Nazi Germany and the Pink Triangles

Nazi Germany and the Pink Triangles
Nazi Germany and the Pink Triangles

Nazi ideology considered gays degenerates, criminals and enemies of the German people and the Third Reich, therefore they had to be suppressed

In the 1920s, Germany was considered one of the most advanced European nations in terms of civil rights and LGBTQ culture. In fact, in Berlin – and in other major German cities – there were clubs, organizations and movements that claimed the freedom and dignity of gays. And the infamous Section 175 of the German Criminal Code – which prohibited same-sex relations – was, so to speak, applied in a more tolerant manner.

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Germany at that time was a true paradise for gays but within a few years it turned into hell on earth.

1933 marks the rise to power of the Nazi Party and Adolf Hitler and with it the beginning of the end for gay German citizens. In fact, the Nazi regime considered homosexuality a deviation contrary to nature and to the Aryan race itself, as well as seeing it as a threat to the fertility and purity of the Third Reich.

Nazism – to justify this genocide – took inspiration from the pseudo-scientific theories of eugenics and biopolitics which indicated the elimination of all those people considered unwanted by society, therefore including gays.

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The first on the list of undesirables were the mentally ill, the seriously disabled and also children considered too little inclined to respect the new Nazi society which, among other things, the majority of these children were just hyperactive. And then it was the gays’ turn.

The Third Reich ordered the immediate closure (and in many cases the destruction) of gay clubs, magazines, movements and organizations supporting the gay struggle. The various leaders and activists were imprisoned or killed.

Subsequently, the Nazi regime tightened – in 1935 – Paragraph 175 of the Penal Code, making even simple gestures or words of affection between men punishable.

Between 1933 and 1939, an estimated 50,000 gay citizens were convicted of violating Section 175 of the Penal Code, and many of them ended up in prison or labor camps.

The worsening of the situation of gay citizens in Nazi Germany dates back to 1939, with the outbreak of the Second World War. From that moment, the Nazi regime intensified the extermination – in the extermination camps – of groups considered inferior or enemies of the Third Reich: homosexuals, Roma, political dissidents such as members of the German Communist Party, Catholic and Protestant priests, Jehovah’s Witnesses and Jews.

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Gay citizens were first forced to wear the inverted pink triangle as recognition of their status and then – during the Second World War – they were deported to concentration camps, where they were subjected to inhuman conditions, forced labor, violence and humiliation and also to pseudo-medical experiments with the aim of turning them into heterosexuals. Many of them decided to commit suicide so as not to suffer anymore.

And within them, gays were divided into the categories of ‘reversible’ and ‘irreversible’.

Between 1929 and 1945, between 10 thousand and 15 thousand gay citizens were deported to extermination camps (for example Sachsenhausen, Dachau, Buchenwald, Auschwitz and Mauthausen) and only 40% managed to survive.

Once the war was over and freed from the extermination camps, gays also had to disappear from the list of victims of the Third Reich: Not being victims, they could not receive any compensation or rehabilitation, and as Paragraph 175 of the Penal Code was still in force , they were tried again and sentenced to prison, erasing the years spent in the extermination camps.

The extermination of gays by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi Germany emerged in the 1970s with the birth of the Homosexual Liberation Movement. From that moment on, monuments and plaques were erected in memory of the gay victims but only in 2002 did the German Parliament approve a law that annulled the convictions of gay citizens based on Paragraph 175, and in 2017 there was an apology (albeit late) from the Berlin government to the entire German LGBTQ community, offering compensation to Holocaust survivors.

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East Germany:
1935 – 1950 Nazi Paragraph 175 remains in force
1950 – 1968 the old version of Paragraph 175 in force
1968 – 1989 Paragraph 175 is limited to particular cases
Finally repealed in 1989.

West Germany:
1935 – 1969 Nazi Paragraph 175 in force
1969 – 1973 implemented only in certain cases
1973 – 1994 further relaxation of Paragraph 175
Finally repealed in 1994.

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