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First published at eurOut.


In the current issue of their journal German history teacher's platform Lernen aus der Geschichte (Learning from History) focuses on the situation of homosexuals in National Socialist Germany.

The issue, titled Homophobe Traditionen (Homophobe Traditions) summarises previous work on the subject and recommends teaching material, all of which is equally educational even if you aren't a history teacher.

What I found most interesting is the fact that § 175, the law which prohibited homosexuality in Germany, hasn't only been in effect during the Nazi regime. In fact it predates the NS takeover by about 60 years; it just had been seriously tightened in 1935. This section of German law didn't get reformed until the late 1960s which lead to homosexuals who had been convicted during Nazi times to still have a criminal record once the war was over.

Dr Thomas Rahe argues that the reason why homosexuals have long been overlooked as a persecuted minority hasn't been because they had been forgotten but because homosexuals remained discriminated against and thus there didn't seem to be the need for rehabilitation and restitution. Relatives often hushed up family history because homosexuality had still been a cause for shame.

It is important to note that § 175 only banned homosexuality between men; it didn't say anything about lesbians. Women in general hadn't been seen as that important. There were theories that women didn't have a sex drive of their own, which naturally was on odds with the existence of lesbians.
Lesbian Jews were prosecuted because they were Jews and not because they were lesbians. Lesbian members of the resistance were prosecuted and deported because of their political activities.
Gudrun Hauer (p 11) [translation, ed.]
The corresponding law on Austrian territory, § 129, did include lesbians as well. About 5% of convicted homosexuals had been women, but there still remains research to be done on how often this lead to them being sent to concentration camps.

That lesbians hadn't been systematically prosecuted by the Nazi regime in the same way gay men have been, of course, doesn't mean that lesbians haven't been discriminated against because of their sexuality, Gudrun Hauer points out.

It seems that lesbians have been more affected by national socialist women's politics than by politics regarding homosexuals (page 23). The role a woman had to fulfil was to be a good mother and produce offspring for the nation. Measures to ensure that women weren't able to lead a self-sufficient life hit lesbians the hardest.

Regardless if you're a teacher or not, if you speak German I can only encourage you to give this issue a read. It provides a concise overview over latest publications, exhibitions and documentaries about the position of gays and lesbians in Nazi Germany.

If you don't speak German do have a look at the website. Even though the majority of the site and the journal itself are in German, there is an international section which provides a lot of information and suggestions for further reading as well as room for discussions in English.


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You can download the march issue of Lernen aus der Geschichte's journal here: Homophobe Traditionen - Verfolgung von Lesben und Schwulen im Nationalsozialismus [pdf | 250 KB | German]

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joan_psmith: name icon (Default)
Joan Y. Psmith
"Because we're grown-ups now, and it's our turn to decide what that means."
~ xkcd

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