According to estimates by the United States Holocaust Museum, anywhere from 5,000 to 15,000 gay men were imprisoned in concentration camps under the Third Reich, where they were sometimes the subjects of gruesome experiments. Prior to this mass persecution, homosexuality was criminalized under the so-called Paragraph 175 of the criminal code, and the Gestapo was charged with “registering” gays, who could be sentenced to prison terms of up to ten years for violations–in addition to permanent loss of many civil rights–and even worse penalties, like castration. Gay men convicted under these laws had to wear a pink triangle to identify themselves. The short documentary above tells the story of Rudolf Brazda, the last camp survivor to have worn the pink triangle. Brazda died last year at the age of 98.
Brazda, who lived as an openly gay man in the thirties, was convicted under Paragraph 175 in 1937 and served a term of six months. He thought this might be the extent of his harassment by the Nazis, but ultimately, he was arrested and sent to Buchenwald in 1942, where he would spend three years. In the video above, Brazda mostly tells his own story, in German with English subtitles. It’s not the first time he has done so. Brazda’s story was prominently featured in a book by author Jean-Luc Schwab (who also appears above), Itinerary of the Pink Triangle (Itineraire d’un Triangle rose), which recounts the dehumanizing experiences of gay men during the Holocaust. Schwab’s book and the brief interview above preserve important testimony from a man who was “very likely the last victim and the last witness” of the Nazi persecution of homosexual men in the 30s and 40s. Brazda’s willingness to tell his story has been invaluable to scholars and activists seeking to document this little-known (and often denied) history.
Josh Jones is a doctoral candidate in English at Fordham University and a co-founder and former managing editor of Guernica / A Magazine of Arts and Politics.