© Neil Spark

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Gay oppression

October 26, 2016

Nazi oppression of minorities is well known. Gays were among those deemed to be unworthy of living in the Third Reich. On 26 October 1936 the head of the Gestapo, Heinrich Himmler, created the Reich Central Office for Combating Abortion and Homosexuality within the secret police.

The Nazis didn’t invent the secret police and they weren’t the first to oppress gay men. But they were the first to use the secret police as a state instrument of fear. The Gestapo was instrumental in the tightening of the State’s persecution of gay men.

Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code made homosexuality a crime in 1871. Security forces had kept “pink lists” since the early 1900s. But Germany became the vanguard for sexual liberation and social progress between the world wars. In 1919 the Institute for Sexual Science, dedicated to human sexuality research, was founded by Magnus Hirschfeld who was gay. A Reichstag committee supported the repeal Paragraph 175 on 16 October 1929. But the flame of enlightenment was extinguished by Adolf Hitler’s ascension to the Chancellorship on 30 January 1933.

The Nazis moved quickly.The party’s paramilitary, the storm troopers, or SA, raided the Institute for Sexual Science on 6 May 1933. The library was confiscated and the building looted. On 28 June the Ministry of Justice broadened the definition of “criminally indecent activities between men” and stipulated harsher sentences for “offenders”. And on 26 October 1936 the persecution was extended with the establishment of the office within the Gestapo. Being gay became tantamount to treason.

But none of this applied to the Nazis themselves. The party’s paramilitary, the storm troopers, or SA, was led by one of Hitler’s oldest friends and early allies, Ernst Röhm, who was gay.  Storm troopers were instrumental in creating a chaotic, violent and fearful atmosphere in the early 1930s. Gay storm troopers bashed other gay men. We’ve become immune to hypocrisy in politics but the Nazi storm troopers’ gay bashing is grotesque and warped.

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