Six million Jewish people were murdered during the genocide in Europe in the years leading up to 1945, and the Jews are rightly remembered as the group that Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party most savagely persecuted during the Holocaust.
But the Nazis targeted many other groups: for their race, beliefs or what they did.
Historians estimate the total number of deaths to be 11 million, with the victims encompassing gay people, priests, gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists, Poles and other Slavic peoples, and resistance fighters.
Pierre Seel was the only French survivor to speak out about being transported for being gay
Homosexual men, and to a lesser extent women, were compelled to renounce their sexuality under the Nazi regime. An estimated 100,000 were arrested and some sent to prisons, while between 5,000 and 15,000 were sent to concentration camps, where some were forced to wear pink triangles on their uniform to denote being gay. As many as 60% of those send to the camps perished, according to German LGBT scholar Rüdiger Lautmann.
Pierre Seel, from the Alsace region of France, was just 16 when he was arrested after a cruel twist of fate. His watch was stolen – in an area notorious for gay cruising – and he reported the theft to police. Without his knowledge, this led to his name being added to a list of known homosexuals.
“The Germans came to Alsace In 1940,” he said in the 2000 documentary, Paragraph 175 by Telling Pictures. “And the Germans found the police files. They saw our names on these lists, lists of homosexuals. They were probably watching us. How we live, where we go, what we do. And one day I had to go to the Gestapo with 12 friends.”
Police sodomized Pierre with a piece of wood and sent him a regular jail, before he was transported to the Schirmeck-Vorbruck camp near Strasborg – called a “protective custody camp”.
“I wasn’t even 18,” he says in the Paragraph 175 film. “Arrested, tortured, beaten, with no defense, without a trial. Nothing. I was all alone. I don’t even mention being sodomized, being raped.”
In another traumatizing experience, he was forced to watch his teenage lover Jo, who was also in the camp, being executed by being torn apart by Alsatian dogs.
“It happened in front of me and 300 prisoners. 300,” he said. “The death of Jo, my friend. He was condemned to die, eaten by dogs. German dogs. German shepherds. And that, I can never forget.”
Gay prisoners in the camp were abused and tormented by guards, and also by other prisoners. “There was a…