That barbaric murder of my love...

Days, weeks, months wore by. I spent six months, from May to November 1941, in that place, where horror and savagery were the law. But I've put off describing the worst ordeal I suffered. It happened during my earliest weeks in the camp and contributed more than anything else to making me a silent, obedient shadow among the others. One day the loudspeakers ordered us to report immediately to the roll-call site. Shouts and yells urged us to get there without delay. Surrounded by SS men, we had to form a square and stand at attention, as we did for morning roll call. The commandant appeared with his entire general staff. I assumed he was going to bludgeon us once again with his blind faith in the Reich, together with a list of orders, insults, and threats -- emulating the infamous outpourings of his master, Adolf Hitler. But the actual ordeal was far worse: an execution.

Two SS men brought a young man to the center of our square. Horrified, I recognized Jo, my loving friend, who was only eighteen years old. I hadn't previously spotted him in the camp. Had he arrived before or after me? We hadn't seen each other during the days before I was summoned by the Gestapo. Now I froze in terror. I had prayed that he would escape their lists, their roundups, their humiliations. And here he was, before my powerless eyes, which filled with tears. Unlike me, he had not carried dangerous letters, torn down posters, or signed any statements. And yet he had been caught and he was about to die. What had happened? What had the monsters accused him of? Because of my anguish I have completeley forgotten the wording of the death sentence.

Then the loudspeakers broadcast some noisy classical music while the SS stripped him naked and shoved a tin pail over his head. Next they sicced their ferocious German shepherds on him: the guard dogs first bit into his groin and thighs, then devoured him right in front of us. His shrieks of pain were distorted and amplified by the pail in which his head was trapped. My rigid body reeled, my eyes gaped at so much horror, tears poured down my cheeks, I fervently prayed that he would black out quickly.

Since then I sometimes wake up howling in the middle of the night. For fifty years now that scene has kept ceaselessly passing and repassing through my mind. I will never forget that barbaric murder of my love -- before my eyes, before our eyes, for there were hundreds of witnesses. Why are they still silent today? Have they all died? It's true that we were among the youngest in the camp and that a lot of time has gone by. But I suspect that some people prefer to remain silent forever, afraid to stir up the hideous memories, like that one among so many others.

As for myself, after decades of silence I have made up my mind to speak, to accuse, to bear witness.

Source: I, Pierre Seel, deported homosexual, A Memoir of Nazi Terror, by Pierre Seel and Jean Le Bitoux. Translated from French by Joachim Neugroschel. Basic Books, Harper Collins Publishers, 1995.

Photo : Pierre Seel, photographié en 1997 par Orion Delain.

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