Rudolf Brazda, Last Man to Wear the Pink Triangle During the Holocaust, Tells His Story

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.

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Comments (5)
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  •  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.


  • Josh Jones says:

    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.

  • Meaghan says:

    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.

  • Frank says:

    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.

  • simone gad says:

    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

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