Gay and Lesbian Europe in the 30s and 40s
December 15, 2006 11:58 AM   Subscribe

A multimedia exhibit on the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, Wikipedia on gays under the Nazis, Paragraph 175 - a documentary profiling gay survivors of Nazi era policies, and memorials of the gay Holocaust. A few Nazi-era gay and lesbian figures of note:

- A Berlin intellectual and pioneer in sexuality research, and an early advocate for gay rights, (controversial in part for his early support of outing) Magnus Herschfeld died in exile after Nazis destroyed his Institute of Sexual Science.
- The butch orchestra conductor Frieda Belinfante and gay artist William Arondeus were part of the same resistance group that first falsified papers for Dutch Jews, and then when Nazi's began to compare these falsified papers with city records, set fire to the Amsterdam Registry building.
- Lily Wust, the wife of a German soldier, fell for a Jewish woman at the wrong time. Their story became the subject of a book and film.
posted by serazin (26 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
great stuff--thanks. Herschfeld is actually the father of modern sexuality, i'd say--what we think of as straight, bi, gay, etc is really from him (and it wasn't presented as pathology or a problem, a la Freud).
posted by amberglow at 12:42 PM on December 15, 2006

I've seen Aimee and Jaguar, it's quite interesting to read about the real women of the story.

Great post!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:48 PM on December 15, 2006

I watched the film 'A Love to Hide' (Un Amour a Taire') last night. Set in 1942 it chronicles two gay lovers in Paris. One is accused of being a member of the “third sex” and having had an affair with a Nazi officer. He is shipped off to a "re-education" camp before ending up at Dachau. An intense and compelling film.
posted by ericb at 12:48 PM on December 15, 2006

Interesting point about Paragraph 175 (from US Holocaust Memorial site):

New language added as Paragraph 175a specifically imposed up to ten years' hard labor for "indecency" committed under coercion, with adolescents under the age of 21, and for male prostitution. In practice, however, individuals victimized by acts punishable under these new provisions could be—and were—prosecuted as criminals according to Paragraph 175. (The revised law left homosexuality between women unmentioned.)

Interesting that lesbianism is somehow never as threatening as gay male sexuality.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 12:52 PM on December 15, 2006

BTW -- "A Love to Hide" has won many awards this past year:
Jury Award - Best Feature - Miami LGBT Film Festival
Audience Award - Best Feature - Miami LBGT Film Festival
Audience Award - Best Feature - Toronto LGBT Film Festival
Audience Award - Best Feature - Outfest: LA Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
Audience Award - Best Feature - Philadelphia Int'l LGBT Film Festival
Audience Award - Best Feature - Chicago Gay & Lesbian Film Festival
posted by ericb at 12:52 PM on December 15, 2006

Thanks for this. Very interesting. Incidentally, Vladimir Nabokov had a gay brother, Sergei, who died in a Nazi concentration camp at Neuengamme, Germany.
posted by trip and a half at 1:12 PM on December 15, 2006

Interesting that lesbianism is somehow never as threatening as gay male sexuality.
I would guess it's because some men feel that homosexuality represents an attack on their masulinity. Traditionally, women have been pursued by men. Society raises us to think of men as the pursuers and women as the pursued. (Note: I'm not saying this is correct or good, just how it's been.) Even today a woman just walking down the street has to deal with knowing that at least some of the men around her are considering her in a sexual way by the men around her. While this may be true of a man on the street, there's much less social/cultural pressure and even expectation that this is just how it's supposed to be. I think that homosexuality threatens this concept of the male as the "predator" by suddenly giving him the role of the pursued object of sex that has traditionally been considered "feminine". Anyway, just my two cents.
posted by Sangermaine at 1:26 PM on December 15, 2006 [1 favorite]

Another interesting fact from the USHHM (Aftermath) website:"
"As the Allies swept through Europe to victory over the Nazi regime in early 1945, hundreds of thousands of concentration camp prisoners were liberated. The Allied Military Government of Germany repealed countless laws and decrees. Left unchanged, however, was the 1935 Nazi revision of Paragraph 175. Under the Allied occupation, some homosexuals were forced to serve out their terms of imprisonment regardless of time served in the concentration camps. The Nazi version of Paragraph 175 remained on the books of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) until the law was revised in 1969 to decriminalize homosexual relations between men over the age of 21."
posted by ericb at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2006

Er, strike that second "by the men around her."
posted by Sangermaine at 1:27 PM on December 15, 2006

amberglow - I think Herschfeld is really interesting too. I found a couple links today that indicated to me that he was actually seen as somewhat regressive in his ideas about homosexuality - at least amoung queers at the time. Wikipedia.

Also, according to this link he marketed patent medicines!

Still, he was clearly a radical and a pioneer in his advocacy of trans and gay rights. I guess there's a book about him too, maybe I'll get a copy.
posted by serazin at 1:57 PM on December 15, 2006

Excellent post.

It's inspiring me to finally get off my duff here in DC and go check out the Holocaust muesum.

Thank you serazin!
posted by matty at 2:20 PM on December 15, 2006

Hirschfeld really was regressive in his views and actions. He referred homosexuals to the surgeon Steinach to remove their testicles, so they wouldn't have to live with a homosexual sex drive. He was also a follower of the social darwinist Erns Haeckel , and as a member of the German Society for Racial Hygiene he propagated eugenics (and actually saw himself as a true father of the nazi eugenic program)

Hirscheld is often viewed as a founder of modern homosexual liberation politics, especially in germany, and his views and actions are justified whith the argument that he was only a child of his time. But as a key member of the eugenic scene in berlin and the culprit of many cruel genital mutilation operations (some died on the operation table), he doesn't deserve this honor.
There are earlier or more interesting persons to remember.
posted by kolophon at 3:53 PM on December 15, 2006

Interesting that lesbianism is somehow never as threatening as gay male sexuality.

It could be that there is no explicit prohibition on lesbianism in the bible. Homophobia is clearly not a problem that only exists in Jewish or Christian societies, but in Western society at least, I think religion does have a sizeable role in promoting homophobia.
posted by SBMike at 3:59 PM on December 15, 2006

I wanted to add that the film, Paragraph 175, is really worth seeing.

A note to the lesbianism thing: Because it actually was not officially forbidden, some lesbian women were arrested under an other pretense. Though it is difficult to reconstruct these cases, several are known where women were deported to Ravensbrück as "asozial (anti-social)". There also was a pink triangle for LL (Lesbian Love).
Nazi ideologues were extremly anti-feminist and in the 20s they already demanded an expansion of paragraph 175 to include lesbians. (source, if you can read german, or google translation).

I don't think that chistianity has much to do with it. The nazis were rather anti-christian and founded their ideology on a more "modern" pseudo science based on völkisch racism/antisemitism.

Christian beliefs were always used to justify homophobia, but I wouldn't say that they are source of it.
The history of homophobia is a very large topic and I couldn't possibly discuss it here and now (in english), so I would rather recommend to read The Invention of Heterosexuality by Jonathan Katz and/or The History of Sexuality, Volume 1, by Michel Foucault on the invention of the homosexual as a "species".
posted by kolophon at 5:06 PM on December 15, 2006

also, via this new fpp:
"The Nazis believed women were not only inferior to men but also by nature dependent on them; therefore, they considered lesbians to be less threatening than male homosexuals. The Nazis regarded women as passive, especially in sexual matters, and in need of men to fulfill their lives and participate in sex."

perhaps not the right thread to post this anymore...
posted by kolophon at 5:32 PM on December 15, 2006

kolophon, interesting to learn more about hirschfeld. Especially since he was a Jew!
posted by serazin at 5:37 PM on December 15, 2006

Or, uh, rather, the details you provided were all the more interesting because he was Jewish.
posted by serazin at 5:47 PM on December 15, 2006

yes, and Ernst Röhm was gay, but that (or being jewish) never protected anybody from harbouring stupid views.
posted by kolophon at 6:04 PM on December 15, 2006

Ironically, Alan Turing, lead codebreaker for England during the war, was also prosecuted under indecency laws as a homosexual, stripped of his security clearance (and therefore no longer able to continue cryptographic research), and killed himself two years later.
posted by CrunchyFrog at 6:10 PM on December 15, 2006

Turing is my hero. Did you read the cryptonomicon? It's fascinating.
posted by kolophon at 6:27 PM on December 15, 2006

Turing is my hero.

In the event you haven't seen the films, I recommend Enigma and Breaking the Code (made-for-TV).
posted by ericb at 8:42 PM on December 15, 2006

I love it! Best Possible Outcome of posting on Metafilter: I'm getting tons of really fascinating comments!

The Turing story is sort of being rehashed. Yawl heard about the Arabic language specialist who just got axed under Don't Ask Don't Tell recently?
posted by serazin at 9:34 PM on December 15, 2006

Neal Stephenson's Cryptonomicon has a very entertaining portrayal of Turing and the work at Bletchley Park.

Where, I just learned, you can get married. Oh my God!! Ultimate geek wedding destination!!! Book early and often!
posted by Tuffy at 1:23 AM on December 16, 2006

Breaking the code is good, but I skipped Enigma. It might be good, but it's not Turing. Turing's life was, apparently "inappropriately dramatic", so they took out his life and replaced it with one that would play better in a Hollywood movie.
posted by djfiander at 5:59 AM on December 16, 2006

If you're interested in exploring this subject further we have an annotated bibliography of books, videos, and other resources on our website. We haven't updated that in a while, so there are probably a few books on the subject that are not on there.
posted by arco at 11:28 AM on December 16, 2006

Arco, you're a librarian at the Holocaust museum? Wow. Metafilter is great.

I've been to the museum 2 or 3 times and each time I spent most of my visit checking out the archives. That's where I learned about France Bloch Serazin, the French resistance fighter who I got my 'name' from. And where I first read about Frieda Belinfante who I mentioned in the above post.

Glad to know you're here.
posted by serazin at 12:12 PM on December 16, 2006

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