasn’t formally decriminalized in Germany until 1994.

Tel Aviv to Build Monument to Gay Holocaust Victims

Jim Burroway

May 1st, 2008

Proposed Gay Holocaust Memorial for Tel AvivTomorrow is Yom HaZikaron laShoah ve-laGvura (יום הזיכרון לשואה ולגבורה; “Remembrance Day for the Holocaust and Heroism”), otherwise known as Holocaust Remembrance Day. It’s a national holiday in Israel, where the people of that nation remember the six million Jews who perished during World War II.

Jews, of course, weren’t the only victims of the holocaust, although they were the principle ones. Others caught up in the Nazi’s reign of terror included a quarter of a million gay men and women, tens of thousands of whom were murdered by the Nazis. Those numbers may be a drop in the bucket out of the twelve million victims of all races, creeds and nationalities, but the Nazis did set aside a special category of treatment for them, including medical experiments involving castration and hormone injections. Gay men were forced to wear a pink triangle, while lesbians were made to wear a black patch.

Tel Aviv mayor Ron Huldai has announced that a monument honoring those gays and lesbians who were persecuted and murdered will be built in the Meir Garden. It will be the first of its kind in Israel, joining monuments in Sydney, Copenhagen, Berlin, and Amsterdam.

Today in History: A Notorious Nazi Doctor

Jim Burroway

April 28th, 2008

Carl Peter VærnetDr. Carl Peter Værnet was born on this date on April 28, 1893 in Denmark. During World War II, he became a Nazi SS major, serving as a doctor at Buchenwald concentration camp. There, he performed medical experiments on inmates who were convicted under Germany’s notorious Paragraph 175 — the statute against male homosexuality.

According to Richard Plant’s The Pink Triangle The Buchenwald inmate roster in December 1943 listed 169 homosexuals. In March, that number was down to 89. Værnet experimented in 17 of them between June and December 1944. Camp methods show that methods include castration and injection with hormones:

Since surviving entries are spotty, if not nearly illegible, one can only conclude that on October 1, 1944, a group of seven homosexuals was operated on, and a second group, consisting of eleven more, on October 10. Additional test may have been administered because Værnet visited Buchenwald again in December. … Some subjects became ill; some, so it seems, must have died, because new names appear on the rosters of those actually castrated. Værnet carefully filled out order forms for chloroform, bandages, and new medical instruments, and handed out instruction sheets explaining how Buchenwald physicians should continue the castration-hormone tests without him. No final report has survived that notes the results of the experiments on the castrated men.

Medical laboratory

Carl Peter Værnet’s graveAfter the war, Værnet was captured by the British and handed over to Danish authorities. At some point, he was transferred to a hospital after claiming to suffer from a heart ailment. He told doctors there that his problem could only be treated in Sweden. Despite being accused of war crimes, he was allowed to go to Sweden, where he contacted a Nazi escape network and fled to Argentina where he worked in the Ministry of Health. He was never tried for his crimes. He died on November 25, 1965. His grave was located in Argentina’s Britanico Cemetery in April, 1998.

Kentucky Votes for LIMITED Information on Holocaust

Timothy Kincaid

April 16th, 2008

The legislature in Kentucky has voted to assist in the education of students about the Holocaust and genocide.

The resolution would direct the Department of Education to make curriculum materials available for optional use in public schools by March 2009.

The material would be part of the Kentucky Program of Studies, which has state approval but is not required.

Oh, but not ALL victims of the Holocaust.

The Senate deleted a clause in the House version that cited other people the Nazis deemed “undesirable” because of their “race, nationality, ethnicity, disability, sexual orientation, religion, and political ideology.”

Whitaker said he received indications earlier in the session that the reference to sexual orientation was a “red flag” that could have endangered the bill.

It truly amazes me that some people refuse to provide accurate information about the Holocaust lest someone somewhere may know that gay people were also victims of Nazi mentality.

I’m truly flabergasted.