Paragraph 175 was a provision of the German Criminal Code established in May 1871 that made homosexual acts between males a crime. It was not until the German Nazi party in 1935 broadened the law so that the courts could prosecute any “lewd act” whatsoever, even one involving no physical contact. That move caused convictions of gay men under Paragraph 175 yo multiply by a factor of ten to over 8,000 per year by 1937.
Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for gay men in Germany, on April 4, 1938, the Gestapo publicly announced that men condemned for homosexuality would be deported to concentration camps.
Under the orders of Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, the police the Gestapo arrested around 100,000 men suspected of the crime of homosexuality.
In his memoirs, Rudolf Hoess, commandant at Auschwitz, describes how the camp guards would often assign homosexuals forced to wear pink triangles for recognition to some of the most dangerous jobs and they were sometimes separated from other prisoners to prevent homosexuality being “propagated” to other inmates and guards. Judges and officials at SS camps could even order the castration of homosexual prisoners without consent whenever they wished.
Survival in camps took on many forms. Some homosexual prisoners secured administrative and clerical jobs. For other prisoners, sexuality became a means of survival despite the Gestapo’s best attempts to stop it. In exchange for sexual favors, some Kapos protected a chosen prisoner, usually of young age, giving him extra food and shielding him from the abuses of other prisoners
SS doctors also performed cruel experiments on prisoners to “cure” them of their homosexuality. In fact, these tests resulted in illnesses, mutilations and the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of gay prisoners.
Even though there are no definite statistics on the number of homosexuals murdered at the Nazi camps, estimates range anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 gay men were detained in concentration camps under the Nazi regime with little chance of survival.
Paragraph 175 stayed in effect in Germany until 1969. Even after the concentration camps were liberated gay prisoners who had survived would be sent to sent to regular prisons to finish out the terms of their sentences.
In 1985, gays and lesbians had wanted to place a plaque in the camp at Dachau, but it was not until 10 years later, in 1995, that they would be officially recognized as victims of the Holocaust