„Pink Triangles” in KL Auschwitz

In the camp, they wore a pink triangle or were marked with the letter „A” from the German word „Arschficker”. For the Nazis, they meant as much as the Jews, that is, nothing. They were imprisoned or killed right away. Some were sent to camps. Some of them managed to survive the war. What was the fate of non-heteronormative concentration camp prisoners?

The sexual harassment of non-heterosexual people dates back much earlier than World War II. And although it began to be decriminalized already in the 19th century, the German Reich, unfortunately, did not follow the times. Therefore, in 1871 their penal code introduced the obligation to punish homosexual behavior, now known as „paragraph 175”. Over time, the punishment of this provision was made more severe so that it reached its apogee during the war. No evidence was needed anymore, the suspicion that someone was homosexual was enough to convict such person and send it to prison or immediately to a concentration camp. A unique phenomenon was the situation in which a German and a man of another nation was caught in prostrate contacts. The German was sent to a concentration camp, while his companion was most often killed.

It is worth noting that only men were punished under paragraph 175. Lesbians for sexual behavior directed at other women were sometimes sent to camps (mainly women’s), but the scale was completely different than in the case of gays. Female homosexual behavior has not been penalized. They were treated more like antics. Additionally, when homosexual women were sent to the camp, they were not marked with a pink triangle but a black one, intended for political prisoners.

At the moment, it is impossible to say approximately how many homosexual men were in KL Auschwitz. They were undoubtedly there and their fate was tragic. Unlike the Jews, who were to be ruthlessly exterminated, gays were to adapt to normal life in a society that was understood by a union as male and female. As a result, the treatment of the prisoners with the pink triangle was much worse. They were not sent directly to the gas chambers. One of the commanders of Auschwitz, Rudolf Hoss, was convinced that homosexuality could be cured by hard work. So they were ordered to do meaningless tasks, beaten, humiliated, and probably raped as well. There are reports from other camps, from which we can learn that prisoners, for example, were ordered to throw snow with their bare hands.

At the same time, the whole way of organizing the camp favored homosexual contacts. Men cramped into poor barracks, often slept in several on one mattress. Also in the memoirs of one of the prisoners, Karl Gorath, we read that when he was a block supervisor in Auschwitz, he experienced the most beautiful period of love in his entire life, with two younger inmates who unfortunately did not manage to survive Auschwitz.

Research is currently underway on homosexual prisoners, their treatment, and their fate in the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp. Paragraph 175 was removed only years after the war – in 1967 in East Germany and 1969 in West Germany.

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