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   "Gay Prisoners in Concentration Camps as Compared with Jehovah's
   Witnesses and Political Prisoners 

   Ruediger Lautmann

   "Historians in Germany argue about how universal the historical
   character of national socialism was.  One conservative faction
   would like to view the communist system as responsible for fascism.
   Because Marxism was victorious in Russia, the Fascist parties were
   able to win in Italy and Germany.  This speculation claims that the
   destruction of social class distinctions by the Bolsheviks prepared
   the way for racial murders of the Nazis.  The extermination of the
   Jews is presented as a distorted copy of a previous model, rather
   than as a unique occurrence.  Other social scientists have
   protested against viewing Nazi crimes in such a relativistic way.
   They see an aura of normality being created and fear that the basic
   anti fascist consensus in the Federal republic might end.  They are
   also apprehensive about the analogy to current politics and warn
   against a restoration by means of history.  

   "The dispute concerns the question: Is the Holocaust continuous with
   the rest of European history, or does it represent a unique event,
   a break in the continuum of history?  Such exciting and dangerous
   speculation belongs to a sort of metaphysical thinking that has a
   long tradition in German historiography.  As a sociologist, I would
   like to take a more modest starting point: Is what the Nazis did to
   their internal enemies unique or totally surprising?  

   "Investigating concentration camps from a sociological perspective,
   one does not confront a phenomenon that is singular and
   interesting, while at the same time ordinary and banal.  No special
   attention is given to the "actors of history." Investigation into
   the structure and procedures of the concentration camps inevitably
   leads to comparison with other institutionS and some form of
   differentiation.  A morsel of normality is discovered in the
   atrocities, without in the least belittling them.  

   "Regarding Nazi atrocities in this way has its price; it represses
   emotion.  It focuses on details, rather than on the Holocaust as a
   whole.  Understanding the preconditions of a terror means studying
   its construction, develop ment, and operation in detail.  In this
   essay, I would like to consider the aims of the terror and
   concentrate on the non-Jewish categories of prisoners, using
   homosexuals as an example.  

   "Extermination or Reeducation?  The concentration camp was one
   weapon in the campaign to bring state and society into conformity
   with fascism.  If physical extermination formed the most frightful
   instrument of that policy, it was not the only one.  A range of
   attempts were made to isolate people and to use fear to inhibit
   "undesirable" behavior.  Whatever the reasons for imprisonment, all
   incarcerations were the result of Nazi ideology and posed a danger
   to the prisoner's life.  The categories of prisoners differed from
   one another in how they were selected and treated.  Those groups
   whom the Nazis deemed inimical but not racially undesirable were
   not completely rounded up, but taken only in random samples They
   also fared differently within the camps.  Homosexuals, political
   prisoners, and Jehovah's Witnesses are among the groups who were
   sent to the concentration camps for reeducation.  They were
   supposed to renounce their particular orientation.  The very fact
   of their incarceration restrained their ideological comrades
   outside the camps from becoming active in the struggle against

   "Democratic freedom makes pluralism possible.  In democracies,
   deviations from the norm concern not only criminality but also
   sexuality, ethnicity, religion, and attitudes toward work.  The
   Nazi system was concerned with deviations in all these areas.  It
   classified political, sexual, religious, and working-attitude
   deviations in separate categories.  In all probability, the
   Hitlerian state required these definitions of the enemy and was, in
   its own terms, correct in its choice of these groups.  Within a
   society, minority and separationist groups represent a seedbed of
   possible revolt.  Homosexuality has always and everywhere existed.
   Hitler considered homosexuality as a predisposition that could not
   be changed.  It was assumed that a homosexual orientation could not
   be eliminated, that only its manifestations could be blocked.
   Thus, the pink triangle worn by the homosexual in the concentration
   camp represented the Nazis' intention to reeducate him.  Severe
   measures were in fact intended only as behavioristic conditioning:
   a way to cause unlearning through aversion.  

   "No credence was placed in a simple change of opinion by
   homosexuals, such as was granted to Jehovah's Witnesses, who were
   not taken entirely seriously, or even to political prisoners.  Two
   categories were seen among homosexuals: the constitutionally
   hard-boiled homosexual and the occasional offender.  Since in
   neither case was the Aryan status of the homosexual in doubt, all
   could remain alive.  If necessary, homosexuals were to be
   castrated, but they were permitted to continue to work.  As a
   matter of policy, extermination was therefore restrained.  In
   practice there were other contrary impulses on the part of the SS,
   and those who wore the pink triangle met an unusually harsh fate.
   The social controls directed at homosexuals within the camp
   represented a continuation and an intensification of social
   controls imposed by society at large.  

   "Continuity of Social Control At the beginning of this essay, I
   mentioned the questionable attempt of some historians to deny the
   uniqueness of the Third Reich, to historicise it and to externalize
   responsibility.  This approach has nothing to do with the
   connection I would like to establish here between society as a
   whole and society inside the camps.  This continuity remains within
   the German context and does not seek its origins outside the
   frontiers of the Reich.  The concentration camp was an extreme
   instance of social control.  It mixed ordinary and singular
   characteristics of social regulation.  For example, it was and is
   "normal" to categorize and stigmatize people; it is "singular" to
   ascribe total uselessness to a certain group.  It is "normal" to
   organize the life of an inmate; it is "singular" to view the life
   of a prisoner as being of almost no value.  It is "normal" to
   devalue homosexual activities and to impose certain disadvantages
   on those who engage in them; it is "singular" to impose this
   devaluation by physical force and without constitutional
   procedures.  It is "normal" (up to the present day) to stigmatize
   homosexuals; it is "singular" to attempt to eliminate homosexual
   life-styles and to destroy the subculture completely by organizing
   police raids.  

   "The closer a prisoner's category was to the heart of Nazi ideology,
   the more dangerous his circumstances in the camp.  Furthermore, the
   more repressively a group was controlled in society, the harder the
   fate of its members within the camp.  Increasing the number of
   those sentenced, and imposing stricter rules in the military and
   party organizations, was followed by an increased death rate in the
   camp.  The more marginal the social position of a group, the more
   marginal their position was within the camp.  

   "The prisoners with the pink triangle had certainly shown "precamp"
   qualities of survival, but they did not get a chance to apply these
   qualities in the camp.  Because their subculture and organizations
   outside had been wantonly destroyed, no group solidarity developed
   inside the camp.  Since outside the concentration camp homosexuals
   were regarded as effete, they were given no tasks of
   self-administration inside the camps.  Since every contact outside
   was regarded as suspicious, homosexuals did not even dare to speak
   to one another inside (as numerous survivors have reported in
   interviews).  Since homosexuals were generally regarded as
   worthless, their fellow prisoners had a lower regard for them.
   Thus, few accounts of the pink triangles exist, and those that do
   exist have a spiteful flavor.  

   "Differences between Prisoner Categories To regard the prisoners
   according to their categories means distinguishing between major
   and minor sufferings.  Is that permissible?  We could even ask: Is
   social science still possible after Auschwitz?  Nevertheless,
   various developments have virtually given a positive answer to
   these questions.  After 1945 differences in the fate of different
   groups of prisoners have been recognized by differences in
   compensation.  Research, too, has given varying degrees of
   attention to the different groups of victims.  The color of the
   assigned triangle (i.e., the prisoner category) was the basis for a
   collective fate.  

   "In my empirical research, I have sifted all extant documents to
   examine the names and data on all concentration camp prisoners
   registered as being homosexual.' I found the data for about 1,500
   homosexuals (This is a complete survey of the quite incomplete
   documents).  I chose as control groups Jehovah's Witnesses (about
   750) and political prisoners (200).  Each category of prisoner
   seemed to possess a characteristic social profile.  If we look at
   the distribution according to age upon committal to a camp, the
   Jehovah's Witnesses predominate in the somewhat older age group
   (from 35), and the homosexuals in the second somewhat younger one
   (20-35).  Committal figures have regular curves, which are quite
   different for the three groups.  For homosexuals the year 1942
   marks the peak (with a quarter of all committals), and for
   Jehovah's Witnesses the years 1937 and 1938 (half of all
   committals) are the peaks.  The committal figures for the
   politicals remain at the same level, with a slight rise toward the
   year 1944.  The death rate for homosexual prisoners (60 percent)
   was one and a half times as high as for political prisoners (41
   percent) and Jehovah's Witnesses (35 percent).  Some background
   variables, such as professional status, [continued after table

   "TABLE 20.1
   Death Rate According to Category and Professional Status
                   Lower           Lower   Middle          All
                   Classes         Middle  and Above       (%)
                   (%)             (%)     (%)

   Homosexuals     54.6            52.6    50.1            53.0
                   (328)           (114)   (219)           (661)

   Jehovah's       34.5            36.6    34.6            34.7
   Witnesses       (374)           (52)    (81)            (507)

   Politicals      40.2            38.9    42.9            40.5
                   (122)           (18)    (28)            (168)
   Note: Figures in parentheses are based on social groups of a 
   prisoner category, insofar as its fate is known (dead, liberated, 
   or released).  

   marital status, and number of children, have been considered.  Thus
   far, the individual variables tested do not cancel the connection
   between the victim group and the risk of death.  Reading the many
   reports and asking the prisoners' committees (which still exist
   today) about the prisoners with the pink triangles, one repeatedly
   learns that they were there, but nobody can tell you anything about
   them.  Quantitative analysis offers a sad explanation for the
   extraordinary lack of visibility: the individual pink-triangle
   prisoner was likely to live for only a short time in the camp and
   then to disappear from the scene.  After four months, one in four
   had left; after a year, one in two.  It was otherwise for the
   Jehovah Witnesses and politicals: after a year four out of five and
   two out of three, respectively, were still in the camp.  This
   thinning out is due to deaths: three out of four deaths among the
   homosexuals occurred within the first year after their committal.
   In comparison with the red and violet triangles, the pink triangle
   seems to signify a category of less value.  The destinies of Jews
   and homosexuals within the camp approximate each other.  In the
   concentration camp, both groups found themselves at the bottom of
   the current hierarchy below the non-Jewish racially defined groups
   of prisoners.  

   "The collective devaluation of the wearers of certain triangles
   supports the idea of a connection between internal camp treatment
   of the marginal groups and the sociostructural control they were
   subjected to in society at large.  With regard to the homosexuals,
   there were many reports of how the SS deliberately treated them
   brutally and how the other prisoners looked [continued after

   "TABLE 20.2
   Survival Rate According to Category and Marital Status
                   Married         Single, Divorced, Widowed
                   (%)             (%)

   Homosexuals     51.4            47.7
                   (74)            (451)
   Jehovah's       66.2            66.3
   Witnesses       (361)           (146)

   Politicals      65.4            52.4
                   (81)            (84)
   Note Figures in parentheses are based on social groups of a 
   prisoner category, insofar as its fate is known (dead, liberated, 
   or released).  

   TABLE 20. 3
   Survival Rate According to Category and Number of Children
                           With            Childless
                           (%)             (%)
   Homosexuals             56.6            49.2
                           (69)            (366)
   Jehovah's Witnesses     62.9            59.8
                           (240)           (179)
   Politicals              60.3            56.9
                           (78)            (72)
   Note Figures in parentheses are based on social groups of a 
   prisoner category, insofar as its fate is known (dead, liberated, 
   or released).  

   down upon them.  This contrasts with reports stating that Jehovah's
   Witnesses were admired outside the camp or that politicals were
   full of respect for one another's activities.  Analytical
   scientific literature also draws the connection between the
   prestige of a triangle and the treatment of the victim category
   concerned.  Insofar as the pink triangle appears at all in the
   historical literature, the tendency is in the direction of
   antihomosexual prejudice.  There is a tendency of the literature to
   associate the pink triangle with the criminal green.  The few
   surviving pink-triangle wearers were treated similarly by state and
   society after 1945, when cautious attempts toward compensation were
   finally and definitely rejected.  Interviews with such survivors
   revealed that for many years they never told anyone they had been
   in a concentration camp.  The extreme devaluation was accepted as a
   self-evaluation.  Gay interest groups arose again only in the
   1950s, and the movement as a whole took until the 19705 to return
   to the position it had held in 1932.  Noticeably often, ex-wearers
   of the pink triangle report that they subsequently got
   married."(Berenbaum, 200-206)


   1.  See my book Seminar: Gesellschaft und Homosexualitaet
   (Frankfurt am Main, i 1977), chap.  8, especially pp.  325-65.  For
   some descriptive results, see my | article "The Pink Triangle: The
   Homosexual Males in Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany," Journal
   of Homosexuality 6 ( 1981):141-60.  This is reprinted in Salvatore
   J.  Licata and Robert P.  Peterson, ed ., Historical Perspectives
   on a Homosexuality (New York, 1981). 

                               Work Cited 

   Berenbaum, Michael, Ed.  A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted
   and Murdered by the Nazis.  New York: New York University Press,

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