Event remembers gay Holocaust victims

Andrew Donohue

The Queer Student Cultural Center passed out black stickers with a pink triangle Wednesday to remember forgotten victims of the Nazi concentration camps.
The effort, a collaboration between Spring Pride 1998 and Holocaust Remembrance Day, was highlighted by a presentation and discussion on homosexual treatment in Nazi Germany at the cultural center in Coffman Union.
Sarah Coleman, a senior majoring in sexuality, gender and queer studies, used her four years of research on the treatment and status of lesbians and gay men in concentration camps and Nazi Germany to spur an open discussion.
Although no documentation was kept, Coleman said between 55,000 and 220,000 gay men were murdered in the concentration camps of World War II. She cited statistics from her research that estimated 7 percent to 8 percent of the German male population of the time was gay.
During Nazi rule, homosexuality was illegal, punishable by imprisonment in a concentration camp.
“It didn’t have to be proven,” said Maryse Curie, a senior majoring in women’s studies. “One could be criminalized and jailed for rumored homosexual feelings or tendencies.”
The symbol of the pink triangle originated in the Nazi camps. Gay men were forced to wear pink triangle patches all over their clothing, so they could be identified from any angle.
Upon entering the camps, gay men were placed in Level Three, which death camp leader Heinrich Himmler described as “human death mills.” This level was reserved only for Jewish and gay prisoners, Coleman said.
Under German law, lesbianism was not illegal, but was not accepted. Some were spared from imprisonment because they were thought suitable for the reproduction of the Aryan race, Coleman said.
Many other lesbians were jailed under the title of “political prisoner.”
Coleman said one overwhelming Nazi goal was to “cure” the lesbians and gay men.
“Nazis believed most homosexuals had been seduced and then could be cured,” Coleman said.
Spring Pride 1998, which began April 20 and runs through May 2, was extended by the cultural center to a two-week celebration this year.
“We had so much packed in one week, we decided to have two weeks. It has allowed us to add more events and to be less hectic,” said Megan Thomas, administrative coordinator for the center. “It is a chance to show that the students are proud of who they are.”