It was during this time that Hoess theorized that being gay was a choice rather than an inborn part of human identity. When a gay detainee made it through a fluctuating period of “rehabilitation” and showed no signs of gay behavior or association to other gay prisoners they were deemed as cured and could be released. Upon learning this many began doing as asked to earn their freedom, who wouldn’t when faced with the option of death? As such Hoess felt he had found the cure for homosexuality, hard labor, isolation, and a strictly enforced moral code of conduct. He further felt that by placing gay men in labor alongside female prostitutes they would learn to embrace heterosexuality. The prostitutes were given concessions if they agreed to sexually excite gay prisoners and in some cases engage them in a sexual act to further the rehabilitative process. The final test was to place two gay men together in a situation in which they could (Or at least believed they could) engage in a sexual act without being caught. If the prisoner being evaluated for release declined the advances they were deemed fully fit to re-enter society. As time marched on however, this tactic and his theories proved untrue and many of the gay prisoners who gained release went back to their previous life only much more secretively.
Hoess felt that his experimentation proved that sufficient motivation, even sufficient money, could cure homosexuality. He did realize however that in some cases a person was so “enslaved” by homosexuality that they would rather die than try to change who they are. Hoess was more than willing to accommodate. This however is only a part of the story. Around 1929 as estimates vary, the SS began compiling what became known as the “Rosa Listen” (Pink List) which identified all gay men in Germany, some 1,200,000 While the Nazi’s were known for keeping excellent records, many people appearing on the original Rosa Listen were simply noted as deceased with no cause of death provided. Many more were simply murdered before ever reaching prison. In the past several years Deutsche Welle has stated that the true number of dead from the Rosa Listen rests at around 500,000 people.
By 1933 anything pertaining to gay, lesbian or transgender persons was strictly banned from production and all existing material found was destroyed. This also marked the year in which the LGBT movement of Berlin which was decades ahead of the rest of the world, even progressive by todays standards, officially ended. Kurt Hiller who organized Magnus Hirschfeld’s sex clinic which advocated for the LGBT community was sent to a concentration camp. On May 6, 1933 Nazi Youth pillaged the institute destroying everything, some 20,000 books and journals, thousands of images, and decades of research both old and new from around the world. Much of this was one of a kind and irreplaceable. That same day Joseph Goebbels gave a speech denouncing homosexuality to some 40,000 people and Ernst Rohm in particular. This is significant because Rohm was not only gay he was politically powerful and under Hitler’s protection until that speech, as well as Himmler who believed talk of Rohm’s homosexuality was all slander and Jewish propaganda. Fearing Rohm’s power and this now very public acknowledgement of his sexuality, this protection ended. During Hitler’s 1934 “Night of the Long Knives” Purge of those who he felt threatened his power, Hitler had Rohm murdered using his homosexuality as justification.
The second purge of homosexuals began in 1934 by a special division of the Gestapo known as the Reich Control Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion. This time the “cleansing” was to be expanded to lesbians and transgenders as well as gay men. Previously transgenders were considered more of a nuisance and lesbians a lesser threat. Transgender persons however became popular for medical experiments which Nazi doctors were all to well known for. As lesbians did not contribute to building the master race they were then also deemed as useless if not converted. Although many did suffer death for their sexuality, lesbians in general were the least vigorously pursued. As these people were seen as Germans, their conversion to heterosexual behavior was seen as worthwhile. Those that failed were generally spared the gas chamber and placed in the “Extermination Through Work” program if physically strong enough to be of use. Non German homosexuals found no such options. Gay men were immediately castrated around 100,000. Many were left to bleed to death from the impromptu procedure.
Gays who survived the Nazi retraining programs often found death may have been more welcome. The wearing of the Pink Triangle made life nearly impossible. Some were known to go through the rehabilitation sham only to find soldiers took sport in using the pink triangle they wore as a moving target their firearms sought. Some were beat to death after release as they continued to be seen as a threat to those in the community who wanted no association to them. In the end, most simply died one way or another.
When the war ended the persecution did not stop. Gay prisoners identified by the pink triangle were re-imprisoned by the Allied-established Federal Republic of Germany. The new regime did not see fit to remove Nazi Amendment 175 which made homosexuality a felony. It remained in force for 24 years after the war ended. Some spent upwards of twenty years in confinement in concentration camps and and New Republic jails like Heinz Dormer. Those people were never compensated for this cruel and unusual punishment by the German government. They were considered insignificant at the time reparations were being made in comparison to those who suffered based on race or religion. They did not even receive an apology until 2002. The true number of gay people that perished in the camps will never be known. It certainly does not compare to a group like the Jews by any stretch of that imagination. However because so many known homosexuals were charged with other crimes which insured a swift death rather than the possibility of “becoming heterosexual”, it is generally accepted the total is somewhere in the range of 250,000 to 500,000 persons not counting those whom were Jewish as well.
While this is a horror, it is a horror we need to remember. It is imperative so that no group of people ever suffer this fate again because of the color of their skin, the God they worship, or the sex of the person they find attractive. Indeed, we must never forget. On May 27, 2008, a memorial to remember homosexuals persecuted by the Nazi’s was erected in Berlin. This is from a 2005 European Parliament address marking the 60th anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz:
“…27 January 2005, the sixtieth anniversary of the liberation of Nazi Germany’s death camp at Auschwitz-Birkenau, where a combined total of up to 1.5 million Jews, Roma, Poles, Russians and prisoners of various other nationalities, and homosexuals, were murdered, is not only a major occasion for European citizens to remember and condemn the enormous horror and tragedy of the Holocaust, but also for addressing the disturbing rise in anti-semitism, and especially anti-semitic incidents, in Europe, and for learning anew the wider lessons about the dangers of victimising people on the basis of race, ethnic origin, religion, social classification, politics or sexual orientation,…”