February is LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) History Month, which celebrates the lives and achievements of the LGBT community. LGBT History Month celebrates the diversity of the LGBT community and that of society as a whole. It encourages everyone to see diversity and cultural pluralism as the positive forces that they are and endeavour to reflect this in all that we do.
You can use LGBT History Month as a time to learn about those who were persecuted by the Nazis. The Nazi regime targeted gay people using the pre-existing legislation known as Paragraph 175, which criminalised homosexual acts. Within days of Hitler becoming Chancellor LGBT people began experiencing persecution. Many gay people fled abroad, entered into heterosexual marriages or conformed to Nazi ideals. Germany’s thriving gay culture was destroyed.
Significant numbers of gay men were arrested, of whom an estimated 50,000 received severe jail sentences in brutal conditions. Most were not sent to concentration camps but were instead exposed to inhumane treatment in prisons. They were subjected to hard labour and torture, or executed or experimented on. Some 10-15,000 were deported to concentration camps. Many, but not all, were assigned pink triangles. Most died in the camps, often from exhaustion. Many were castrated and some subjected to gruesome ‘medical experiments’.
After the war, the Allies chose not to remove the Nazi-amended Paragraph 175. Neither they, nor the new German states, nor Austria would recognise homosexual prisoners as victims of the Nazis – a status essential to qualify for reparations. Indeed, many gay men continued to serve their prison sentences.
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