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Saved Stories – None: Nazi Germany’s Lesser-Known Victims

Warfare History Network

History, Europe

Aside from the well-known Holocaust against the Jews, Gypsies, and Poles, the Nazis also persecuted Jehova’s Witnesses and homosexuals.

Here’s What You Need to Know: The vast majority of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis included native Germans and acquired Austrians after the 1938 annexation.

At 8 PM on the evening of Friday, July 13, 1934, German Reich Chancellor Adolf Hitler stepped to the speaker’s lectern of the Reichstag in Berlin’s Kroll Opera House to explain his murderous conduct during the recent Nazi “Blood Purge” against the top leadership cadre of the brownshirted SA Stormtroopers during the weekend of June 30-July 2, 1934.

In front of him stood steel-helmeted, armed SS troopers, and there were more placed strategically throughout the chamber, the first and only time such an event occurred throughout the 12 years of the Third Reich. Indeed, Hitler feared assassination from his own followers as a result of the “national murder weekend,” and rightly so, for some of the victims had been his most intimate followers, such as his SA Chief of Staff, Captain Ernst Rohm.

During his address, the chancellor for the first time made public mention of the sex life of the man who had been reputedly closest to him, a man whose alleged homosexuality was reportedly well known throughout Nazi Germany and even abroad.

“The life which the Chief of Staff—and with him a certain circle of others—began to lead was intolerable from any National Socialist point of view,” Hitler said. “As if it were not terrible enough that he himself and his circle of devotees broke every single law of decency and modesty, still worse, this poison now began to spread in ever-increasing circles.

“But worst of all was the fact that, out of a certain common predisposition, a sect gradually began to form in the SA which made up the nucleus of a conspiracy directed not only against the normal conceptions of a healthy people, but against the security of the state as well.”

Thus, the Führer was officially acting as if he had not known about Rohm’s homosexuality since the first days of their association in 1920, when, in fact, he had turned a blind eye toward it from the start because he needed such men as the burly brawler and his thugs in the movement.

In his book The Hidden Hitler, German author Lothar Machtan claims that the Führer himself was gay and that the two men may have been lovers.

Ironically, just as the Nazis persecuted the Jews in part because some of their own top leaders were, in fact, at least partly Jewish, including SS General Reinhard Heydrich and Luftwaffe Field Marshal Erhard Milch, so, too, did they also do the same with homosexuals, as a means of covering their tracks in a sense.

States Andrew Hollinger, assistant director of media relations and communications for the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, “As part of the Nazis’ attempt to purify German society and propagate an ‘Aryan master race,’ they condemned homosexuals as ‘socially aberrant.’

“Soon after taking office on January 30, 1933, Hitler banned all homosexual and lesbian organizations. Brownshirted Stormtroopers raided the institutions and gathering places of homosexuals. Greatly weakened and driven underground, this subculture had flourished in the relative freedom of the 1920s, in the pubs and cafés of Berlin, Hamburg, Munich, Bremen and other cities.”

Indeed, by 1928, there were an estimated 1.2 million homosexual men in the Weimar Republic. Legal prosecution of homosexuals did not begin under the Third Reich, however, but under the Second Reich of Kaiser Wilhelm I in 1871, the year the new German Empire was established by Reich Chancellor Prince Otto von Bismarck, the Iron Chancellor.

Paragraph 175 of the criminal code outlawed acts of “unnatural indecency” between men. Six years later, this was redefined by the German Supreme Court as an “intercourse-like act” alone, thus making arrests and convictions of homosexuals relatively difficult. On the other hand, since 1900 under the reign of Kaiser Wilhelm II, the German Regular Police or Kripo had been compiling lists of suspected homosexual men called “pink lists” from all across the Reich—but little or no use was ever made of them.

By 1932, however, on the eve of the Nazis’ assumption of governmental power, Berlin’s municipal leaders began enforcing public morality laws to close bars and social clubs catering to homosexual customers. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor of the German Reich by President and Field Marshal Paul von Hindenburg, and everything began to change as the Nazis espoused a platform of law and order, traditional values, an ideology of virulent anti-Semitism, and the persecution of unwanted social groups.

Recalled one homosexual, “Then came the thunderbolt of January 30, 1933, and we knew that a change of political climate had taken place. What we had tried to prevent had taken place. Over the years, more and more of my political friends disappeared, of my Jewish and of my homosexual friends. Fear came over us with the increasingly coordinated pressure of the Nazis.

“For Heaven’s sake not to attract attention, to exercise restraint, [and] 1933 was the starting point for the persecution of homosexuals. Already in this year we had heard of raids on homosexual pubs and meeting places. Maybe individual, politically uneducated homosexuals who were only interested in immediate gratification did not recognize the significance of the year 1933, but for us homosexuals who were also politically active, who had defended the Weimar Republic, and who had tried to forestall the Nazi threat, 1933 initially signified a reinforcing of our resistance.

“In order not to mutually incriminate ourselves, we decided to no longer recognize each other. When we came across each other in the street, we passed by without looking at one another. There were certain possibilities for us to meet, but that never happened in public.

“For a politicized homosexual, visiting places which were part of the homosexual subculture was too dangerous. Friends told me that raids on bars were becoming more frequent, and someone had written on the wall of the Hamburg S-Bahn between Dammtor Station and the main station, ‘Street of the Lost.’

“That was some sort of film or book title. We found this graffiti very amusing, for most of us tried to cope with the thing by developing a sort of gallows humor.”

On May 6, 1933, Nazi student groups and sympathizers ransacked the Institute for Sexual Science founded by Dr. Magnus Hirshfeld, a Jewish homosexual physician. According to Hollinger, Dr. Hirshfeld was “one of Germany’s leading advocates of civil rights for homosexuals. Four days later, much of his Institute’s library was destroyed in a public book burning.” The notorious event was sponsored by Nazi Germany’s Minister of Propaganda and Public Enlightenment Dr. Josef Goebbels.

The institute had sponsored research and discussion on marital problems, sexually transmitted diseases, and laws relating to sexual offenses, abortion, and homosexuality. For 30 years, Dr. Hirshfeld spearheaded efforts to decriminalize homosexuality. In 1933, he happened to be in France, where he remained until his death.

On June 8, 1933, and in November 1934, the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee and the Human Rights League, both homosexual rights organizations, were dissolved. Captain Rohm was shot on July 2, 1934, without trial, and the previous April 20, the Gestapo, established by Luftwaffe chief and Prussian Prime Minister Hermann Göring, was taken over by Reichsfuhrer SS Heinrich Himmler. In October Himmler set up a division to deal with homosexuals within the department.

One of its first acts was to instruct the Kripo to gather all the pink lists from across the Third Reich. On June 28, 1935, the Nazis published their revised Paragraph 175 provisions, and subsequent judicial interpretations expanded the range of punishable “indecencies between men.” These now included “simple looking” and “simple touching.”

The harsher, amended version of Paragraph 175 went into effect on September 1, 1935, thus punishing a broader range of “lewd and lascivious” behavior between men. In 1936 Himmler became national chief of the German Police, and on October 10 created the Reich Central Office for Combatting Homosexuality and Abortion, or Special Office (II S), a subdepartment of Executive Department II of the Gestapo.

During 1936-1939, a total of 78,000 men were arrested under the new, broadened Paragraph 175. Prosecutions reached their peak between 1937 and 1939, asserts Hollinger. “Half of all convictions for homosexual activity under the Nazi regime occurred during those years. The police stepped up raids on homosexual meeting places, seized address books of arrested men to find additional suspects, and created networks of informers to compile lists of names and make arrests.”

On February 18, 1937, Reichsfuhrer Himmler addressed his higher SS and police leaders at Bad Tolz on the subject of homosexuality as he saw it. “With a static number of women, we have two million men too few on account of those who fell in the war [of 1914-1918]…. You can well imagine how this imbalance of two million homosexuals and two million war dead, or in other words a lack of about four million men capable of having sex, has upset the sexual balance sheet of Germany, and will result in a catastrophe.

“There are those homosexuals who take the view that what I do is my business, a purely private matter; however, all things which take place in the sexual sphere are not the private affair of the individual, but signify the life and death of the nation, signify world power or ‘Swissification.’ The people which has many children has the candidature for world power and world domination. A people of good race which has too few children has a one-way ticket to the grave, for insignificance in 50 or a hundred years, for burial in 250 years…

“Therefore, we must be absolutely clear that if we continue to have this burden in Germany, without being able to fight it, then that is the end of Germany, and the end of the Germanic world….”

The Nazis also felt that homosexuals formed self-serving groups, the emergence of a state within a state that could disrupt the social harmony and fabric of the Reich. In addition, Nazi policy asserted that homosexual men carried a “degeneracy” that threatened the “disciplined masculinity” of Germany. In some cases, homosexuality was deemed a mental illness, and thus many men were institutionalized while others were forced to choose between “voluntary” castration and imprisonment.

This “voluntary” castration, encouraged openly after 1935, was so that homosexual men could “free themselves” from their “degenerate sex drive,” or so the euphemisms went. In the Nazi concentration camps, they were subjected to forced castration in medical experiments as well.

Indeed, at Buchenwald, SS Dr. Karl Vaernet performed operations designed to “convert” men to heterosexuals, including the surgical insertion of a capsule that released the male hormone testosterone. “Such procedures reflected the desire by Himmler and others to find a medical solution to homosexuality,” explains Hollinger.

During the 12 years of the Third Reich from 1933 to 1945, an estimated 100,000 of the approximately 1-2 million homosexual men in Germany were arrested, and of these 50,000 officially defined as gay were sentenced under Paragraph 175. Most of these were held in regular prisons, while from 5,000 to 15,000 more were incarcerated in concentration camps. How many of the latter died? No one knows for sure, but researcher Rudiger Lautmann believes that the death rate for the “175ers” may have been as high as 60 percent.

States Hollinger, “All prisoners of the camps wore marks of various colors and shapes, which allowed guards and camp functionaries to identify them by category. The uniforms of those sentenced as homosexuals … included a large black dot and a ‘175’ drawn on the back of the jacket. Later, a pink triangular patch appeared…. Many survivors have testified that men with pink triangles were often treated particularly severely by guards and inmates alike because of widespread biases against homosexuals.”

The vast majority of homosexual victims were males; lesbians were not subjected to systematic persecution. While lesbian bars were closed, few women are believed to have been arrested. Paragraph 175 did not mention female homosexuality, and lesbianism was seen by many Nazi officials as alien to the nature of the Aryan woman. In some cases, the police arrested lesbians as “asocials” or “prostitutes.”

One woman, Henny Schermann, was arrested in 1940 in Frankfurt and was labeled a “licentious lesbian” on her mug shot, but she was also a “stateless Jew,” a sufficient cause for deportation and gassing in a “euthanasia” killing center in Germany in 1942, a year after the program was to have been officially halted at Hitler’s order.

On September 1, 1939, Nazi Germany invaded Poland and World War II began, vastly increasing Himmler’s powers across the whole of German-occupied Europe, although the SS did not generally persecute and arrest homosexuals outside the Reich. In July 1940, Himmler issued orders to the officers of the Kripo that homosexuals convicted under Paragraph 175 who were known to have had more than one sexual partner were to be sent directly to a concentration camp after their formal release from prison. Beginning in 1943, the SS, in concert with the German Ministry of Justice, launched an explicit program of “extermination through work” to destroy Germany’s “habitual criminals,” including homosexuals.

The vast majority of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis included native Germans and acquired Austrians after the 1938 annexation of that nation. Asserts Hollinger, “Unlike Jews, men arrested as homosexuals were not systematically deported to Nazi-established ghettos in Eastern Europe, nor were they transported in mass groups of homosexual prisoners to Nazi extermination camps in Poland.”

The war ended on May 8, 1945, with the total defeat of the Third Reich and the collapse of the Nazi state, and yet Paragraph 175 remained in effect under the new Allied governments that partitioned the former Nazi Germany. Some homosexuals liberated from Nazi camps were even transferred to German prisons to serve out the remainder of their sentences under Paragraph 175.

Eleven years after the war ended, in June 1956, the Federal Republic of Germany Reparation Law for Victims of National Socialism declared that internment in a concentration camp for homosexuality disqualified an individual from receiving state compensation. In 1969, Paragraph 175 was revised to decriminalize homosexual relations between men over the age of 21.

On May 8, 1985, the 40th anniversary of the end of the war, homosexuals murdered by the Nazis received their first public acknowledgment in a speech by West German President Richard von Weizacker, and in 1994 after the reunification of East and West Germany, Paragraph 175 was abolished altogether. Finally, in 2002, the German Parliament pardoned homosexuals convicted by the Nazis under Paragraph 175. Thus, the wheel had finally come full circle to where it was prior to 1871.

Freelance writer Blaine Taylor is the author of 12 books on World War II.

This article first appeared on the Warfare History Network.

Image: Wikimedia Commons

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Saved Stories – None: Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny detained at Moscow airport

Key Points
  • The prison service said he was detained for multiple violations of parole and terms of a suspended prison sentence and would be held in custody until a court makes a decision in his case.
  • Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined foe, had spent the previous five months in Germany recovering from a nerve agent attack that he blamed on the Kremlin.
  • Navalny decided to leave Berlin of his own free will and wasn’t under any apparent pressure to leave from Germany.

Alexey Navalny, Russian opposition leader, walks with demonstrators during a rally in Moscow, Russia, on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2019. The rally marked five years since the assassination of politician Boris Nemtsov.

Alexey Navalny, Russian opposition leader, walks with demonstrators during a rally in Moscow, Russia, on Saturday, Feb. 29, 2019. The rally marked five years since the assassination of politician Boris Nemtsov.
Andrey Rudakov | Bloomberg via Getty Images

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was detained at a Moscow airport after returning from Germany on Sunday, the prison service said.

The prison service said he was detained for multiple violations of parole and terms of a suspended prison sentence and would be held in custody until a court makes a decision in his case.

Navalny, who is President Vladimir Putin’s most prominent and determined foe, had spent the previous five months in Germany recovering from a nerve agent attack that he blamed on the Kremlin. Navalny decided to leave Berlin of his own free will and wasn’t under any apparent pressure to leave from Germany.

The prison service made the announcement after the flight carrying Navalny landed in the Russian capital, though at a different airport than had been scheduled. It was a possible attempt to outwit journalists and supporters who wanted to witness Navalny’s return.

Russia’s prison service last week issued a warrant for his arrest, saying he had violated the terms of suspended sentence he received on a 2014 conviction for embezzlement. The prison service has asked a Moscow court to turn Navalny’s 3 1/2-year suspended sentence into a real one.

After boarding the Moscow flight in Berlin on Sunday, Navalny said of the prospect of arrest: “It’s impossible; I’m an innocent man.”

The Kremlin has repeatedly denied a role in the opposition leader’s poisoning.

Navalny supporters and journalists had come to Moscow’s Vnukovo Airport, where the plane was scheduled to land, but it ended up touching down at Sheremetyevo airport, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) away. There was no immediate explanation for the flight diversion.

The OVD-Info group, which monitors political arrests, said at least 37 people were arrested at Vnukovo Airport, although their affiliations weren’t immediately clear.

Vnukovo banned journalists from working inside the terminal, saying in a statement last week that the move was due to epidemiological concerns. The airport also blocked off access to the international arrivals area.

Police prisoner-detention vehicles stood outside the terminal on Sunday.

The independent newspaper Novaya Gazeta and opposition social media reported Sunday that several Navalny supporters in St. Petersburg had been removed from Moscow-bound trains or been prevented from boarding flights late Saturday and early Sunday, including the coordinator of his staff for the region of Russia’s second-largest city.

Navalny fell into a coma while aboard a domestic flight from Siberia to Moscow on Aug. 20. He was transferred from a hospital in Siberia to a Berlin hospital two days later.

Labs in Germany, France and Sweden, and tests by the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, established that he was exposed to a Soviet-era Novichok nerve agent.

Russian authorities insisted that the doctors who treated Navalny in Siberia before he was airlifted to Germany found no traces of poison and have challenged German officials to provide proof of his poisoning. They refused to open a full-fledged criminal inquiry, citing a lack of evidence that Navalny was poisoned.

Last month, Navalny released the recording of a phone call he said he made to a man he described as an alleged member of a group of officers of the Federal Security Service, or FSB, who purportedly poisoned him in August and then tried to cover it up. The FSB dismissed the recording as fake.

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Saved Stories – None: Prosecutor: Trump incitement ‘most dangerous crime’ committed by US president

WASHINGTON (AP) — The lead prosecutor for US President Donald Trump’s historic second impeachment began building his case for conviction at trial, asserting on Sunday that Trump’s incitement of the mob that stormed the US Capitol was “the most dangerous crime” ever committed by a president against the United States. A Senate trial could begin as soon as this week, just as Democrat Joe Biden is sworn in as the 46th president.

Rep. Jamie Raskin, D-Md., did not say when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., will send the single article of impeachment against Trump — for “incitement of insurrection” — to the Senate, which will trigger the beginning of the trial. But Raskin said “it should be coming up soon” as Pelosi organizes the formal transfer.

The House voted to impeach Trump last Wednesday, one week after the violent insurrection that interrupted the official count of electoral votes, ransacked the Capitol and left Congress deeply shaken. Before the mob overpowered police and entered the building, Trump told them to “fight like hell” against the certification of Biden’s election win.

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“We’re going to be able to tell the story of this attack on America and all of the events that led up to it,” Raskin said. “This president set out to dismantle and overturn the election results from the 2020 presidential election. He was perfectly clear about that.”

Democrats and the incoming administration are facing the challenge of reckoning with the Capitol attack at the same time that Biden takes office and tries to move the country forward. They say the Congress can do both, balancing a trial with confirmations of the new president’s Cabinet and consideration of his legislative priorities.

Insurrectionist supporters of President Donald Trump are confronted by US Capitol Police officers outside the Senate Chamber inside the Capitol in Washington, January 6, 2021. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

Raskin said Congress cannot establish a precedent where “we just want to let bygones be bygones” just because Trump has left office.

Yet it’s clear that Democrats do not want the Senate trial to dominate Biden’s opening days. Pelosi on Friday said that Democrats intend to move quickly on Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID aid and economic recovery package to speed up vaccinations and send Americans relief, calling it “matter of complete urgency.”

Ron Klain, Biden’s incoming White House chief of staff, said he hopes Senate leaders, on a bipartisan basis, “find a way to move forward on all of their responsibilities. This impeachment trial is one of them, but getting people into the government and getting action on coronavirus is another one of those responsibilities.”

It is unclear how many Senate Republicans — if any — would vote to convict Trump. Republican leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky is telling his caucus that their decision on whether to convict the outgoing president will be a “vote of conscience.” His stance, first reported by Business Insider, means the GOP leadership team will not work to hold senators in line one way or the other.

McConnell is open to considering impeachment, but said he is undecided on how he would vote. He continues to hold great sway in his party, even though convening the trial this week could be among his last acts as majority leader as Democrats prepare to take control of the Senate with the seating of two new Democratic senators from Georgia.

For Republican senators, the trial will be perhaps a final test of their loyalty to the defeated president and his legions of supporters in their states back home. It will force a further reevaluation of their relationship with Trump, who lost not only the White House but majority control of the Senate, and a broader discussion about the future of the Republican Party as he leaves office.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell arrives as a joint session of the House and Senate convenes to confirm the Electoral College votes cast in November’s election, at the Capitol in Washington, January 6, 2021. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP)

Some GOP senators are already standing by Trump, despite their criticism of his behavior. South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, one of the president’s most loyal allies, said impeachment was a “bad, rushed, emotional move” that puts the presidency at risk and will cause further division.

He said he hopes every Senate Republican rejects impeachment. “Please do not justify and legitimize what the House did,” Graham said.

A handful of Republican senators have suggested they will consider conviction. Two of them, Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski and Pennsylvania Sen. Pat Toomey, have said he should resign. Murkowski said the House responded “appropriately” with impeachment and she will consider the trial arguments.

No president has ever been convicted in the Senate, and it would take a two-thirds vote against Trump, a high hurdle. But conviction is not out of the realm of possibility, especially as corporations and wealthy political donors distance themselves from Trump’s brand of politics and the Republicans who stood by his attempts to overturn the election.

Rudy Giuliani, Trump’s personal attorney, was spotted at the White House Saturday and told ABC he was likely going to join Trump’s impeachment defense team. He suggested he would continue to spread baseless claims of election fraud on the Senate floor.

Trump campaign spokesman Hogan Gidley moved to distance Trump from Giuliani’s comments, tweeting: “President Trump has not yet made a determination as to which lawyer or law firm will represent him for the disgraceful attack on our Constitution and democracy, known as the ‘impeachment hoax.’ We will keep you informed.”

There was not widespread fraud in the election, as has been confirmed by a range of election officials and by William Barr, who stepped down as attorney general last month. Nearly all of the legal challenges put forth by Trump and his allies have been dismissed by judges.

Trump is the only president to be twice impeached, and the first to be prosecuted as he leaves the White House, an ever-more-extraordinary end to his tenure. A precedent set by the Senate in the 1800s established that a trial can proceed even after a federal official leaves office. Trump was first impeached by the House in 2019 over his dealings with Ukraine, but the Senate voted last year to acquit.

Ten Republicans joined all Democrats in the 232-197 impeachment vote on Wednesday, the most bipartisan modern presidential impeachment.

When his second trial does begin, House impeachment managers say they will be making the case that Trump’s incendiary rhetoric hours before the attack on the Capitol was not isolated, but directly intended to interrupt the electoral count as part of his escalating campaign to overturn the November election.

A Capitol Police officer died from injuries suffered in the attack, and police shot and killed a woman. Three other people died in what authorities said were medical emergencies.

Raskin and Klain were on CNN’s “State of the Union,” and Graham appeared on Fox News Channel’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”

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