In the racist practice of Nazi eugenics, women were valued primarily for their ability to bear children. The state presumed that lesbians were still capable of reproducing. This, lesbians were not systematically persecuted under Nazi rule, but they nonetheless did suffer the loss of their own gathering places and associations.
Because of this regime's eugenic rationale for attacking homosexuality, Nazis sought to capitalize on prejudices and stereotypes about homosexuals shared by many in German society. The Nazi ideology of persecuting the society's "inferior and weaker" elements fostered public acceptance of state-sponsored intolerance and brutality.
Nazi Germany did not seek to kill all homosexuals. Nevertheless, the Nazi state, through active persecution, attempted to terrorize German homosexuals into sexual and social conformity, leaving thousands dead and shattering the lives of many more.
Tracking down suspected homosexuals
In October 1934, the Gestapo moved to gather information about homosexual men. Telegrams to all local police departments ordered that new or existing lists of men suspected of being homosexually active in their districts be forwarded to Gestapo Special Section II-1 in Berlin. A subsequent telegram requested that the lists indicate political affiliation, particularly membership in the Nazi Party.
The police work of tracking down suspected homosexuals depended largely on denunciations from ordinary citizens. Nazi propaganda that labeled homosexuals "antisocial parasites" and "enemies of the state" inflamed already existing prejudices. Citizens turned in men, often on the flimsiest evidence, for as many reasons as there were denunciations. Reflecting on the dramatic rise of legal proceedings against homosexuals since 1933, Josef Meisinger of the Reich Central Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion proudly remarked in April 1937: "We must naturally also take into account the greater public readiness to report [homosexuality] as a result of National Socialist education."
Acting on the basis of these informants, the Gestapo and Criminal Police arbitrarily seized and questioned suspects as well as possible corroborating witnesses. Those denounced were often forced to give up names of friends and acquaintances, thereby becoming informants themselves. Where criminal proceedings once required a proved act, now a suggestive accusation sufficed.
Heinrich Himmler's appointment as chief of German police in 1936 and the outbreak of World War II in 1939. The Gestapo and Criminal Police worked in tandem, occasionally in massive sweeps but more often as follow-up to individual denunciations.
Most victims were from the working class. Less able to afford private apartments or homes, they found partners in semi-public places that put them at greater risk of discovery, including by police entrapment. As reports of the massive arrests spread, mostly by word of mouth, a pervasive atmosphere of fear enveloped Germany's homosexuals. Just as the state desired, the physical repression of a minority of homosexual men served to limit activities of the vast majority.