Recognizing the Tragic Persecution of Homosexuals Under Nazi Rule

Recognizing the Tragic Persecution of Homosexuals Under Nazi Rule

Otto Giering, victim of the Nazi regime: a reminder of the persecution of homosexuals

The 22-year-old tailor Otto Giering was castrated in the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He had already been tried twice for having relationships with homosexuals and his story appears in the book “Medicine and Crime”, published by the Bradenburg Memorial Foundation. After his release from the camp, his health was ruined and he was found confused and disoriented by the Police after not returning home for days. Those events predated his death in 1976, shortly before his 60th birthday.

The Nazis deported 10,000 to 15,000 gay men to concentration camps, where about 1,000 of them were confined to the Sachsenhausen camp. In 1942, the Nazis murdered 200 homosexuals in the camp, after having made them work in very difficult conditions in an apart compound where weapons were manufactured. Their persecution was forgotten for decades, and only after the fall of the Berlin Wall and the reunification of Germany did the narrations of such victims begin to reappear.

Members of the gay movement in West Berlin would lay wreaths with pink ribbons at the Sachsenhausen Memorial, but the Ministry of State Security (Stasi) would immediately remove them. Until the end of the Nazi regime in 1945, homosexuality was considered a criminal offense in both German states, making the victims disqualified from being officially commemorated or financially compensated.

In 2002, the German Bundestag identified the homosexual community as one of the persecuted groups of victims and took the decision to rehabilitate those convicted by Nazi judges – although most of them had already died by that time. This gave place to the joint exhibition at Sachsenhausen Memorial and the Berlin Gay Museum that started in 1995 and the monument in Berlin in 2008.

The story of Otto Giering and the homosexual victims of Nazi terror are a reminder of the historical continuity of social stigmatization and exclusion that is still relevant today – 90 years after the start of their discrimination, oppression and violence.

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