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.
This guy seems to have had it pretty good.
I thought these were “death camps”?
Apparently the Germans went to great lengths to keep these people alive, disinfecting baths seem to be for the inmates something that saved their lives. This guy probably was one of the few who actually told the truth about the camps.
Joe, the fact that several hundred thousand people survived the camps does not disprove the historical fact that several millions more were killed. It’s mostly a consequence of the fact that the camps were liberated before the Nazis could finish their work.
If you think life in a concentration camp might be “pretty good” for anyone, you have a very warped sense of good.
You obviously don’t know a thing about the Holocaust, Joe. The Nazis would have loved for all their concentration camp inmates to die off. The reason they disinfected them so often was because if the inmates got sick, the sickness would spread to the guards and these brave soldiers were deathly afraid of it.
Buchenwald was a concentration camp, not an extermination camp (or “death camp”) like for example Ausschwitz or Treblinka were. Extermination camps were never located on German soil, but in the occupied Poland.
Experiences also of course vary tremendously depending on the time period of imprisonment, inmate group one belongs to, etc. So one cannot generalize at all from a single person’s experiences to the general situation in the death/concentration camps.
My whole family suffered in the concentration camps and forced labor in Poland, and in Germany ; Auschwitz, Bergen Belsen Concentration Camp, Lodz Ghetto, Bedzin Ghetto, Leipheim Forced Labor Camp. None of it was
for the “good of the inmate”. There as no such thing as “having it pretty good”. Best Regards, Ms Gad