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The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps

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It has only been since the mid-1970s that any attention has been paid to the persecution and interment of gay men by the Nazis during the Third Reich. Since that time, books such as Richard Plant's The Pink Triangle (and Martin Sherman's play Bent) have illuminated this nearly lost history. Heinz Heger's first-person account, The Men with the Pink Triangle, was one of the It has only been since the mid-1970s that any attention has been paid to the persecution and interment of gay men by the Nazis during the Third Reich. Since that time, books such as Richard Plant's The Pink Triangle (and Martin Sherman's play Bent) have illuminated this nearly lost history. Heinz Heger's first-person account, The Men with the Pink Triangle, was one of the first books on the topic and remains one of the most important. In 1939, Heger, a Viennese university student, was arrested and sentenced to prison for being a "degenerate." Within weeks he was transported to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp in East Germany, and forced to wear a pink triangle to show that his crime was homosexuality. He remained there, under horrific conditions, until the end of the war in 1945. The power of The Men with the Pink Triangle comes from Heger's sparse prose and his ability to recall--and communicate--the smallest resonant details. The pain and squalor of everyday camp life--the constant filth, the continuous presence of death, and the unimaginable cruelty of those in command--are all here. But Heger's story would be unbearable were it not for the simple courage he and others used to survive and, having survived, that he bore witness. This book is harrowing but necessary reading for everyone concerned about gay history, human rights, or social justice. --Michael Bronski


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It has only been since the mid-1970s that any attention has been paid to the persecution and interment of gay men by the Nazis during the Third Reich. Since that time, books such as Richard Plant's The Pink Triangle (and Martin Sherman's play Bent) have illuminated this nearly lost history. Heinz Heger's first-person account, The Men with the Pink Triangle, was one of the It has only been since the mid-1970s that any attention has been paid to the persecution and interment of gay men by the Nazis during the Third Reich. Since that time, books such as Richard Plant's The Pink Triangle (and Martin Sherman's play Bent) have illuminated this nearly lost history. Heinz Heger's first-person account, The Men with the Pink Triangle, was one of the first books on the topic and remains one of the most important. In 1939, Heger, a Viennese university student, was arrested and sentenced to prison for being a "degenerate." Within weeks he was transported to Sachsenhausen, a concentration camp in East Germany, and forced to wear a pink triangle to show that his crime was homosexuality. He remained there, under horrific conditions, until the end of the war in 1945. The power of The Men with the Pink Triangle comes from Heger's sparse prose and his ability to recall--and communicate--the smallest resonant details. The pain and squalor of everyday camp life--the constant filth, the continuous presence of death, and the unimaginable cruelty of those in command--are all here. But Heger's story would be unbearable were it not for the simple courage he and others used to survive and, having survived, that he bore witness. This book is harrowing but necessary reading for everyone concerned about gay history, human rights, or social justice. --Michael Bronski

30 review for The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps

  1. 4 out of 5

    Jack Jordan

    This is a tremendously important book. When people think of concentration camps, they think of millions of Jews being tortured and gassed. However, not many people think of the other victims of Hitler's sickening Führerland. This book tells the story of one of the other most loathed 'blemishes' of Hitler's Aryan race: homosexuals. Homosexuals, branded with the pink triangle, were seen as 'the scum of the scum', hated more than the Jews and the Romani - not just by the Nazis, but by their fellow This is a tremendously important book. When people think of concentration camps, they think of millions of Jews being tortured and gassed. However, not many people think of the other victims of Hitler's sickening Führerland. This book tells the story of one of the other most loathed 'blemishes' of Hitler's Aryan race: homosexuals. Homosexuals, branded with the pink triangle, were seen as 'the scum of the scum', hated more than the Jews and the Romani - not just by the Nazis, but by their fellow prisoners. They were given the most torturous 'jobs' ( Heinz Heger's (pseudonym for author and survivor Josef Kohout) first 'job' at his first concentration camp was to shovel snow from the left side of the road - with his bare hands - and carry it to the right side of the road; once that had been accomplished, he then had to carry the snow from the right and return it to the left) and had to endure constant verbal, physical and sexual abuse; Kohout had to succumb to having sex with his Capos for protection. Homosexuals were seen as disgusting and perverted, but 'normal' men could have sex with other men as a way of 'release' without being seen as disgusting or wrong at all. The injustice of those branded with the pink triangle is not only the treatment and torture they received simply for being attracted to the same sex, but the lack of acknowledgement their struggle received, if they happened to survive the camps: they were shunned by society for being homosexuals, many being arrested and imprisoned for the same 'crime' that had them committed to the concentration camps; if they escaped being sent to prison, they were hated by their neighbours and ostracised by society (Kohout's father committed suicide because of the treatment he received from his friends, colleagues and neighbours for having a gay son); they did not receive compensation like the other victims of the concentration camps, because they were criminals for loving the same sex, and criminals did not receive compensation. But by far the worst injustice is that their history was never told. You will never hear of their treatment told of in schools, see them in museums (except one in the US - many decades later) or read much of them in the many, many books on the subject. Yes, the biggest injustice is that their struggle has been swept under the carpet, destined to be forgotten and dismissed, as though society almost condones what happened to them, as if prolonging their treatment.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Red Haircrow

    This was a long-awaited read for me. It was a read I had to prepare myself for, before I could actually read it. I'm a scholar of WW2 and Holocaust literature and have a large collection of material, but for a topic dealing even more closely with myself and being, I had to take time to ground myself. Whether you are just a passing person who might wish to learn about what homosexuals suffered in concentration camps (and there were fewer comparatively and earlier in the Nazi regime directly), or This was a long-awaited read for me. It was a read I had to prepare myself for, before I could actually read it. I'm a scholar of WW2 and Holocaust literature and have a large collection of material, but for a topic dealing even more closely with myself and being, I had to take time to ground myself. Whether you are just a passing person who might wish to learn about what homosexuals suffered in concentration camps (and there were fewer comparatively and earlier in the Nazi regime directly), or someone who is looking for a wider view of all inmates who were interred or murdered, this memoir can provide views into life in the camps, especially for certain populations. What is does beyond that is provide a glimpse into the ugly aspects of "male" life, and the unique, sexual brutality so-called "straight" men have perpetrated against homosexuals who've expressed or more openly or innocently (depending on your perspective) their attraction and love of those of their own gender. I don't even know quite how to express it, but I literally was brought to the floor, unable to move, weeping, remembering how one can be forced to do things just to survive, and knowing the ones who forced you to debase yourself so horribly were so-called "straight" men who went/go home to their wives or girlfriends, who don't think twice about using someone. That is the perspective Heinz Heger lived and endured on top of the diabolical, sickly human mechanisms of the Nazis and those who benefited from their regime. I wanted to know more of his personal feelings when he described seeing thousands of prisoners of all kinds not just be "liquidated", but when he directly saw the evidence: the coursing of blood from trenches full of recently shot bodies instead of his only stating how the villagers near the camp complained of the local streams being tainted with blood, but I understand why his account involved only that. Sometimes you can only recount abstracts like that, because looking too directly into the memory will take you back, and you know, in your present life that you couldn't endure that. Not a "speciality" book. Not just for gays or other LTIIQ people. If you are going to read Holocaust books, include this one as well. Be aware and outraged that homosexuals were targeted and murdered just like other groups, just because they believed and lived a certain way....BUT the vast majority were NEVER compensated as were other survivors. They were pushed aside and discriminated against, and even had officials discount their memories, an even more debilitating experience than survivors whose stories were commiserated with. So in effect, these men were violated over and over, not just by perpetrators, but by those who supposedly were there to liberate and help them as they did other concentration camp inmates. They were discriminated against JUST like what continues against gays today in a variety of countries across the world. For more information and photo of Heinz Heger, whose real name was Josef Kohout, please visit my review/interview site Flying With Red Haircrow.

  3. 5 out of 5

    eRin

    Horrifying. Simply horrifying is the best way to describe this book. Told by one of the few known homosexual surviors of Nazi concentration camps, and one of the even fewer brave enough to tell his story, this book details Heger's six years in a concentration camp. The abuse--physical, mental, and sexual--is unbelievable. It's traumatic to simply read about his experience and the things that he witnessed. What I found most jaw-dropping is the constant abuse heaped upon the prisoners for being ga Horrifying. Simply horrifying is the best way to describe this book. Told by one of the few known homosexual surviors of Nazi concentration camps, and one of the even fewer brave enough to tell his story, this book details Heger's six years in a concentration camp. The abuse--physical, mental, and sexual--is unbelievable. It's traumatic to simply read about his experience and the things that he witnessed. What I found most jaw-dropping is the constant abuse heaped upon the prisoners for being gay, but then most of the abusers are having gay sex at the exact same time (similar to prisons today), but think nothing of it because they are "normal" men. Ugh. Nightmares are certain to result from this reading, but I maintain that it's a very important story to read.

  4. 5 out of 5

    Kalyn✨

    “Today, people have long stopped talking about the sufferings and killings of the Nazi concentration camps, and no longer want to be reminded of them, but we, the ex-prisoners, will always remember what we suffered.” This book is a must-read. Just beware that it contains slurs and vivid descriptions of torture, etc. Josef Kohout tells his story (documented by his friend Hans Neumann/“Heinz Heger”) in The Men with the Pink Triangle as one of the many gay men imprisoned and tortured by Nazis during “Today, people have long stopped talking about the sufferings and killings of the Nazi concentration camps, and no longer want to be reminded of them, but we, the ex-prisoners, will always remember what we suffered.” This book is a must-read. Just beware that it contains slurs and vivid descriptions of torture, etc. Josef Kohout tells his story (documented by his friend Hans Neumann/“Heinz Heger”) in The Men with the Pink Triangle as one of the many gay men imprisoned and tortured by Nazis during WWII. He informs readers of how he was brought into the camp, prisoner hierarchy, methods of torture used against them, and how he strategically fought for his life, having sexual encounters with more powerful men in exchange for protection against starvation, deadly labour, and more. Josef and the other prisoners endured unfathomable suffering, and it didn’t quite end after the war. Gay survivors left the camps not as victims, but as criminals, and were denied compensation until very recently in 2017. From my understanding, some gay men were liberated from these camps just to end up getting arrested again for the “crime” of homosexuality. Like many gay survivors, Josef passed away in the 90s without any financial compensation from the government and was largely ignored by neighbours and collegues as he tried to rejoin society. “My request for compensation for the years of concentration camp was rejected by our democratic authorities, for as a pink-triangled prisoner, a homosexual, I had been condemned for a criminal offense, even if I'd not harmed anyone. No restitution is granted to "criminal" concentration-camp victims.” “But why are we homosexuals still treated so inhumanely, why are we still persecuted and imprisoned by the courts, just as in Hitler's time?” Due to the history of suppressing queer voices, many people still don’t know the community was targeted. Unfortunately I was pretty ignorant before reading this book too. I knew they were imprisoned, but not to this degree. Josef’s story is very difficult to read, but very important. This is the outcome of dehumanizing people and why we need to be checking and challenging our biases constantly. “But whether we gays live in Vienna or anywhere else, we can live as decent a life as we want, but the contempt of our fellow humans, and social discrimination, is the same as it was thirty or fifty years ago. The progress of humanity has passed us by.” To end on a happier note: while researching Josef, I discovered he met his partner a year after leaving the camps and they stayed together until he passed away. I hope they lived a very happy life in those 48 years together.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Kerry

    This book opened my eyes in so many ways. I'll be forever thankful to the girl that recommended it. I've read a lot of holocaust memoirs over the years, but none had ever so much as mentioned the atrocities committed against homosexuals. Like any book dealing with the holocaust, this book is a tough read, and the questions it asks have no easy answers, other than the world is sometimes very, very wrong. This book opened my eyes in so many ways. I'll be forever thankful to the girl that recommended it. I've read a lot of holocaust memoirs over the years, but none had ever so much as mentioned the atrocities committed against homosexuals. Like any book dealing with the holocaust, this book is a tough read, and the questions it asks have no easy answers, other than the world is sometimes very, very wrong.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Alian345

    This is an account of one young gay man's experiences at the hands of the Nazis. It is quite factual but if you read between the lines the horror jumps out at you. There is an appalling account of the murder of one young gay man at the hands of 2 Nazi officers which will remain with me forever. Much of the book is devoted to the methods he used to stay alive - mainly by becoming the 'companion' of various 'dignitary prisoners' in the camp. He managed to survive for YEARS - an unbelievable feat - This is an account of one young gay man's experiences at the hands of the Nazis. It is quite factual but if you read between the lines the horror jumps out at you. There is an appalling account of the murder of one young gay man at the hands of 2 Nazi officers which will remain with me forever. Much of the book is devoted to the methods he used to stay alive - mainly by becoming the 'companion' of various 'dignitary prisoners' in the camp. He managed to survive for YEARS - an unbelievable feat - and return home. He is quite bitter - absolutely correctly - at some of the treatment he received after the war and at the non-recognition of the suffering of gay people. The account was written around 1970 - thank God that our generation lives in much more tolerant times. May horrors like this never recur. I salute you Mr Heger/Kohout!

  7. 4 out of 5

    AZ (Saïd)

    Required reading.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Sarah Schulman

    Fascinating and unpredictable.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Tabi

    Excellent and horrifying.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Karyl

    We're all familiar with the extermination of more than six million Jews throughout Europe by the Nazi regime, with the goal of creating some sort of "master race" of blond, blue-eyed Aryans. This is a fact that should be taught to every generation with the goal of never repeating this sort of horrific genocide. What is less known, however, is that the Jews were not the only ones to suffer at the hands of Hitler and his megalomania. Political dissidents, the Roma, and homosexuals were also trucke We're all familiar with the extermination of more than six million Jews throughout Europe by the Nazi regime, with the goal of creating some sort of "master race" of blond, blue-eyed Aryans. This is a fact that should be taught to every generation with the goal of never repeating this sort of horrific genocide. What is less known, however, is that the Jews were not the only ones to suffer at the hands of Hitler and his megalomania. Political dissidents, the Roma, and homosexuals were also trucked off to concentration camps, where they were frequently worked to death or murdered outright. Unfortunately, while reparations have been made to the Jews and other groups for their suffering, the gay men who were imprisoned were still considered criminals by the laws of the time, even as late as the 1970s, and therefore not eligible for reparations. It is absolutely terrifying to read what Heger and the gay men he was imprisoned with endured. Heger resorted to forming relationships with the Capos of his camp in order to secure better food and work details for himself, a decision that saved his life many times over. The emotional and physical abuse the gay men endured is staggering; they were daily harassed for their sexual orientation even by men who had male lovers in the camp. Because those men considered themselves straight, their lovers served only as an emergency outlet when no women were around. Yet the gay men in the camp were called disgusting, perverted, filthy, and sick degenerates. They were forced to sleep in barracks with the lights on and with their hands above the covers to prevent furtive fumblings in the night. Heger recounts some of the worst abuse, including a bloody and violent beating resulting in a man's death, in graphic detail, yet he does so almost dispassionately, I'm sure as a way of self-preservation. To allow himself to reveal his feelings on these situations may have been too much, and I cannot blame him. This is not a book to be read by the squeamish, but it is important to remember that gay men suffered cruelly under the Nazi regime. I could have finished this book in one setting, but with the difficult subject matter, I had to read it more slowly.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Chloe

    I feel like it would be unfair to give this book any sort of rating. It is a raw, blunt and harrowing account of the treatment of homosexuals under the Nazi regime. I am also hesitant to put this under my read-for-univeristy shelf, because I did not have to read this book in its entirety, but I found once I had started I wanted to follow the author through their journey until the end - no matter how horrific it may get. It was horrifying, and often there is no closure, as 'characters' disappear, I feel like it would be unfair to give this book any sort of rating. It is a raw, blunt and harrowing account of the treatment of homosexuals under the Nazi regime. I am also hesitant to put this under my read-for-univeristy shelf, because I did not have to read this book in its entirety, but I found once I had started I wanted to follow the author through their journey until the end - no matter how horrific it may get. It was horrifying, and often there is no closure, as 'characters' disappear, never to return, either presumed dead or arriving at a completely unknown conclusion. Throughout the book though, there was a continuing awe at the strength found in the desire to live. An important book which uncovers an often forgotten or deliberately ignored part of Germany's history.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Hannah

    “What car driver today, hurtling along the German motorways, knows that each block of granite has the blood of innocent men on it? Men who did nothing wrong, but who were hounded to death in concentration camps solely for reason of their religion, their origin, their political views or their feeling for their own sex. Each of the granite pillars that hold up the motorway bridges cost the lives of untold victims - a sea of blood and a mountain of human corpses. Today people only too willing to th “What car driver today, hurtling along the German motorways, knows that each block of granite has the blood of innocent men on it? Men who did nothing wrong, but who were hounded to death in concentration camps solely for reason of their religion, their origin, their political views or their feeling for their own sex. Each of the granite pillars that hold up the motorway bridges cost the lives of untold victims - a sea of blood and a mountain of human corpses. Today people only too willing to throw a cloak of silence and forgetfulness over all of these things”

  13. 5 out of 5

    Miz

    Tragic story to add into the mix when discussing WW2 and the Holocaust.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Jill Mackin

    Tragic.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Kylee Ehmann

    It never ceases to amaze me how matter-of-fact Holocaust survivors were in reporting the atrocities they suffered. Heger's account of his and other gay men's experiences in the camps is brutal, but in a way that's different than narratives about the predominate Jewish experience in the camps. What I appreciated most is that Heger, while he really hammers home how much gay men were tortured and often forced into prostitution to survive, he never minimizes the suffering of other prisoners. He repe It never ceases to amaze me how matter-of-fact Holocaust survivors were in reporting the atrocities they suffered. Heger's account of his and other gay men's experiences in the camps is brutal, but in a way that's different than narratives about the predominate Jewish experience in the camps. What I appreciated most is that Heger, while he really hammers home how much gay men were tortured and often forced into prostitution to survive, he never minimizes the suffering of other prisoners. He repeatedly talks about how Jewish people suffered. While he mentions that other prisoners treated them poorly for their sexuality, he rests the blame for their actions on the Nazi regime and the officers in charge (although he often includes the "green-triangle" criminal officer-prisoners in the camps in this latter category). It's a really refreshing read, and I appreciated that his rage continued to be directed to the powers that be for continuing to repress gay men after the war. We are really lucky to have someone who was willing to put his narrative down in this way.

  16. 4 out of 5

    Ula

    I'm crying. Please, read this book. “What does it say about the world we live in, if an adult man is told how and whom he should love?” "Scarcely a word has been written on the fact that along with the millions whom Hitler had butchered on grounds of "race," hundreds of thousands of people were sadistically tortured to death simply for having homosexual feelings. Scarcely anyone has publicized the fact that the madness of Hitler and his gang was not directed just against the Jews, but also against I'm crying. Please, read this book. “What does it say about the world we live in, if an adult man is told how and whom he should love?” "Scarcely a word has been written on the fact that along with the millions whom Hitler had butchered on grounds of "race," hundreds of thousands of people were sadistically tortured to death simply for having homosexual feelings. Scarcely anyone has publicized the fact that the madness of Hitler and his gang was not directed just against the Jews, but also against us homosexuals, in both cases leading to the "final solution" of seeking the total annihilation of these human beings. May they never be forgotten, these multitudes of dead, our anonymous, immortal martyrs."

  17. 4 out of 5

    Kerstin

    I am struggling to find the right words. This was truly the most horrific thing I have ever read. To think that this was the reality for thousands and thousands of gay people not so long ago is just unimaginable... I can't help but think of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community and that it could have been them. We live in the same country Josef Kohout lived. Our grandparents can remeber this time. The thought is almost surreal. May we never forget about these horrors and make sure that something li I am struggling to find the right words. This was truly the most horrific thing I have ever read. To think that this was the reality for thousands and thousands of gay people not so long ago is just unimaginable... I can't help but think of my friends in the LGBTQ+ community and that it could have been them. We live in the same country Josef Kohout lived. Our grandparents can remeber this time. The thought is almost surreal. May we never forget about these horrors and make sure that something like this can never happen again.

  18. 4 out of 5

    V.

    must-read

  19. 5 out of 5

    Ron

    Homosexuals in Nazi Germany has been one of the least documented during the Holocaust. Heinz Heger recounts what he needed to do to survive, particularly accepting Capo lovers for protection, despite being considered as the lowest caste among the prisoners. Yet even after liberation, homosexuals have been prosecuted as criminals and ended back being incarcerated. ++++++++++++ ""I'm living proof that Hitler didn't win. I'm aware of that every day." The speaker is Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim. At th Homosexuals in Nazi Germany has been one of the least documented during the Holocaust. Heinz Heger recounts what he needed to do to survive, particularly accepting Capo lovers for protection, despite being considered as the lowest caste among the prisoners. Yet even after liberation, homosexuals have been prosecuted as criminals and ended back being incarcerated. ++++++++++++ ""I'm living proof that Hitler didn't win. I'm aware of that every day." The speaker is Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim. At the age of eighty-eight, this charming gay man celebrates his birthday twice a year. "You never know," he says." "Within the realm of Holocaust research, gay men belonged for a long time to the so-called group of forgotten victims - those groups of Holocaust victims who for a long time were not acknowl edged as such: the mentally and physically handicapped, prosti tutes, alcoholics, the victims of forced sterilization, and all those who were labeled as asocial or otherwise "alienated to the people" under the Nazi regime. Calling homosexual victims of the Nazis "forgotten victims," however, distorts history. The postwar Ger man government did not simply forget about homosexuals; on the contrary, it actively continued to persecute them, and to justify the efforts of the Nazis in this respect." "For them, the fear did not end with the forces ofliberation. They lived in continual fear of being re-arrested. Some were treated as repeat offenders after the war, under the same law against homosex uality, Paragraph 175 of the criminal code, that was originally put in place in 1871 and which was revised and strengthened by the Nazis. The Nazi version of Paragraph  175 was,  in  fact, explicitly upheld in 1957 by the West German supreme court. Anti-gay laws and prejudice had existed before Hitler came to power, argued the court, and therefore couldn't be seen as peculiar to Nazi ideology." "The vast and irreplaceable library of the Institute for Sexual Science was destroyed in the famous Berlin book burning of May 1933." "The vast and irreplaceable library of the Institute for Sexual Science was destroyed in the famous Berlin book burning of May 1933. The institute, founded by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld in 1919, had become a world-famous leader in the nascent field of sexology, and Hirschfeld was prominent in Germany's early gay movement. As a gay Jewish man, Hirschfeld was denounced by the Nazi propaganda machine as an early symbol of the "decay" of the Weimar Republic; only the good luck ofbeing on a world tour in 1933 prevented his murder.      ." "When Hitler suspected Rohm of plotting against him, Rohm and many others were killed on June 30, 1934. Rohm's homosexuality was then cited as a means of justifying the so-called Night of the Long Knives, and Hitler prom ised in a widely printed public order to rid all Nazi organizations of homosexuals. SS chief Heinrich Himmler carried out this order by creating special police departments and by issuing decrees relating to the racial purity of the SS and police.*" "Ultimately, three arguments pre vented that step. First, lesbianism was seen by many Nazi officials as essentially alien to the nature of the "Aryan" woman. Second, since women were largely excluded from positions of power, there seemed to be no real danger of a "lesbian conspiracy" within high Nazi circles. (There were concerns that homosexual men might embark on such a conspiracy.) The third and most cynical argu ment was also the most influential: "Aryan" lesbians could be used as breeders regardless of their own feelings, and reproduction was the most urgent goal of Nazi population politics." "The pink triangle Police raids and mass arrests of homosexual men became com mon at the end of 1934, when many homosexuals were sent to the first established concentration camps. Their uniforms sometimes bore an identifying mark such as the letter A (from the German word for "ass-fucker"). This mark was later replaced by a pink triangle." "Although the pink triangle has become an international emblem of the gay and lesbian community today, we still know little about the individual fate of those who suffered wearing it. A symbol in vented by the Nazis, the pink triangle was able to become a modern symbol of gay and lesbian pride only because we are not haunted by concrete memories of those who were forced to wear it in the camps. Ours is an empty memo ry. We have few names, and fewer faces: not more than fifteen gay Holocaust survivors have spoken of their experiences, and many of them have asked for anonymity." "Unlike other survivors, the gay prisoners soon discovered that their persecution had not ended. Their concentra tion camp imprisonment became a part of their police record, and increased their vulnerability to police raids. Throughout the 1950s and I960s, German courts convicted homosexual men at a rate as high as that of the Nazi regime. Having survived the concentration camps, some men could not find thestrength to face thissecond wave of persecution. We know of several cases where, after the war, concentration camp survivors were charged for violations of Para graph 175 and committed suicide either before the trial or afterwards in prison. Still more escaped into marriage or intocomplete isolation. While other Holocaust survivors were recognized as survivors by the outside world, the men who wore the pink triangle never re ceived that recognition. They were ignored in the memorials and in the museums. Still seen as criminals and perverts, they never had an opportunity to regain their dignity in postwar society. They survived, but they were denied their place in the community of survivors." "Gay Holocaust survivors received no moral or financial support after 1945 - not from the government, not from Holocaust re searchers, not from the fragile gay and lesbian community. As a result, some internalized Nazi persecution as their own fault, blam ing themselves for not having been smarter in hiding their lives. "It all happened because we stupid queens didn't hide our address books," one survivor told me. Others, showing astonishing cour age for their time, tried to be recognized after the war as victims of the Nazi regime, but they lost their battles in court." "I managed to keep my homoerotic feelings secret even from my mother, though I found it hard not to be able to speak about this to anyone. In the end, however, I confided in her and told her everything that was necessary to get it off my chest - not so much to ask her advice, however, as simply to end this burden of secrecy. "My dear child," she replied, "it's your life, and you must live it. No one can slip out of one skin and into another; you have to make the best of what you are. If you think you can find happiness only with another man, that doesn't make you in any way inferior. Just be careful to avoid bad company, and guard against blackmail, as this is a possible danger. Try to find a lasting friendship, as this will protect you from many perils. I've suspected it for a long time, anyway. You have no need at all to despair. Follow my advice, and remember, whatever happens, you are my son and can always come to me with your problems."" "The colors of the triangles were as follows: yellow for Jews, red for politicals, green for criminals, pink for homosexuals, black for anti-socials, purple for Jehovah's Witnesses, blue for emigrants, brown for Gypsies." "Jews, homosexuals, and Gypsies, the yellow, pink, and brown triangles, were the prisoners who suffered most frequently and most severely from the tortures and blows of the SS and the Capos. They were described as the scum of humanity, who had no right to live on German soil and should be exterminated. Such were the oft-repeated words of the commandant and hisSS subordinates. But the lowest of the low in this "scum" were we, the men with the pink triangle." "• The slang word for homosexual used here is warmer Bruder, literally "hot brother," which gives occasion for a lot of vicious puns." "My dormitory, with 180 prisoners or more, contained the most varied collection of people. Unskilled workers and shop assistants, skilled tradesmen and independent craftsmen, musicians and art ists, professors and clergy, even aristocratic landowners. All of them, before their imprisonment in concentration camps, had been decent people in private life, many indeed highly respected citi zens, who had never come up against the law, but were set apart only by their homosexual feelings. All of these otherwise decent people had been assembled here, in this melting pot of disgrace and torment, the "queer block" of a concentration camp, for extermi nation through back-breaking labor, hunger, and torture." "One of my fellow prisoners, still recognizable as an intellectual despite his battered face and clay-spattered body, was a Jew as well. Beneath the pink triangle he wore the yellow triangle, so that the two together made a star of David. He had to suffer twice-over the chicanery of the SS and the "green" Capos, for being not only queer, but a Jew into the bargain." "Men who did nothing wrong, but who were hounded to death in concentration camps solely for reason of their religion, their origin, their political views, or their feeling for their own sex. Each of the granite pillars that hold up the roadway bridges cost the lives of untold victims - a sea of blood and a mountain of human corpses. Today people are only too willing to throw a cloak of silence and forgetfulness over all of these things." "Visitors were never taken to the Jewish blocks, however, for the ladies and gentlemen from the Red Cross could then have seen how up to three or four men had to lie in one bed, and how they were virtually left to starve." "a domestic servant whom the SS had already told in advance what to say. And since this man would want to hang on to his cushy job, and was well aware of the fists of the SS, he said what he was told to. In this way, the real life of the concentration camps, and the sufferings and tortures of the prisoners, were successfully concealed from the interna tional Red Cross. This is presumably why the humanitarian or ganizations were so outraged about the German camps when they discovered the true situation after the collapse of the Third Reich, as opposed to the pretense that they had accepted on their earlier visits." "After a few days, the block seniors and Capos, or at least the majority of them, all had a young Pole as batman or "cleaner," though the main purpose of these lads was as bed partner for their boss. For the young Poles, however, who were soon almost all disposed of in this way, this situation was far from uncomfortable, for they very quickly realized that without a lover among the "dignitaries" and the extra rations this provided, they would go hungry and have to work as hard as the other prisoners. These young Poles, accordingly, and later young Russians as well, then gladly accepted any proposals that meant both easier work and a full stomach." "These dolly-boys, as they were called in certain other camps, were generally from sixteen to twenty years old. They soon grew to be very cheeky, as they were always protected by their promi nent friends, no matter how arrogantly they behaved toward their fellow prisoners." "The prisoners with the pink triangle were, as always, "filthy queers" in the eyes of the other prisoners, while the very fellow prisoners who insulted and condemned us in this way were quite unperturbed by relationships that the block seniors and Capos had with the young Poles," "What in one case is accepted with a smile is completely forbidden when it is openly proclaimed or made public. Homosexual behavior between two "normal" men is considered an emergency outlet, while the same thing between two gay men, who both feel deeply for one another, is something "filthy" and repulsive." "there was no other choice but to place myself once again under the protection of a block senior or Capo, who would fend off other propositions, provide me with additional rations, and also make sure that I kept my desk job. In return I had to be lover and bed partner at any time when my protector had the desire. Everything has its price." "My stories revealed to them an entire new world of evil." "One thing was, of course, quite clear to me: my will to survive the concentration camp was uncommonly strong, but any such survival against the brutes of the SS had a high price, the price of morality, decency, and honor. I knew this and suffered on account ofit, yet without such friendships with Capos I should not be alive today." "We were still treated by our fellow prisoners, too, with contempt, as queers and "degenerates," still the human refuse that anyone could insult and tread upon." "The prevailing feeling at that time was that the less valuable and less important prisoners should be the ones sent off.* That meant that we were indeed the lowest caste in the concentration camps, even persecuted and sent to our death by our fellow prisoners. This was in no way a "rational" feeling, for who gave them the right to set themselves up as judges over us and classify us in this way, we who had done no harm to anyone?" "We were worried that German planes might attack our camp one night, so as to eradicate from the eyes of posterity one of the greatest shames of the Nazi regime, and then blame this on the Allies. If this did not actually happen, we have not any humane stirring on the part of the Nazi leaders to thank for it, but simply the fact that they had no more gasoline left to fly with." "I shook my head at the very idea of training us concentration-camp prisoners as "were wolves," and said to myself: I am an opponent of Hitler's Germany, so its enemies are not mine. I had never felt myself a German, but always an Austrian. And now we concentration-camp prisoners, who for years had been beaten and tortured by the Nazis, humili ated and degraded, were supposed to help maintain their regime of oppression and racial lunacy, only to be put behind barbed wire after performing our "duty to the Fatherland" -if we didn't perish first. No, in no way; I was absolutely against it." "But had they a right to survive, after acting like beasts all these years? I didn't wish any of them to be killed, or suffer the same tortures that they had inflicted on us, but I certainly wanted to see them punished." "Only we were changed, my mother and I: myself, by violence and oppres sion; my mother, by worry and grief." "I could not banish from my mind the terrible tortures of the concentration camp, the dreadful and beastly brutalities of the SS monsters. I would be listening to a professor, but soon my attention would wander; I would think of the camp, see the tortures again in my mind, and forget the lecture. In hours of quiet, too, pictures of the camp would rise up before my eyes, pictures that I shall never forget as long as I live. Today, people have long stopped talking about the sufferings and killings of the Nazi concentration camps, and no longer want to be reminded of them, but we, the ex-prisoners, will always remember what we suffered." "My request for compensation for the years of concentration camp was rejected by our democratic authorities, for as a pink-tri angled prisoner, a homosexual, I had been condemned for a crimi nal offense, even ifl'd not harmed anyone. No restitution is granted to "criminal" concentration-camp victims." "this rejection became burdensome and depressing. But whether we gays live in Vienna or anywhere else, we can live as decent a life as we want, but the contempt of our fellow humans, and social discrimination, is the same as it was thirty or fifty years ago. The progress of humanity has passed us by." "The death penalty for murder has been abolished on grounds of humanity, and this is certainly a good thing. But why are we homosexuals still treated so inhumanely, why are we still perse cuted and imprisoned by the courts, just as in Hitler's time?* True, our modem "open" society accepts homosexuality in its own way, making plays and films about it, but at the same time homosexuals themselves are despised and persecuted. It is up to science and humanitarian organizations to enlighten people about homosexual ity and put an end to this contradiction. Until this is done, we shall still have to live in the shadows of society, and lead an existence that is not compatible with human dignity." "Scarcely a word has been written on the fact that along with the millions whom Hitler had butchered on grounds of "race," hun dreds of thousands of people were sadistically tortured to death simply for having homosexual feelings. Scarcely anyone has publicized the fact that the madness of Hitler and his gang was not directed just against the Jews, but also against us homosexuals, in both cases leading to the "final solution" of seeking the total annihilation of these human beings. May they never be forgotten, these multitudes of dead, our anonymous, immortal martyrs."

  20. 5 out of 5

    Maureen

    I read two books on this subject with similar titles. The first book is "The Pink Triangle: The Nazi war Against Homosexuals by Richard Plant" I gave that prior book 3 stars because although it was written well it was more of the facts and not personal account. THIS book that I am reviewing now is "The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps by Heinz Heger" (which I found out is his pen name) and is HIS personal account of his years as a ga I read two books on this subject with similar titles. The first book is "The Pink Triangle: The Nazi war Against Homosexuals by Richard Plant" I gave that prior book 3 stars because although it was written well it was more of the facts and not personal account. THIS book that I am reviewing now is "The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps by Heinz Heger" (which I found out is his pen name) and is HIS personal account of his years as a gay man in a concentration camp. I found this book gripping and very very disturbing at times. I give this book 5 stars and reccomend it to anyone wanting to learn more about this forgoton group of people in the holocaust. Not only is it written well, it is a short book so you will be done with it in a few days..it's under 120 pages. There are so few books that address the experiences of the homosexual concentration camp victims, and yet there were thousands of these "pink triangle" men in the camps. they all had to wear pink triangles..the Nazi's had a color code for everyone and they even forced the "pink triangle' men to have bigger triangles than any other group since they were the 'most hated'. The "pink triangle" men were despised by their fellow prisoners; even the murderers and thieves viewed themselves as "morally superior" to the "degenerates" who had violated Paragraph 175 (the law against homosexuality). The man was repeatedly insulted and abused for his orientation (at one point being sexually assaulted by fellow prisoners on the way to a concentration camp). There is a lot of discussion about human sexuality and its role in trying circumstances (many of the other prisoners in positions in authority had male lovers, although they'd vehemently deny that they were gay). Never thought about how when the gay men got released society wouldn't accept them once freed like the the Jewish people were. He tried to go back to college and couldn't concentrate or get through the day. The way it is written is raw and even has a few sarcastic 'funny' lines thrown in here and there which the reader needs after envisioning some of the torture going on. I am still thinking about this book. Again, this is the book by Heinz Heger and not the book by Richard Plant.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Michelle Webber

    A collection of stories about homosexual people rounded up and tortured in death camps during WWII, this is absolutely not light reading and not for the faint of heart. While the extermination of millions of Jews is the main topic of discussion when covering the Holocaust (as well it should be), it is equally as important to call out and memorialize the others who were marginalized, targeted, and killed for openly being themselves. The stories are real, horrific, and depressing. However, occasio A collection of stories about homosexual people rounded up and tortured in death camps during WWII, this is absolutely not light reading and not for the faint of heart. While the extermination of millions of Jews is the main topic of discussion when covering the Holocaust (as well it should be), it is equally as important to call out and memorialize the others who were marginalized, targeted, and killed for openly being themselves. The stories are real, horrific, and depressing. However, occasionally there is also an element of heartbreaking beauty as the determination to survive shines through some of the narratives. The human spirit is beautiful. This book was recommended to me while I was in a university class on the Holocaust. As a queer person, I thought I was prepared for what I was going to read because I already had a basic understanding of what happened to homosexuals during the Holocaust. But to read true stories, to connect with these abused and hated people... well, it reminded me of how far we still have yet to come in terms of queer acceptance in this world. Even now, people are still being murdered because they are living their truths openly as trans women. Gay youths kill themselves due to bullying at school. We are still "other" and often a target of fear and anger. So when I read this, it just reminded me that not a ton has actually changed; our direct abuse is just not systematically sanctioned right now. After I read this book, I felt devastated. I felt helpless. But... I am so glad it exists. Collections like these expose just one of the many strains of abhorrent treatment of marginalized people in history, and absolutely needs to be canonized in classes so young people learn about the horrible things people have done to one another because of differences and fear, which leads to anger and violence. As human beings, our empathy seems to be waning, and I'm indignant that reading these kinds of books is necessary to build empathy. Doing so might just keep us from repeating the same, awful atrocities.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Cassie

    Sometimes there are books that as you read them that you can't stop yourself from crying because they are a truth that one can't fathom within themselves. This was one of those books. A gay survivor of a concentration camp tells his story to Heinz Heger, but only under the pretenses that he remains anonymous. Through this story we discover the life of a pink triangle (gay male) in the concentration camp. We are drawn into this story in a profound way because we see the survival techniques that t Sometimes there are books that as you read them that you can't stop yourself from crying because they are a truth that one can't fathom within themselves. This was one of those books. A gay survivor of a concentration camp tells his story to Heinz Heger, but only under the pretenses that he remains anonymous. Through this story we discover the life of a pink triangle (gay male) in the concentration camp. We are drawn into this story in a profound way because we see the survival techniques that the man had to use to survive throughout his years in the camps. He had to resort to things that he never thought he would have to do in his life, but he did them because life was that important to him (which it is for almost everyone). While there is one graphic scene (involving a camp guard getting pleasure from the whipping of prisoners) the majority of the book opens up the doors of the workings of the concentration camps. You learn the chain of command and the inner workings in a way that many other books about the Holocaust simply do not do. It also shows you the world that these men with the pink triangle found themselves in and how they were treated worse than many of the other people because of their homosexuality. This book has so much that one can take from it that it is a bit overwhelming, but when you close the book you will be better off for doing so. It can help you understand why hatred for this particular group still exists even in our modern society, but why we need to learn not to be so hateful.

  23. 5 out of 5

    Kaia Landelius

    The topic is so important, but the way this book was written was, while a very quick read, more like a written report. At the very end that is explained: this is the story as told by Josef Kohout to his acquaintance Hans Neumann, who published it under the pen name Heinz Hegel. Kohout never actually read the finished version, and when he was told there were some factual errors (his age, among other things) he just waved it away. But yes: Kohout survived his time in the camp by becoming the (extre The topic is so important, but the way this book was written was, while a very quick read, more like a written report. At the very end that is explained: this is the story as told by Josef Kohout to his acquaintance Hans Neumann, who published it under the pen name Heinz Hegel. Kohout never actually read the finished version, and when he was told there were some factual errors (his age, among other things) he just waved it away. But yes: Kohout survived his time in the camp by becoming the (extremely secret) lover of several men with a slightly higher status. He was given somewhat better treatment that way, being moved from gruelling work outdoors to an administrative position, a little bit more food, and at times, being saved from severe punishment. It's heartbreaking, the things he does to survive, and it's a really important story to be told, especially in the current political climate. After the war it turned out that he (or any other homosexual man) would not be given any compensation for their time in the camp. Why? Because homosexuality was a crime in Austria until 1971, and as criminals sent to concentration camps had no right to compensation, this included homosexuals. He and many others were given the advice to 'upgrade' their triangle from pink to red (political prisoner) so they would qualify. Some did do this, but Kohout refused. He died in 1994, never having received compensation. I feel like there's no way to properly wrap up this review. But yes. Read this.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Suvi

    Thank you goes to Josef Kohout for sharing us his experiences. This kind of perspective is completely new for most, but it really shouldn't be. Whenever fear surfaces as differentiating people by some quality they have, alarm bells should be ringing in the heads of each of us. A family member once asked (someone who seems to be doing that differentiating thing quite a lot) why I always keep reading about horrific stuff like this. Well, you don't have to surround yourself with this kind of materi Thank you goes to Josef Kohout for sharing us his experiences. This kind of perspective is completely new for most, but it really shouldn't be. Whenever fear surfaces as differentiating people by some quality they have, alarm bells should be ringing in the heads of each of us. A family member once asked (someone who seems to be doing that differentiating thing quite a lot) why I always keep reading about horrific stuff like this. Well, you don't have to surround yourself with this kind of material, but you can't grow up in a barrel full of cotton either. That's just plain ignorance. Besides, when you know what happens when fear takes control, you know that there's actually just the one side you can choose if you have enough sense of justice and respect towards another human being. An example: either you think homosexuals deserve equal rights, or you don't. If you think they don't, you can just take your head from your ass for a moment, and reflect with this book in hand. By the way, double standard's a bitch. Homosexual behavior between two 'normal' men is considered an emergency outlet, while the same thing between two gay men, who both feel deeply for one another, is something 'filthy' and repulsive.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Keith

    This was an emotional read for me. I was incredibly sad for the extreme torture and abuse both physically and mentally these gay men suffered in the concentration camps. Also, I was extremely angry that they were tortured and abused by men who were suppressing their own homosexuality. The thought in my mind as I read these horrific accounts was of course the men who abuse, bash, tourture gay men in the most extreme ways are most always gay men themselves. The abuse I suffered at the hands of one This was an emotional read for me. I was incredibly sad for the extreme torture and abuse both physically and mentally these gay men suffered in the concentration camps. Also, I was extremely angry that they were tortured and abused by men who were suppressing their own homosexuality. The thought in my mind as I read these horrific accounts was of course the men who abuse, bash, tourture gay men in the most extreme ways are most always gay men themselves. The abuse I suffered at the hands of one guy in high school, I found out many years later was gay himself. Then reading that these gay men who wore the pink triangles were never recognized as holocaust survivors after their liberation from the camp was astonishing to me. Then once liberated still suffered tremendously due to Paragraph 175 for being homosexual.

  26. 5 out of 5

    Niklas Pivic

    This is a recent translation of a book which is a statement of a homosexual man who was sent to the concentration camps during the Second World War, as told to another person. It is very well written, contains much information on the day-to-day life of "the men wearing pink triangles" - the pink triangle symbolising that the wearer is homosexual - in a concentration camp. Being homosexual, they were considered as bad as Jews and Romani people, and even worse than the pedofiles and convicted crimin This is a recent translation of a book which is a statement of a homosexual man who was sent to the concentration camps during the Second World War, as told to another person. It is very well written, contains much information on the day-to-day life of "the men wearing pink triangles" - the pink triangle symbolising that the wearer is homosexual - in a concentration camp. Being homosexual, they were considered as bad as Jews and Romani people, and even worse than the pedofiles and convicted criminals (not that being convicted during the nazi regime actually meant something). All in all: naturally very upsetting, but not written as a scare tactic, but very upfront. The afterword is especially interesting, while Jonas Gardell's self-serving foreword is quite bad.

  27. 4 out of 5

    Gary Smith

    This was a good book, terribly sad and depressing yet a good book. Man kind and their ability to harm others still baffles me. Many tactics I was unaware of are discussed in this book and I feel it would be beneficial for more people to know about the homosexuals who were murdered during the holocaust (in fact they were above Jews, Jehovah's witnesses, gypsies and political prisoners in the Nazi scheme). On the basis of human nature I truly love the quote in this book by a beaten homosexual prie This was a good book, terribly sad and depressing yet a good book. Man kind and their ability to harm others still baffles me. Many tactics I was unaware of are discussed in this book and I feel it would be beneficial for more people to know about the homosexuals who were murdered during the holocaust (in fact they were above Jews, Jehovah's witnesses, gypsies and political prisoners in the Nazi scheme). On the basis of human nature I truly love the quote in this book by a beaten homosexual priest: " and yet man is good, he is a creature of god" and another prisoner's response: "not all men; there are also beasts in human form, whom the devil must have made".

  28. 5 out of 5

    Beau

    This was perhaps the most difficult read of my life, not because it wasn't interesting, but because it was so difficult to imagine the horror of it all. As a gay man, I can only think that it could have been me, a different region, a different time, and it could have been me. Heinz Heger tells the story in such a way that the reader gets tiny glimmers of light when the darkness is almost too much. There is very little in this book that is good or positive, but his determined spirit carries you th This was perhaps the most difficult read of my life, not because it wasn't interesting, but because it was so difficult to imagine the horror of it all. As a gay man, I can only think that it could have been me, a different region, a different time, and it could have been me. Heinz Heger tells the story in such a way that the reader gets tiny glimmers of light when the darkness is almost too much. There is very little in this book that is good or positive, but his determined spirit carries you through. Highly recommended.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Jay Kovach

    I love this book. I like personal accounts of major events both tragic and triumphant. I would have liked to have had it been longer considering how few of these particular accounts exist involving the Holocaust. A must read regardless of the writing quality. Good or bad. As I don't think many know about what homosexuals went through during this or the true origin of the pink triangle. It is an easy read and a quick book to make your way through. Very to the point. I love this book. I like personal accounts of major events both tragic and triumphant. I would have liked to have had it been longer considering how few of these particular accounts exist involving the Holocaust. A must read regardless of the writing quality. Good or bad. As I don't think many know about what homosexuals went through during this or the true origin of the pink triangle. It is an easy read and a quick book to make your way through. Very to the point.

  30. 5 out of 5

    wrench

    This is an essential, and well-written primary source for writing on the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany. I'm currently researching this topic for an upcoming assignment, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know! This is an essential, and well-written primary source for writing on the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany. I'm currently researching this topic for an upcoming assignment, so if anyone has any recommendations, please let me know!

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