FROM ELDORADO TO THE THIRD REICH
The Life & Death of a Homosexual Culture
The Life & Death of a Homosexual Culture
In the month of April 1945, Allied units advancing across Germany finally brought an end to the Nazi fantasy of a Thousand Year Reich. During those eventful weeks, the liberation of the concentration camps stirred the deepest feelings of revulsion even in hardened veterans of combat. For most of the soldiers, the camps provided the first full evidence of the massive apparatus of state terror they had joined forces to fight.
Among the liberators of Dachau – the camp near Munich which had been established as a prototype for the National Socialist system of human annihilation – was a twenty-one year old GI from New York named Robert Fleischer. He later recalled the experience in these words:
The roads were clogged with walking skeletons in those striped uniforms. They could hardly drag themselves along. I tried to talk to them, and they didn't know any English. All of a sudden, it dawned on me to ask, "Du bist Juden?" – "Are you Jewish?" A man nodded "Ja," and I said, "Me too." [Another prisoner] came up to me... and he started kissing my hand. I was so upset, I said to myself, "How dare the world do this to two human beings? Who am I that he should kiss my hand because he's free? 1
Fleischer had immediately sought out fellow Jews among the liberated, since the Nazi ideology of anti-semitism had already been acknowledged and widely condemned outside Germany. But the young American had no way of knowing that he might look for another class of prisoners with whom he shared an affinity, a class that had been among the first singled out for internment at Dachau over a decade earlier: prisoners who, like Fleischer himself, were homosexual.
Fleischer's testimony strikes me as an apposite starting point, for it reminds us of the historical invisibility of the homosexual victims of the Nazi regime – a situation that has started to change only in recent years. At the same time, his words remind us that the Jewish people were Hitler's primary target – and that we must therefore attempt to understand the relationship between the Nazis' persecution of homosexuals and the regime's eventual pursuit of anti-semitic genocide.
What I would like to do this afternoon is give you a basic overview of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, focusing on four areas: 1) the social and political development of homosexuality in modern Germany; 2) the elaboration of anti-homosexual politics as part of a broader right-wing political ideology in the pre-Nazi period; 3) the fate of homosexual culture in Germany after Hitler's rise to power; and 4) and the connections and discontinuities between the Nazi campaign against homosexuals and the Holocaust against the Jews.
While necessarily brief, I hope that this sketch will present some of the complexities in a very difficult historical terrain – a terrain which queers, Jews, and others vulnerable to persecution in our society continue to search for whatever example it may give us for survival in our current struggles. Because our effort to comprehend this history is necessarily an ongoing collaboration between academics, independent scholars and concerned communities, I encourage you to join in a critical discussion after the talk.
EMERGENCE OF A HOMOSEXUAL MINORITY (1830's - 1920's)
To understand what happened to homosexuals under the Nazi regime, it is useful to provide a groundwork by first considering two questions: 1) How was homosexuality constructed in the place and time under consideration; and by extension, 2) What phenomena did the Nazis' campaign of anti-homosexual persecution target for eradication?
From our own experience in the United States and Western Europe, most of us are familiar with the concept of homosexuals as an cultural minority – a somewhat indistinct class of people grouped by sexual and social affinities, exhibiting special types of identity and self-manifestation, inhabiting specific urban territories, forming social networks, and pursuing collective cultural and political aims. This is, of course, not an inevitable or natural organization of homosexual desire, but rather a specifically modern construct.
In the century before the Nazi period, homosexual expression in Germany developed rapidly toward a construction in many ways similar to this contemporary form. Industrialization from the 1830's through the 1870's produced an enormous expansion in urban centers linked into a national network by new intercity rail lines. Displaced from the traditional lifeways of more isolated and internally unified rural communities, the burgeoning populace of these cities possessed a mobility and heterogeneity that encouraged the emergence of new social groupings. 2
Police records from the mid-nineteenth century, for example, show urban points of transit and anonymous interaction – train stations, public parks, and so on – quickly developing as territories for men seeking out homosexual encounters with strangers. As these patterns of interaction became more established, participants began elaborating flexible social codes – ranging from subtle shifts in styles of speech and dress to displaying elements of cross-gender behavior – to suggest their availability to interested parties, while at the same time attempting to elude hostile attention from the dominant culture.
In the last decades of the century, these clandestine, risky, and somewhat random phenomena developed into an increasingly distinct subculture as the middle- and working-classes acquired a modicum of leisure time and developed commercial territories for extensive social interaction outside the home. For example, by the 1880's in the larger German cities, scattered cafés catering to a homosexual men were facilitating sexual interactions and making enduring social networks possible.
Of course, the institutions of power in German society did not view this gradual rearrangement of the terrain of sex and gender as benign. The legal system, for instance, sought to extend its regulation of male gender roles and sexual behavior by codifying homosexual activity and its attendant social expressions as criminal offenses. After the independent German states were unified in 1871, harsh Prussian laws against male homosexual behavior were imposed and enforced nationwide.3
By contrast, the law made no mention of lesbian activity – a measure not of women's freedom, but of the extent to which women were still controlled by exclusion from the labor market and the public territories of social and political life dominated by men. Economic dependence on fathers or husbands and culturally-enforced responsibilities for housekeeping, child-bearing and child-rearing served to limit lesbian sexual expression and to deflect the anxious gaze of lawmakers.
The medical establishment in Germany quickly moved to surpass the law in this area. By the 1870's, physicians were classifying both women and men who experienced homosexual desire as genetic degenerates or pathological personality types. Such assessments usually made distinctions between supposedly innate cases of inversion and those where the vice was acquired. And they usually emphasized cross-gender behavior and the putative threat of contagion to justify stern counter-measures. Psychiatric specialists such as Richard von Krafft-Ebbing and Carl von Westphal published studies to elaborate these theories and to advance therapeutic intervention as a means of social control superior to criminal sanctions.4 As we will see, these medical imperatives would be carried to their most repressive extreme under the Nazis.
From the 1880's into the Nazi era, religious organizations similarly waged a concerted "moral purity" campaign against phenomena which they regarded as urban vice and decadence – abortion, prostitution, sexually-oriented publications and amusements, women working outside the home, homosexual relations – in short, the signs of changing gender and social structures characteristic of modern life. The most prominent of these efforts were associated with the Inner Mission, the national Protestant social welfare organization, which distributed tracts, set up youth groups, lobbied against legal reform, and advocated castration of sex offenders.5
Despite such attempts at regulation, the subcultures of homosexual men and women continued developing – albeit in a fairly precarious form – in the years before World War I. This development was grounded in two broader social shifts: 1) the emergence of sexuality in general into the public and more specifically the commercial sphere; and 2) the movement of women into factory work and into the rapidly expanding secretarial field – a movement that for the first time offered personal independence to significant numbers of working- and middle-class women.
After the turn of the century, sexual, social, and intellectual territories for homosexual men and women were expanding to include cafés and pastry shops, beer cellars, nightclubs, bath houses, bookstores, sports and hobby clubs, small hotels, apartment buildings and sections of neighborhoods. In some cases, these were mixed settings where the greeting ranged from toleration to genuine welcome; in others, they were specifically homosexual milieus, often run by entrepreneurs who were themselves homosexual. By 1914, Berlin alone had an estimated 40 homosexual bars – including a number catering particularly to lesbians – several homosexual periodicals, and one- to two-thousand male prostitutes. By the early 1920's, similar developments on a smaller scale had appeared in other German cities.6
For homosexuals whose primary experience had been isolation and confusion, the discovery of urban queer life could be a revelation. To quote from one contemporary observer, Magnus Hirschfeld – about whom we shall hear more shortly – "Uranians have been seen arriving from the depths of the provinces weeping tears of joy at the sight of this spectacle."7 The sense many homosexuals shared about Berlin was reflected in the name of the German capital's most famous queer nightclub of the 1920s and early 1930s, where the art déco neon signs spelled out "Eldorado" – recalling the mythic land of gold which the Conquistadors had sought in vain. And to make sure no that one missed the point, two large signs over the main entrance announced: "You've found it!"8
MEN, WOMEN & THE POLITICS OF HOMOSEXUALITY (1860's - 1920's)
Efforts to organize German homosexuals politically emerged in tandem with the profound social changes that we have just been considering. For homosexual men, this struggle developed primarily as a specific movement to reverse the medical discourse of the homosexual personality type into a depathologized "homosexual identity" worthy of social equality.9 In contrast, organizing by lesbians emerged primarily in the context of the broader feminist movement.
Starting in the 1860's, lawyer and journalist Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs published a series of pioneering tracts identifying male homosexuals as a class with specific cultural, social, and political needs – and insistently demanding an end to persecution. In 1865, Ulrichs declared, "I am an insurgent. I decline to accept what exists if I believe it is unjust. I am fighting for a life free from prosecution and scorn. I urge the general public and the state to recognize Uranian love as equal to congenital Dionian love."10 That same year, he privately drafted a proposal for an "Uranian union" – a mutual-aid society for homosexual men. Two years later, in an unprecedented address before the 500 members of the Society of German Jurists, he called publicly for the repeal of anti-homosexual laws; he was shouted down before finishing his statement.11
Following up on these early efforts, a group in Berlin headed by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee on May 15, 1897 – launching the homosexual rights movement which celebrated its centenary this spring. The Committee took as its primary political goal the repeal of §175 of the Reich Penal Code, the German law prohibiting homosexual acts between men. Hirschfeld and his followers argued that homosexuality was a harmless, inborn gender disturbance, and therefore unsuitable for legal persecution. The Committee made particular appeals to the Social Democrats, whose progressive platform made them the most likely sponsor for reform. The Committee also worked to educate the public about supportive scientific research and to encourage self-respect among members of the "third sex".12
This scientific and political approach was not the sole strategy employed by the movement. A second Berlin-based group, the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen (or "Community of Self-Owners") founded in 1903 by Adolf Brand, a bisexual writer and publisher, emphasized cultural reform – and saw male homosexual behavior itself as a cultural rather than a biological phenomenon. Brand based his analysis on Classical and German Enlightenment traditions, advancing passionate friendship as the foundation of masculine virtue, aesthetic refinement, intellectual development and good citizenship. The Gemeinschaft's periodicals, salons and public readings were unabashedly anti-modern, conservative, nationalistic, misogynistic, and critical of Hirschfeld and the Committee.13
The model of homosexuals organizing themselves to work for change and to provide for their own communal needs gradually spread after the turn of the century in Germany: By the early 1920's, some 25 political, cultural, and social organizations – largely in the middle ground between Hirschfeld and Brand – were operating in cities throughout the country. Undoubtedly the most successful of these was the League for Human Rights (Bund für Menschenrechte), a co-gender group active from 1923 to 1933; at its peak, the League boasted approximately 48,000 active members.14
While women worked to some extent in the setting of specifically homosexual groups, politically active lesbians in the late-nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries more often focused on a broader feminist agenda – including educational reform, access to the labor market, and women's suffrage – working in organizations that welcomed their energies while essentially ignoring their sexuality.15 In a speech given in 1904, feminist organizer Anna Rüling described the situation in these words:
"From the beginning of the women's movement until the present day, a significant number of homosexual women assumed leadership in the numerous struggles.... Considering the contributions made to the women's movement by homosexual women for decades, it is amazing that the large and influential organizations of the movement have never lifted a finger to improve the civil rights and social standing of their numerous Uranian members."16
This situation began to change around 1910-1911, when several of the broad-based women's organizations added lesbian issues to their agenda, joining the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee and other groups to defeat legislative efforts to criminalize female homosexual acts.17
Both the homosexual organizations and the women's groups that we have been discussing emerged in the context of a much wider wave of social reform in Germany in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Known as the lebensbesserenbewegung – the "life improvement movement" – this phenomenon involved widespread efforts by the middle class to respond directly through self-help and mutual aid to changes in the structures of gender and family and to such challenges of urban life as housing shortages, poor sanitation, unemployment, and personal isolation.18
In his monumental five volume work Sexual Knowledge (Geschlechtskunde), published from 1926 to 1930, Magnus Hirschfeld recalled the range and association of these efforts in the following words:
"It is no coincidence that the Wandervogel [youth] movement, and the first country boarding schools were founded during the same brief time span when, quite independent of one another, a number of sexual reform movements took shape. We will mention only [a few]: the Society for the Control of Venereal Disease..., the movement for the protection of...unwed mothers and illegitimate children..., and the pioneers, then called radical, of women's emancipation..."19
Hirschfeld himself combined this spirit of reform with strategic efforts to redeploy the influence of science and medicine on behalf of homosexuals. In 1919, he founded the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin as a full-service sexual study and therapy center, including a library, archives, museum, and clinic, as well as widely advertised publishing and lecture programs. Using the Institute as a base, Hirschfeld became an internationally recognized sexologist and the most visible German advocate of sexual reform and tolerance for sexual minorities.20
RIGHT-WING REACTION & THE NAZI RISE TO POWER (1920 - 1933)
The period of social change that gave rise to the homosexual subculture, the homosexual rights movement, the women's movement, and the "life improvement movement" in general also provoked strong conservative reactions in Germany – with attendant calls for strict regulation of sexual, political, ethnic, and religious minorities. World War I, which resulted in the deaths of nearly two million German soldiers and an economically ruinous defeat, exacerbated these tensions and polarities.
The establishment of the democratic Weimar Republic – which replaced the Imperial regime in 1918 – initially appeared to promise progressive change, but hopes for continuing reform disappeared as economic conditions in Germany deteriorated. A hyper-inflation in 1922-1923 – followed by the worldwide economic crash in 1929 – added massive unemployment to the disruptions produced by the war. In these circumstances of deepening economic crisis and social conflict, reactionary political discourses of anti-socialism, anti-semitism, xenophobia, and homophobia rapidly gained ground.21
Among the organizations promoting right-wing ideology of this sort were the National Socialists. Founded in 1920 with the merging of several smaller right-wing extremist groups, the Nazi Party played an increasingly visible and aggressive role as the decade progressed, attracting adherents from the masses of Germans seeking drastic solutions to the upheavals of the era. The Sturmabteilung or "Storm Section" of the Party – known by its German acronym as the SA – directly recruited unemployed young men, providing them with uniforms, meals, and a sense of belonging, while deploying them in paramilitary gangs to enforce terror against political opponents and minority groups.
The Nazis and their sympathizers immediately ranked homosexuals among the groups supposedly at fault for the instability of German society and the weakness of the German state. As a Jew, a leftist, a social reformer and a homosexual organizer, Magnus Hirschfeld was an early target. In 1921, Hirschfeld stood up to hecklers while giving a lecture in Munich, the city that was ground zero of the right-wing extremist movement.
As soon as he left the hall, a band of young thugs attacked the portly 52-year old doctor from behind with a hail of stones. A blow to the head knocked him unconscious and he fell to the sidewalk, bleeding profusely, his skull fractured. While many Germans responded with horror, a Dresden newspaper offered this chilling commentary:
"Weeds never die. The well-known Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld had been hurt enough to be put on the death list. We hear now that he is in fact recovering from his wounds. We have no hesitation in saying that we regret that this shameless and horrible poisoner of our people has not found his well-deserved end."22
Despite warnings from his supporters, Hirschfeld bravely carried on with his public appearances. In 1923, he was fired on when a group of Nazis invaded a lecture he was giving in Vienna. Hirschfeld escaped without injury, but members of the audience were beaten during the melee.23 Throughout the decade, Hirschfeld, the Institute, the homosexual movement, and homosexuals in general came under frequent and vitriolic attack in the popular tabloids and the Nazi press.24
Borrowing analyses from medical science and at times from the homosexual movement itself, Nazi party ideologues described homosexuals as a deviant psychological or biological class, as members of a secretive subculture, a pseudo-ethnic community, or a criminal or political cabal – each posing the threat of social and political dissidence. While endorsing the notion that homosexuality in some individuals resulted from a congenital defect, they also quantified homosexual desire as an fluid entity, a contagion that might infect and corrupt even those who were not homosexual by nature.25
Above all, the Nazis believed that homosexuality disrupted the hierarchy of gender with its strict schema of male aggressiveness, female submission and reproductive duty that the Party advanced as its chief strategy for reestablishing social stability and state power. A formal Nazi response to the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee's ongoing campaign to repeal §175 provides a characteristic example of this anti-homosexual discourse (in an unpleasant and perhaps deliberate irony, the statement was published on Hirschfeld's birthday in 1928):
"It is not necessary that you and I live, but it is necessary that the German people live. And it can only live if it can fight, for life means fighting. And it can only fight if it maintains its masculinity. It can only maintain its masculinity if it exercises discipline, especially in matters of love. Free love and deviance are undisciplined…. We therefore reject any form of lewdness, especially homosexuality, because it robs us of our last chance to free our people from the bondage which now enslaves it".26
DESTRUCTION OF HOMOSEXUAL CULTURE & THE HOMOSEXUAL MOVEMENT (1933 - 1936)
Upon coming to power at the beginning of 1933, the Nazis moved quickly to enact this ideology as national policy and to elaborate strategies for regulating homosexuals as an inferior class and homosexual desire as a socially disruptive force. These goals are evident in a series of actions between 1933 and 1936 that resulted in the complete destruction of the homosexual rights movement and the vibrant homosexual culture which we looked at earlier in this talk.
In the first such move, less than one month after Adolf Hitler was named Chancellor, the government banned sexually-oriented publications – including all homosexual periodicals, however prim their content – and outlawed homosexual rights organizations. Four weeks later, SS officers ransacked the apartment of the director of the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, Kurt Hiller, who like Hirschfeld was homosexual, Jewish, and a socialist; a week later Hiller was transported to the Oranienburg concentration camp, where he faced repeated torture over the next nine months before being inadvertently released.27
The campaign to destroy the homosexual movement and to eliminate homosexual images proceeded on May 6, when over 100 Nazi students invaded Hirschfeld's Institute for Sexual Science, which a party theorist later described as "an unparalleled breeding ground for dirt and filth."28 The gang carted off the library and archives to fuel a massive bonfire of "un-German" books on the square in front of the Berlin opera on the night of May 10. A life-sized bust of Hirschfeld also was consigned to the fire. Hirschfeld himself was spared arrest only because he was abroad on a lecture tour. Witnessing the conflagration on a newsreel in Paris a few days later, he likened seeing the flames consume his life work to watching his own funeral. He remained in exile until his death in 1935.29
Adolf Brand's publishing house was similarly raided. Between May and November, police descended five times, ultimately seizing the entire inventory of books and magazines built up over the course of nearly forty years. "My whole life's work has been destroyed," Brand stated in a letter.30 Brand himself, however, was not arrested – probably because he was married, and was neither Jewish nor a leftist – and possibly because of the intervention of a protector within the Nazi party. He remained in Berlin and was killed along with his wife during an Allied bombing raid in 1945.31
The spring and summer of 1933 saw the Nazi regime expand its anti-homosexual offensive to social territories, with the SA attacking queer bars and nightclubs. Among the first establishments padlocked as a threat to public order was the famed Eldorado club in Berlin, which had remained a joyful destination for a cosmopolitan mix of lesbian women, homosexual men, transvestites of both sexes and slumming tourists.32 The large and handsome space on Motzstraße reopened immediately – as a Nazi party propaganda office, with huge swastikas draping the façade and an enormous Fraktur-lettered banner commanding "Vote for the Hitler ticket" obscuring the now sadly obsolete "You've found it!" sign.33 For German homosexuals, their dazzling land of gold, their Eldorado was rapidly vanishing back into the realm of dreams.
For the Nazi regime, charges of homosexuality proved to have multiple strategic uses. In June and July of 1934, for example, assertions that homosexual activity was rife in the SA provided the excuse for a violent purge of the organization, which had been interfering with Nazi plans to gain fealty from the traditional German military and the business and industrial establishments. In a three week period, SS officers killed SA leader Ernst Röhm and his aide Edmund Heines, who were in fact homosexual, and approximately 300 other individuals, the overwhelming majority of whom were not. Many of those killed had done nothing more than raise the petty ire of an SS functionary – and some were outright victims of mistaken identity.34
The purge of the SA, often referred to as "The Night of the Long Knives," is significant for a number of reasons:
1) It marked the opening of a full-press campaign of anti-homosexual vilification under propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels – a campaign which not only spread terror among homosexuals but also helped the Nazis further elaborate tactics for manipulating public opinion that would prove useful to their broader social, racist and anti-semitic programs.35
2) It demonstrates how anti-homosexual measures could be used to frighten and control non-homosexuals; in effect, anyone the Party disliked faced the threat of deadly "homosexualization" like the random victims of the Röhm purge.
3) The affair marked the Nazis' first deployment of a new policy instrument – that of state-sponsored mass murder. By drawing on existing prejudices, the anti-homosexual ideology advanced to excused the purge undoubtedly played a key role in facilitating public acceptance of the tactic. And public acceptance of the event emboldened the Nazis to consider the door open to future uses of mass murder.
In 1935, on the first anniversary Röhm's murder – and shortly before the promulgation of the anti-Jewish Nuremburg Laws – the Nazi government adopted new regulations against male homosexual behavior. Going beyond the "coitus-like acts" proscribed under §175 of the imperial code, the revised law forbade kissing, embraces, and homosexual fantasies as felonies. Given the vagueness of the law and the capriciousness of Nazi jurisprudence, the revisions made prosecution a simple matter, as national arrest statistics indicate: In 1934, 948 men were charged; by 1938, the number had soared to 8,562. While §175 was not extended to lesbians, scattered cases have been documented in which judges nonetheless handed down convictions; in addition, women were occasionally prosecuted under §176, which prohibited individuals in a position of authority from engaging in sexual relations with their charges.36
This legal distinction between homosexual men and women was grounded in conceptions of gender roles and reproductive drives, as well as beliefs about the prevalence and consequences of homosexual activity in men versus women. The Nazi Criminal Code Commission of the Ministry of Justice outlined this thinking in a 1935 statement arguing against proposals to criminalize sexual relations between women:
"With respect to [homosexual] men, fertility is wasted; they usually do not procreate at all. This is not true regarding women, or at least not to the same extent.The vice is more widespread among men than among women (except for the prostitution milieu). With respect to women, it is also less obvious, less conspicuous. The danger of corruption by example is thus smaller.... An important reason for punishing same-sex intercourse is the falsification of public life if decisive steps are not taken against this epidemic.... If such a predisposition cannot be combated, then at least its activities can be.... What was earlier referred to as the falsification of public life would hardly pertain to women, as women play a relatively small role in public life."37
Characteristic of its mania for bureaucratic centralization and systematization, the Nazi government established a special department at Gestapo headquarters in the wake of the Röhm purge to collect dossiers on homosexual men from local police throughout the Reich, with a particular interest in political personalities. At the end of 1936, this special unit was taken over by the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion. The twin objects of this new agency again suggest the extent to which the regime's anti-homosexual policies were motivated by its insistence that all healthy adult Aryans increase the size of the "national community" (Volksgemeinschaft) through reproduction. The decree establishing the office made this clear:
"The considerable dangers which the relatively high number of abortions still being performed present for population policy and the health of the nation, and which constitute a grave infringement of the ideological fundamentals of National Socialism – as well as the homosexual activities of a not inconsiderable portion of the population, which constitute a serious threat to young people – demand more effective measures against these national diseases than has hitherto been the case." 38
HOMOSEXUAL MEN & WOMEN IN THE CONCENTRATION CAMPS (1933 - 1945)
Homosexual men were one of the first classes singled out for the concentration camps – some five years before the order to intern Jews solely because of their race.39 The sociologist Rüdiger Lautmann, who has conducted the most systematic research on this subject, found homosexuals and pimps already labeled as a distinct classification at the Fuhlsbüttel camp by the fall of 1933. Dachau received homosexual prisoners no later than 1934. Hundreds more arrived at both camps during roundups preceding the 1936 Olympic Games in Berlin. Homosexual men remained one of the distinctly identified prisoner categories in the camps until the Liberation.40
While internment was a continual threat under the Nazi regime, it was not uniform and systematic: the majority of men convicted of homosexual offenses during the Nazi period, for example, appear to have avoided transport to the camps. Approximately 50,000 to 60,000 men 41 received criminal convictions for violating the legal proscriptions against homosexual acts between 1935 and 1945. By contrast, Lautmann extrapolates from a complete review of the surviving concentration camp records that approximately 10,000 were interned in the camps – but possibly as few as 5,000 or as many as 15,000 – some of whom were transported directly under so-called "preventive detention" without criminal conviction.42
On the basis of these figures, perhaps one out of five men convicted of homosexual offenses ultimately was transferred to the camps; the remainder served only civil prison terms. The explanation for this disparity undoubtedly lies in the distinction Nazi policy-makers drew between "environmentally-caused" incidents and "habitual" homosexuality – categories which largely duplicated the distinction between "acquired" and "innate" cases that had been established by the German medical profession.
Given this thinking, many individuals found guilty of violating §175 were believed to have merely strayed into homosexual activity. For them, the Nazis believed that severe prison discipline, hard labor, psychotherapy, "voluntary" castration, or some combination thereof offered the possibility of recuperation in some useful form for the national community – at least as economic or military contributors, at best as Aryans capable of fulfilling their reproductive duty. By contrast, repeat offenders and those whose behavior violated gender norms were seen as demonstrating an intrinsic and unchangeable homosexual nature; they were more likely to face transport and less likely to earn release after internment.43
A similar analysis of the experience of lesbians in the concentration camps is not possible for two reasons: 1) Because the Nazis did not outlaw lesbian sex acts, court records do not provide us with a basic statistical measure of state intervention; 2) Almost invariably, lesbian women who found themselves in the camps appear to have been transported for reasons other than homosexual behavior; except in a few rare cases, camp records therefore do not identify lesbians as a distinct prisoner category.44
The fragmentary evidence available does, however, demonstrate that lesbian women were present in at least some camps at some times in visible numbers. Among the women specifically singled out as distinct classes for internment were sex workers and repeat criminal offenders with civil prison experience; both of these groups included marginalized working-class and poverty-class women with a strongly developed butch-femme sexual subculture.45 A French resistance worker, for example, recalled seeing such women at the Ravensbrück camp in 1943:
"There was a certain amount of lesbianism [among the criminals, asocials, and prostitutes]. The "males" were called "Jules" and they would carve a cross into the foreheads of their "steadies" – we called it the croix des vaches." 46
For women whose behavior did not exhibit cross-gender signifiers, cultivating a stony silence and utterly withdrawing from any association with homosexual activity offered a strategy for survival in the camps – as it did for many homosexuals of both sexes in German society at large. Another Ravensbrück survivor – a lesbian apparently interned as a socialist political prisoner – recalled her camp experiences of 1941-42 in these words:
"I had a female block warden; she would call out to me, "Do you want a cigarette?" - so I assume she had a tendency. But I had absolutely no contact. I always told myself, "Wait until the war is over." I was well behaved." 47
Men interned in the camps as homosexuals did not have access to this strategically deployed invisibility. From the founding of the camps, male homosexual prisoners were identified by distinctive uniform markings – among them yellow armbands inscribed with a capital letter "A" (probably standing for Arschficker – the German for "ass-fucker"), large black dots, or the number 175 (a reference to the dreaded §175 of the penal code). Over time, a triangle of pink cloth became established as the standard prisoner marking for homosexual men.48
Conditions for all prisoners in the camps were extremely harsh, but homosexual men appear in most camps at most times to have faced particularly severe circumstances. Unlike the Jews and the Sinti and Roma (Gypsies), homosexual prisoners were never targeted for systematic extermination in camps designed to serve as death mills. Nonetheless, they apparently had the lowest survival rate of any prisoner grouping outside of those racial categories. Lautmann estimates that 60% of the homosexual internees died in the camps, three-quarters of them within their first year of internment, compared to 41% of the political prisoners and 35% of the Jehovah's Witnesses.49
We can suggest several reasons for these figures, each of which provides insight into the experience of homosexual men in the concentration camps:
1) Guards frequently singled out homosexual male internees for physical abuse and torture. As one inmate of Dachau later recalled, "[Pink triangle prisoners] were particularly picked on by the SS, humiliated in the most degrading fashion, and corporally punished at every opportunity."50
2) Homosexual male prisoners often represented no more than one percent of the total camp population, so establishing mutual support, trading in the camp black markets, and bartering for better positions in the camp hierarchy were largely impossible. This situation was exacerbated by the fact that pink triangle prisoners were forced to limit their contacts with each other and with prisoners outside their own group, as the slightest signs of friendship might be taken as evidence that they were failing to reform. By contrast, common criminals and political prisoners – more numerous, more experienced with prison life and ideological systems of solidarity, and more able to associate with one another without arousing suspicion – fared comparatively better in camps.
3) Homosexual men were in at least some cases disproportionally represented among prisoners chosen for medical experiments. For example, Eugen Kogon, a political prisoner who was a medical ward clerk at Buchenwald from 1942 to 1945, recalled that experimental subjects in that camp "were generally convicts and homosexuals, with a sprinkling of political prisoners of all nationalities." He recalls that one group of homosexual men were deliberately infected with typhus, while others were subjected to synthetic hormone implants in an experimental attempt to suppress their homosexual desires.51
4) Homosexual prisoners were assigned in markedly higher percentages to the most grueling and dangerous work commandos, including the gravel pit and street roller at Dachau, the clay pit at Sachsenhausen, the tunnel blastings at the Dora work site, the stone quarry at Buchenwald, and the details that picked up unexploded bombs after air raids in Hamburg. Men assigned to these commandos had an even lower survival rate than other camp inmates.52
Like all prisoners, many homosexuals who survived until the camps were liberated died shortly thereafter from the effects of their imprisonment. But unlike the racial, ethnic, religious and political minority prisoners, the arrival of Allied soldiers at the camps did not necessarily end their detention, nor did the defeat of the Third Reich bring them legal freedom. Evidence indicates that in at least some cases, Allied occupation officials remanded homosexual camp inmates to the criminal prison system, regarding them as sexual offenders who had merited punishment under the Nazis and who continued to merit punishment after the liberation.53
Following the war, the highest federal court in West Germany refused to overturn the 1935 Nazi revision of §175, holding in a sinister ruling that the proscriptions against same-sex kissing, touching, and fantasies were legally permissible because they "represented no typically National Socialist way of thinking."54 The law which had unleashed the most terrifying era of anti-homosexual persecution in modern Europe remained in effect until 1967 in the East and 1969 in the West. In a final injustice – and unlike most other groups singled out for persecution – not one of the approximately 30 homosexual survivors who have found the courage to come forward in the past decade to apply for reparations has yet received a payment from the German government.
As the brief overview that I have given you should indicate, while the Nazi persecution of homosexual was severe, it was an enterprise different both in kind and in scope from the genocide carried out against the Jews. Unlike the Jewish people, homosexuals did not face systematic and pitiless identification and removal from the population of Germany and the German-occupied countries. Unlike the Jewish people, homosexuals were not consigned by the state to mass extermination in death camps. And unlike the Jewish people, the majority of homosexual men and women under Nazi rule, while forced into silence, secrecy and fear, were able to find the means to survive.55
Let me suggest, however, that we might view the Nazis' execution of their anti-homosexual policies as an integral step in putting into practice the ideology of social purification that ultimately led to the annihilation of six million Jews. The measures taken against the homosexual subculture and the homosexual movement in the first four years of the Hitler regime aided the Nazis in establishing a technology and bureaucracy of mass stigmatization, isolation, and persecution against a comparatively small, fragmented, and ill-defined social group that was already the object of popular prejudice and whose persecution attracted no criticism whatsoever from foreign powers or traditionalist factions within the German government.56
Each of the methods initially deployed against homosexuals between 1933 and 1936 – including the destruction of cultural and social territories and networks, the silencing of means of communication, the consignment of a despised group to concentration camps, and the application of state-sponsored mass murder – would be carried to systematic elaboration in the Holocaust against European Jewry. As we have seen, the ends of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals and the genocide of the Jews differed considerably, but the historical development of the means was thus intrinsically connected.
In gathering this afternoon to reflect on the homosexual victims of Nazi persecution, I believe we must therefore ultimately mourn the loss of all those peoples and cultures which disappeared into that dark night of destruction in the middle of this waning century. Whether we are Jews, queers, psychologically or physically disabled people, sex workers or homeless people, whether we are members of marginalized racial, ethnic, political, or religious groups, we are all bound together in our sorrowful knowledge of the past and in our anxious vigilance for the future.
– end –
1 Alan Bérubé, Coming Out Under Fire: The History of Gay Men and Women in World War Two (New York City: Free Press, 1990), p. 200.
2 On the social history of homosexuality in Germany in the nineteenth and early-twentieth centuries, see James Steakley, The Homosexual Emancipation Movement in Germany (New York: Arno Press, 1975), pp. 13-16 and passim, and Wolfgang Theis and Andreas Sternweiler, “Alltag in Kaiserreich und in der Weimarer Republik,” in Berlin Museum, Eldorado: Homosexuellen Frauen und Männer in Berlin 1850-1950—Geschichte, Alltag, und Kultur (Berlin: Fršlich und Kaufmann, 1984), pp. 49-61.
5, 10, 21.3 See Steakley, pp.
4 See Richard Plant, The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals (New York City: Henry Holt, 1986), p. 31f., and Steakley, p. 9f; also see Michel Foucault, The History of Sexuality, Volume I: An Introduction (New York City: Vintage Books, 1980), p. 43.
5 See John C. Fout, “Sexual Politics in Wilhelmine Germany: The Male Gender Crisis, Moral Purity, and Homophobia,” Journal of the History of Sexuality, Vol 2, No. 3 (January 1992): pp. 388-421, citation pp. 403-417; on the castration policy, see Geoffrey J. Giles, “‘The Most Unkindest Cut of All': Castration, Homosexuality and Nazi Justice,” Journal of Contemporary History, Vol. 27 (1992): pp. 41-61, citation p. 44.
6 See Magnus Hirschfeld, Berlins drittes Geschlecht (Berlin: H. Seeman, 1904), passim (for edition consulted, see note 7); Steakley, pp. 23f, 27, 78f, and passim; “Sixty Places to Talk, Dance, and Play,” Connexions, No. 3 (Winter 1982): pp. 16-18; Theis and Sternweiler in Berlin Museum, pp. 56-73; and Claudia Schoppman, Days of Masquerade: Life Stories of Lesbians During the Third Reich (New York City: Columbia University Press, 1996), pp. 2-4.
7 Hirschfeld, Berlins drittes Geschlecht; translated from the French edition published as Le Troisième sexe: Les homosexuels de Berlin (Paris: Librairie Médicale et Scientifique Jules Rousset, 1908; reprint Lille, France: Cahiers Gai-Kitsch-Camp, 1993), p. 56.
8 See Ruth Margarete Roellig, Berlins lesbische Frauen (Naunhof-bei-Leipzig: Bruno Gebauer Verlag für Kulturprobleme, 1928); the bilingual German/French edition I have consulted is Les Lesbiennes de Berlin (Lille, France: Cahiers Gai-Kitsch-Camp, 1992), pp. 94ff. Also see Monika Hingst, Manfred Herzer, Karl-Heinz Steinle, Andreas Sternweiler and Wolfgang Theis (eds.), Goodbye to Berlin? 100 Jahre Schwulenbewegung (Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1997), pp. 127f; this publication includes a 1932 photograph of the exterior.
9 For a critical analysis of this strategy, see Stuart Marshall, “The Contemporary Political Use of Gay History: The Third Reich,” in Bad-Object Choices (ed.), How Do I Look? Queer Film and Video (Seattle, Wash.: Bay Press, 1991), p. 73f.
10 Ulrichs, Karl-Heinrich, Vindicta (1865), reprinted in Karl-Heinrich Ulrichs, The Riddle of Man-Manly Love: The Pioneering Work on Male Homosexuality, vol. 1 (Buffalo, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 1994), p. 109; translated from the German by Michael A. Lombardi-Nash.
11 On Ulrichs in general, see Hubert Kennedy, Ulrichs: The Life and Works of Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Pioneer of the Modern Gay Movement (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1988); for Ulrichs's writing and legal activism on behalf of “urnings” in the 1860s, see ch. 4 - ch. 7 passim; also see Ulrichs, The Riddle of Man-Manly Love, which reprints in English translation the complete series of 12 booklets and books on homosexuality that Ulrichs published between 1864 and 1880.
12 On the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, see Steakley, pp. 23, 33ff; Manfred Baumgardt, “Die Homosexuellen-Bewegung bis zum Ende der Ersten Weltkriegs,” in Berlin Museum, pp. 17-23; and Manfred Herzer, “Das Wissenschaftlich humanitäre Komitee,” in Hingst, et al., pp. 37-47. For a French primary source on the Committee, see Henri F. De Weindel and F.-P. Fischer, L'Homosexualité en Allemagne, étude documentaire et scientifique (Paris: Librairie Félix Juven, 1908), passim, especially chs. 3, 5, 11 and 16.
13 On Brand and the Gemeinschaft der Eigenen, see Harry Oosterhuis (ed.), Homosexuality and Male Bonding in Pre-Nazi Germany (New York City: The Haworth Press, 1991), pp. 2-8, 245-247, and passim. For a French primary source, see De Weindel and Fischer, pp. 284f
14 See Steakley, p. 82; also see Plant, p. 41, and Schoppman, Days of Masquerade, p. 4.
15 See Lillian Faderman and Brigitte Erickson (eds.), Lesbian-Feminism in Turn-of-the-Century Germany (Weatherby Lake, Mo.: The Naiad Press, 1980), pp. ii-vi, and Steakley, pp. 40-42.
16 Quoted in Faderman and Erickson, p. iii.
17 See Faderman and Erickson, pp. iv-v, and Steakley, pp. 40-42.
18 See Steakley, pp. 24-30. Also see the documentary film by Stuart Marshall, “Desire: Sexuality in Germany, 1910-1945” (1990), in which historians Marion De Ras and Harry Oosterhuis make fairly extensive comments on the “life improvement movement”—particularly the nudist and body culture movements—and its association with the homosexual movement.
19 Quoted in Steakley, p. 24f.
20 On Hirschfeld and the Institute for Sexual Science, see Steakley, pp. 91-92; Charlotte Wolff, Magnus Hirschfeld: Portrait of a Pioneer in Sexology (London: Quartet Books, 1986), ch. 9; and Manfred Baumgardt, “Das Institut für Sexualwissenschaft und die Homosexuellenbewegung in der Weimarer Republik,” in Berlin Museum, pp. 31-33. In addition, see the memoirs of the Institute's clinical director, Dr. Ludwig Lenz, The Memoirs of a Sexologist: Discretion and Indiscretion (New York City: Cadillac Publishing, 1951), especially pp. 397-408; and Christopher Isherwood, Christopher and His Kind, 1929-1939 (New York City: Farrar Straus Giroux, 1976), pp. 14-19.
Two primary sources in French also provide significant first-hand accounts of the Institute, along with important photographic documentation: See André Beucler, “Berlin secret, Institut für Sexualwissenschaft,” Voilˆ, vol. 2, no. 55 (April 9, 1932): pp. 6f., and Pierre Najac, “L'Institute de la Science Sexuelle ˆ Berlin,” in Janine Merlet (ed.), Vénus et Mercure (Paris: Editions de la Vie Moderne, 1931), pp. 165-192.
21 For an overview of the post-World War I situation in Germany and of the position of homosexuals during the period, see Plant, ch. 1.
22 Quoted in Wolff, p. 198; she does not name the newspaper.
23 For accounts of the 1921 and 1923 attacks, see Wolff, pp. 196-198 and 218, and Steakley, p. 88. Hirschfeld himself describes the harassment he suffered at the hands of the Nazis—including details of the 1921 attack—in an autobiographical sketch published posthumously in Victor Robinson (ed.), Encyclopaedia Sexualis: A Comprehensive Encyclopaedia-Dictionary of the Sexual Sciences (New York City: Dingwall Rock, 1936), pp. 317-321; citation pp. 320-321.
24 See Plant, p. 44.
25 See Marshall, pp. 75-83. Also see Warren Johansson and William A. Percy, "Holocaust, Gay," in Wayne R. Dynes (ed.), Encyclopedia of Homosexuality, vol. 1 (New York City: Garland Publishing, 1990), pp. 546f.
26 Quoted in Steakley, p. 84.
27 For an overview of the Nazis' antihomosexual activities in 1933, see Plant, pp. 50f, 209-211.
28 Rudolf Klare, Homosexualität und Strafrecht (1937); quoted in Steakley, p. 104.
29 Anthropos, no. 1 (1934); quoted in Steakley, p. 105.
30 Quoted in Günter Grau (ed.), Hidden Holocaust? Gay and Lesbian Persecution in Germany, 1933-45 (London: Cassell, 1995), p. 34.
31 See Oosterhuis, p. 7
32 For the makeup of the clientele at the Eldorado, see the sources in note 8.
33 See the photographic montage of closed bars published in the Viennese periodical Der Notschrei (May 1933): p. 6. The entire page is reproduced in Hingst, et al., p. 154; also see the caption on p. 155. For another version of the photo, see Schoppmann, Days of Masquerade, p. 3. The latter shows the Eldorado from the same angle and with the same rain-slicked street, but the police officers seen in the Notschrei photo are not present.
34 On Röhm and the purge of the SA, see Plant, ch. 53. Also see Max Gallo, The Night of Long Knives (New York City: Harper and Row, 1972), passim; Gallo provides a detailed analysis of the factional infighting behind the purge, but little discussion of the role of antihomosexual ideology in the event.
35 On the propaganda campaign, see Hans-Georg Stümke, “From the ‘People's Consciousness of Right and Wrong' to ‘The Healthy Instincts of the Nation': The Persecution of Homosexuals in Nazi Germany,” in Michael Burleigh (ed) Confronting the Nazi Past: New Debates on Modern German History (London: Collins and Brown, 1996), pp. 154-166; citation pp. 157f.
36 On the revisions to ¤175, see Plant, pp. 69, 110. For the arrest statistics, see Stümke, p. 160. On the situation for lesbians, see “Lesbians in the Butzow Concentration Camp,” Connexions No. 3 (Winter 1982), p. 17, and Schoppmann, Days of Masquerade, pp. 20f. In a more recent book on lesbians in Austria during the Nazi period, Claudia Schoppman also documents cases in which women were prosecuted under ¤129Ib, the section of the pre-Nazi Austrian criminal code that prohibited female homosexual acts; see Verbotene Verhältnisse: Frauenliebe 1938-1945 (Berlin: Querverlag, 1999), passim.
37 Quoted in Schoppman, Days of Masquerade, p. 16.
38 Quoted in Stümke, p. 159. On the Gestapo department and the Reich Central Office, see Stümke, pp. 158f.
39 See Falk Pingel, "Concentration Camps," in Israel Gutman (ed.), Encyclopedia of the Holocaust, vol. 1 (New York City: Macmillan, 1990), p.311.
40 On homosexual men in the camps, see Rüdiger Lautmann, “The Pink Triangle: The Persecution of Homosexual Males in Concentration Camps in Nazi Germany,” in Salvatore J. Licata and Robert P. Peterson (eds.), Historical Perspectives on Homosexuality (New York City: Haworth Press/Stein and Day, 1981), pp. 141-160; Rüdiger Lautmann, “Gay Prisoners in Concentration Camps as Compared with Jehovah's Witnesses and Political Prisoners,” in Michael Berenbaum (ed.), A Mosaic of Victims: Non-Jews Persecuted and Murdered by the Nazis (New York City: New York University Press, 1990), pp. 200-206; and Grau, part 4.
A number of memoirs and oral histories of homosexual male survivors also have been published, especially in the past 20 years. For book-length accounts, see Heinz Heger (pseudonym of Josef Kohut), The Men with the Pink Triangle (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1980), the memoirs of an Austrian homosexual who survived six years in Sachsenhausen and Flossenbürg; and Pierre Seel, Moi, Pierre Seel, déporté homosexuel (Paris: Callman-Lévy, 1994), the memoirs of an Alsatian interned in the Schirmeck-Vorbrüch camp. For examples of shorter texts, see the testimonies of Karl B., David F., Jacob K., Karl Lange and Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim, all collected in Lutz van Dijk, La Déportation des homosexuels, onze témoignages, Allemagne, 1933-1945 (Montblanc, France: H&O Editions, 2000). In addition, three widely distributed documentary films have presented survivor testimonies: See Marshall's “Desire” (1990); Elke Jeanrod and Josef Weishaupt_(directors), “We Were Marked With a Big ‘A'” (Norddeutscher Rundfunk, 1990); and Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (directors), “Paragraph 175” (Telling Pictures, 2000).
41 See Plant, p. 149.
42 See Lautman, “The Pink Triangle,” p. 146. Some critics suggest that Lautman's figures may be too conservative; for a discussion, see Johansson and Percy, pp. 548-550.
43 See Grau, p. 6f. Also see Marshall, p. 83f, and Johansson and Percy, p. 549.
44 For the rare cases of lesbians interned as such and for camp records mentioning lesbianism, see Schoppman, Days of Masquerade, pp. 20-23.
45 On lesbians in the camps, see Schoppmann, ibid. Also see Plant, pp. 114-116; "Marte and Olga in Berlin,” Conexxions, No. 3 (Winter 1982): p. 18; Fania Fénelon (with Marcelle Routier), Playing for Time (New York City: Atheneum, 1977), pp. 142-151, 198-201, 212-222; and Vera Laska (ed.), Women in Resistance and the Holocaust (Westport, Conn.: Greenwood Press, 1983), pp. 22-25.
46 Quoted in Anton Gill, The Journey Back from Hell: Conversations with Concentration Camp Survivors—An Oral History (New York City: Avon Books, 1988), p. 327.
47 Quoted in Terrie Couch, “The Legacy of the Black Triangles: An American and a German Lesbian Survivor of the Concentration Camps,” Windy City Times, vol. 6, no. 34 (May 9, 1991), p. 19; a shorter version of this article appeared as “An American in West Germany, or Did Lesbians Wear Pink Triangles?” Off Our Backs, vol. 21, no. 3 (March 1991), p. 23.
48 See Lautmann, “The Pink Triangle,” p. 148. Gill, p. 34, suggests that the pink triangle was introduced in 1937, but I have seen no other reference to corroborate this date.
49 See Lautmann, “The Pink Triangle,” p. 147, and “Gay Prisoners,” p. 204
50 Quoted in Lautmann, “The Pink Triangle,” p. 147.
51 Eugen Kogon, The Theory and Practice of Hell: The German Concentration Camps and the System Behind Them (New York City: Octagon Books, 1979; originally published in English in 1950), p. 144. Kogon also described the experiments as the lead author of the 1945 report which the Psychological Warfare Division of the Supreme Headquarters Allied Expeditionary Forces prepared in the month after liberating Buchenwald; this report remained unpublished until 1995. See David A. Hackett (ed. and trans., The Buchenwald Report (Boulder, Colo.: Westview Press, 1995), pp. 71f, 79. On medical experiments involving homosexuals, also see Plant, pp. 175-179.
52 With the exception of the information from Kogon, the analysis in this section generally follows Lautmann, “The Pink Triangle,” pp. 147-159. Also see Plant, pp. 179-180.
53 See Plant, p. 181
54 On the court ruling, see Stümke, p. 165; he does not cite the date or caption of the opinion. For the repeals of ¤175, see Plant, p. 181. On reparations, see Stümke, p. 165, and Rex Wockner, “German Parties Demand Payments to Nazis' Gay Victims,” Bay Windows (Oct. 16, 1997): p. 11.
55 The literature on the Holocaust against the Jews is extensive. For an introduction to the subject in English, see, Yehuda Bauer, A History of the Holocaust (New York City: Franklin Watts, 1982), and Martin Gilbert, The Holocaust: A History of the Jews of Europe During World War II (New York City: Henry Holt, 1985).
56 By contrast, these opposition forces initially slowed implementation of the Nazis' antisemitic program; see Bauer, pp. 98ff.
Versions of this talk have previously been presented at M.C.C. San Francisco (sponsored by the Harvey Milk Lesbian/Gay/Bisexual Democratic Club, Alice B. Toklas Lesbian/Gay Democratic Club and Raoul Wallenberg Jewish Democratic Club), at Mills College (sponsored by the Mills Lesbian and Bisexual Union; Jewish Student Association; and Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual Faculty, Staff and Friends) and the University of California, Berkeley (sponsored by Pa'mayim; Hillel; Multicultural Bisexual, Lesbian and Gay Alliance; Jewish Student Union Israel Action Committee; Gay and Lesbian Boalt Student Association; UC GALA; and Queer Nation/San Francisco). I am grateful to the organizers of these presentations – and to the audiences for their insightful questions and comments.
For assistance in preparing this talk, I would like to thank Peter Altman; Nan Alamilla Boyd; James Steakley; the volunteers of the Gay and Lesbian Historical Society of Northern California; and the staffs of Frameline; the San Francisco Public Library; Green Library at Stanford University; and the library of California State University, San Francisco.
Gerard Koskovich is a San Francisco-based editor, writer, historian, and rare book dealer and collector. His writing on history, culture and politics has appeared in numerous periodicals, including Bay Area dailies and weeklies, local lesbian and gay publications around the United States, and the national U.S. gay magazine The Advocate.
Koskovich has given numerous talks and panel presentations on the history of homosexuality for community groups in the U.S. including Parents and Friends of Lesbians and Gays; at conferences including OutWrite; and at universities including Berkeley, Stanford, Yale and Harvard.
Koskovich also has done in-depth research on the history of the campus homosexual community at Stanford University. He acted as guest curator for an exhibit based on his research presented by Stanford's Green Library during July-October 1994. (Koskovich's text from the exhibit is available on the World Wide Web at www.stanford.edu/group/QR/lagar.)
As an activist in San Francisco, Koskovich was one of the organizers of the three-year-long "Bad Cop/No Donut" campaign, which used a variety of innovative tactics to advocate justice for victims of the 1989 "Castro Sweep" police riot. In 1999, he acted as curator of an exhibit and contributor to a website marking the 10th anniversary of the sweep (the
website is at http://members. aol.com/SFPDRiot/sweep.html).
Koskovich is a founding member of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Historical Society of Northern California (www.GLBThistory.org), where he currently serves on the Board of Directors and the Archives Committee.
Koskovich himself collects historic queer materials from the 18th through the early 20th centuries; his collection includes some 2,500 books, plus periodicals, photographs, prints and ephemera.
Koskovich works as an editor for the American Society on Aging, where he oversees several quarterly newsletters for professionals in the field of aging and serves as staff liaison for the Lesbian and Gay Aging Issues Network (www.asaging.org/lgain.html). He also runs his own business as an antiquarian book scout and dealer specializing in rare queer publications.
P.O. Box 14301
San Francisco, CA 94114-0301
Photo : Vestiges d'une clôture électrifiée du camp de concentration de Sachsenhausen, près de Berlin, Franck Dennis (no copyright).