Main The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True, Life-And-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps

The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True, Life-And-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps

0 / 0
How much do you like this book?
What’s the quality of the file?
Download the book for quality assessment
What’s the quality of the downloaded files?
Categories:
Year:
1994
Edition:
Paperback
Publisher:
alyson books
Language:
english
Pages:
180 / 128
ISBN 10:
1459608399
ISBN 13:
9781459608399
File:
PDF, 18.21 MB
Download (pdf, 18.21 MB)

You may be interested in Powered by Rec2Me

 

Most frequently terms

 
0 comments
 

You can write a book review and share your experiences. Other readers will always be interested in your opinion of the books you've read. Whether you've loved the book or not, if you give your honest and detailed thoughts then people will find new books that are right for them.
1

COMUNICARE PUBLICĂ

Year:
2014
Language:
romanian
File:
PDF, 1.63 MB
0 / 0
2

Patient safety

Year:
2012
Language:
english
File:
PDF, 2.95 MB
0 / 0
"One

of the ten best

books

of the year."

—

Richard Hall,

ND DEATH STIfrY OF HOMOSEXUALS

by Heinz

Heger

•

iN

in

The Advocate

THE NAZI BEAT)

translated by david fernbach

The men with the pink triangle
HQ75.7 .H4313_l?

:

the tru

25033

Heger,

Heinz.

NEW COLLEGE OF CALIFORNIA (SF)

1994
HQ75.7 .H4313

Heger, Hel **\tne
he pink
p
The men with
triangle

#17268

HQ
75*7
H4313
1994

#17268
Heger v Heinz*
The men with the pink triangle : the
true, life and death story of
homosexuals in the Nazi death camps /
by Heinz Heger ; translated by David
Fgrnbach ; [introduction by Klaus
Muller].
2nd ed#
Los Angeles :
Alyson Publications, 1994*

—

—

120 p* : map ; 22 ## cm*
Translation of: Manner mit dem rosa
Winkel*
#17268 Midwest $9.95.
ISBN 1-55583-006-4 (pbk*)
!• Gay men
Germany Biography* 2*
Homosexuality , kale Germany* 3*
Concentration camps Germany* I* Titl<

—

—

<

13 APR 98

30913101

NEWCxc

94-29646

THE LIBRARY

NC* COLLEGE OF CALIFORNIA
SO FELL STREET

BAN FRANCISCO, CALIFORNIA 94102

HQ
75
B4.
19!

THE MEN WITH THE PINK TRIANGLE

THE

MEN
WITH
THE
PINK
TRIANGLE
THE TRUE, LIFE-AND-DEATH STORY OF
IN THE NAZI DEATH CAMPS

HOMOSEXUALS

by Heinz Heger
TRANSLATED BY DAVID FERNBACH

alyson

books
LOS ANGELES*

NEW YORK

;

On

Footnotes

in

the text are those of the translator.

© 1980 by Merlin-Verlag, Hamburg, Germany.
© 1980 by Gay Men's Press, London, England.
Klaus Muller.
Introduction © 1994 by

Translation

Dr.

First

M

published

in

the United States as a trade paperback original by

Box 4371, Los Angeles, California 90078-4371.

Alyson Publications

Inc., P.O.

First Alyson edition:

September 1980

Second

edition: October

01 00 99 98 97

1994

5 4 3 2

ISBN 1-55583-006-4
(Previously published with ISBN 0-932870-06-6)

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data
Heger, Heinz.

[Manner mit dem rosa Winkel. English]

The men with the pink triangle

camps

/

by Heinz Heger

;

:

the true, life-and-death story of homosexuals

translated by David

intro; duction by Klaus Muller.

—Rev.

Fembach

ed.

ISBN 1-55583-006-4
1.

3.

Gay men

—Germany—
camps—

Concentration

Biography.

Germany.

I.

2.

Homosexuality,

Male—Germany.

Title.

HQ75.7.H4313 1994

940.547243—dc20
Cover design by Wayne M. DeSelle

94-29646 CIP

in

the Nazi death

Contents

Introduction

7

1.

Imprisoned as a "Degenerate"

17

2.

Arrival at Sachsenhausen

27

3.

A Camp of Torture and Toil

37

4.

Flossenbiirg

46

5.

The

6.

Commander "Dustbag"

67

7.

Burnings and Tortures

78

8.

A Pink-Triangled Capo

88

9.

A "Cure" for Homosexuality, and Air Raids

98

10.

Polish Boys and the

Gypsy Capo

56

The End, and Home Again

108

Glossary

119

Introduction
by

Dr.

Klaus Miiller*

"I'm living proof that Hitler didn't win. I'm aware of that every
day."

The speaker is

Friedrich-Paul

von Groszheim. At the age of

charming gay man celebrates his birthday twice a
"You never know," he says.
One can hardly imagine the suffering he endured. Von Groszheim was among 230 men arrested in Liibeck in the course of a
single evening in 1937. The police hauled him from his home and
eighty-eight, this
year.

imprisoned him for ten months.

He was

released, but re-arrested.

This time, the Nazi authorities forced him to choose between castration,

or incarceration at the concentration

hausen.

He submitted to castration.

camp

at

Sachsen-

His nightmare had not ended, however. In 1943, von Groszheim

was

arrested a third time,

and was put into a

Neuengamme. He survived
would have

Why

satellite

camp of

that ordeal, but a full half century

to pass before he started to

tell

his story.

have so few gay Holocaust survivors come forward to

describe their ordeals?

Why has

it

taken so long for their voices to

be heard?
In 1945, at the time of liberation,

it

was common knowledge

among the Allied forces that gay men had been prisoners in the Nazi
concentration camps, and that they had been marked with a pink
*

Dr. Klaus Miiller is a historian and consultant for the United States
Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. He acknowledges the
work of Richard Plant, author of The Pink Triangle, of whose work he
considers his

own to be a continuation.

The Men with the Pink Triangle

8

triangle.

and

This awareness

in the testimony

is

documented

from the concentration camps
sexuals

were not

of liberators,

at the close

of World

War II, homo-

liberated in the fullest sense of the word. Their

persecution continued,

of Germany,

in the reports

of survivors. But although they were released

later

under the Allied military government

first

under the German

authorities.

Within the realm of Holocaust research, gay

men belonged

—

a long time to the so-called group of forgotten victims

for

those

groups of Holocaust victims who for a long time were not acknowl-

edged as such: the mentally and physically handicapped,
tutes, alcoholics, the victims

who were labeled

of forced

sterilization,

and

prosti-

all

those

as asocial or otherwise "alienated to the people"

under the Nazi regime. Calling homosexual victims of the Nazis
"forgotten victims," however, distorts history.

man government did
contrary,
efforts

it

The postwar Ger-

not simply forget about homosexuals; on the

actively continued to persecute them, and to justify the

of the Nazis in

this respect.

Gay Holocaust survivors like Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim or
Karl Gorath, a survivor of Neuengamme, Auschwitz, and Mauthausen,

were never legally acknowledged as victims of the Nazi regime.

For them, the

fear did not

end with the forces of liberation. They

lived in continual fear of being re-arrested.

repeat offenders after the war, under the
uality,

Some were

treated as

same law against homosex-

Paragraph 175 of the criminal code, that was originally put in

place in 1871 and which

The Nazi

was revised and strengthened by the

version of Paragraph 175 was, in

upheld in 1957 by the West

German supreme

fact,

Nazis.

explicidy

court. Anti-gay laws

and prejudice had existed before Hitler came to power, argued the
court,

Of

and therefore couldn't be seen as peculiar to Nazi ideology.
course, anti-Semitism, special laws against Gypsies, and

discussions within the medical establishment about sterilization of
the disabled had

all

existed before 1933 as well. Like

homophobia,

on a new meaning as they were
The supreme court ignored such

these policies and prejudices took

incorporated into Nazi ideology.
parallels,

however. Further,

for the protection

it

ruled,

Paragraph 175 was necessary

of the German people.

9

Introduction

Not until 1969 would Paragraph
The end

of the first

175 be repealed.

gay and lesbian movement

There had been a sodomy law on the books since German
unification in 1871, but

Consenting adults rarely

it

specifically targeted anal intercourse.

filed

complaints, and there were few pros-

ecutions under this law. For a brief moment in 1929, the burgeoning

gay and lesbian movement even seemed likely to abolish Paragraph
175.

A parliamentary commission

that

was rewriting

the nation's

moral code voted to drop the anti-sodomy statute. But because of
the

growing influence of the Nazi party, the commission's recom-

mendation was never introduced

in parliament.

German SS
sodomy law to the

After Hider rose to power, both the Gestapo and the
pressed to broaden the old and "inefficient"

was no longer necessary to provide evidence of having
committed outlawed homosexual acts for a suspected homosexual
to be arrested and convicted. Homosexuality was not just a criminal
extent that

it

offense, argued Nazi leader Heinrich

future Aryan race.

Himmler, but a danger to the

On June 28, 1935, the same year that the Nurem-

berg laws* were enacted, a revised and strengthened Paragraph 175

was enacted. Already the mere suggestion of homosexual intent
was grounds for arrest: kissing or embracing another man, gossip
spread by neighbors, or receiving a letter from a gay friend were

now adequate evidence.
The Nazi persecution of homosexuals came as no
"Golden Twenties" had seen
Germany's urban

in

areas.

a flourishing

surprise.

The

gay and lesbian culture

Gay and lesbian organizations, publish-

ing houses, journals, and social groups and events proliferated;
Berlin alone boasted nearly a hundred gay and lesbian bars. Yet

even in the midst of this
future

activity, the

Nazis

Aryan Reich would have no place

made

it

clear that the

for homosexuals.

between so-called Aryans and
all non-Germanic peoples, but
was applied primarily against Jews, Gypsies, and Afro-Germans. Under
the Nuremberg laws, non-Aryans lost their German citizenship and were
prohibited from engaging in sexual activity with Germans.

The Nuremberg laws drew

non-Aryans. The

latter

a distinction

category applied to

The Men with the Pink Triangle

10

Soon after taking office in
organizations.

1

933, Hitler banned all gay and lesbian

Storm troopers raided the

institutions

and gathering

places of the gay and lesbian community. The vast and irreplaceable
library of the Institute for Sexual Science

was destroyed

in the

famous Berlin book burning of May 1933. The institute, founded by
Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld in 1919, had become a world-famous leader
in the nascent field

of sexology, and Hirschfeld was prominent in

Germany's early gay movement. As a gay Jewish man, Hirschfeld

was denounced by the Nazi propaganda machine as an early symbol
of the "decay" of the Weimar Republic; only the good luck of being
on a world tour in 1933 prevented his murder.
Despite the closing of gay bars and the raiding of the Institute
for Sexual Science in 1933,

somehow

some mistook Nazi anti-gay

ambivalent so long as

SA

chief Ernst

politics as

Rohm was

toler-

Rohm was not openly homosexual, his homosexuWhen Hider suspected Rohm
many
others were killed on June
of plotting against him, Rohm and
ated.
ality

Although

was nonetheless widely known.

30, 1934.

Rohm's homosexuality was then

justifying the so-called

cited as a

means of

Night of the Long Knives, and Hitler prom-

ised in a widely printed public order to rid all Nazi organizations of

homosexuals. SS chief Heinrich Himmler carried out
creating special police departments and
to the racial purity of the

SS and

this

order by

by issuing decrees

relating

police.*

Despite Rohm's death in 1934, his homosexuality was used

widely in communist propaganda as an example of the "true nature" of the Third Reich.

During the 1930s and

1940s,

would become one of the most frequently used
and

Stalinist

erate.

tools

homophobia
of both Nazi

propaganda to portray the other side as morally degen-

Postwar films about the Nazi regime often included these

homophobic posturings without challenging them. The Nazi
gay

policies

were largely ignored,

as

anti-

were the gay victims of the

camps.
*

On November 15, 1941, for example, Himmler ordered that any SS officer
or policeman caught "engaging in indecent behavior with another man
or allowing himself to be abused by him for indecent purposes ... be
condemned to death and executed."

1

Introduction

After

1

Rohm's murder, Himmler focused

his attention

on the

homosexual "threat." In 1936, the Federal Security Office for com-

was

batting abortion and homosexuality
solidating the connection

established, further con-

between National

Socialist politics, race

improvement, and homophobia.

The invisible lesbian
It is

women

only partially helpful to compare the experiences of lesbian
with that of gay

men

in this era.

Within the strongly

gender-biased society of Nazi Germany, the persecution of gay

men became

the focus of Nazi anti-gay politics. Nazi ideology

defined male homosexuals as enemies of the state, and from 1934

onward, gay men were persecuted relentlessly. Only gay men were

we know much less about the
persecution of lesbians under this regime than we do about the fate
of gay men during the same period.
Of course, lesbians, like their male counterparts, were forced
made criminals under Paragraph

to

go underground. According

reached us,

many

forties,

to the

few testimonies

lesbians got married, often to

protect themselves and their

and early

175;

Nazi

gay

officials

friends.

gay

that

have

friends, to

Throughout the

thirties

debated the merits of including

lesbianism in Paragraph 175. Ultimately, three arguments pre-

vented that

step. First, lesbianism

was seen by many Nazi

as essentially alien to the nature of the

since

women were largely excluded from positions of power, there

seemed
Nazi

officials

"Aryan" woman. Second,

to be

no

real

danger of a "lesbian conspiracy" within high

(There were concerns that homosexual

circles.

embark on such
ment was also

a conspiracy.)

The

the most influential:

as breeders regardless of their

third

men might

and most cynical argu-

"Aryan" lesbians could be used

own feelings, and

reproduction was

the most urgent goal of Nazi population politics.

We know only a few documented cases of lesbians being incarcerated in the concentration
orientation.

We

have no

camps

solely because of their sexual

historical evidence that lesbians

were

systematically marked with pink triangles or black triangles. Those

few accounts we do have disagree on

this point.

We have glimpses

2

The Men with the Pink Triangle

1

of lesbian relationships in the camps through the autobiographical
accounts of Jewish and political prisoners

who

survived, but these

accounts are sketchy.

The lives of lesbians were shaped less by official Nazi homophoby the regime's marginalization of women

bia than
its

in general,

and

contempt for female sexuality. State propaganda exalted mar-

and motherhood; the

riage

of a future "Aryan" race.

German woman was

ideal

place in this scenario, of course, but
difficult position

the breeder

A woman who was openly lesbian had no
we know few details about the

of lesbians in Nazi Germany.

The pink Mangle
Police raids and mass arrests of homosexual

men became com-

mon

at the

first

established concentration camps. Their uniforms sometimes

end of 1934, when many homosexuals were sent to the

bore an identifying mark such as the letter A (from the German word
for "ass-fucker"). This

Not

mark was later replaced by a pink triangle.
and early 1990s did researchers begin

until the late 1980s

seriously to explore the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, and

many

important questions remain unanswered.

estimated that ten to fifteen thousand

An

early study

men had worn

the pink

This figure is widely quoted and remains the best available

triangle.

estimate, but there has never been a systematic survey of the

num-

ber of male homosexuals in different camps. Such a survey is gready

overdue.

Nor do we know why

certain

camps (such

as the smaller

Ems-

land camps) had a relatively higher percentage of gay prisoners.
Finally,

we know

that

homosexuals were sometimes placed into

special slave-labor squads,

ments, but

little

At Buchenwald,

and were subjected to medical experi-

further research has been
for example,

designed to transform gay

testosterone;

some of

the

in these areas.

an SS doctor performed operations

men

surgical insertion of a capsule

done

into heterosexuals through the

which released the male hormone,

men

died during the operation. Such

procedures reflected the desire by Himmler and others to find a
medical "solution" to homosexuality.

13

Introduction

A pink triangle meant harsher treatment in the camps. Gay men
suffered a higher mortality rate than did other relatively small

victim groups, such as Jehovah's Witnesses and political prisoners.

The men with the pink triangle couldn't count on a support network within the camps, and were often treated with contempt by

Many were given the hardest work, and died
few months of arrival. Sometimes gay men were segre-

their fellow prisoners.

within a

gated in special 175 barracks. There
treatment of Jewish

is little

documentation on the

camp inmates who were

also

marked with a

pink triangle. However, some testimonies suggest a pattern of
special brutality during police raids

toward gay

men who were

discovered to be Jewish as well.

Although the pink triangle has become an international emblem
of the gay and lesbian community today,
the individual fate of those

who

we

still

know little

suffered wearing

it.

about

A symbol in-

vented by the Nazis, the pink triangle was able to become a modern

symbol of gay and lesbian pride only because we are not haunted by
concrete memories of those who were forced to wear it in the camps.

Ours is an empty memory. We have few names, and fewer faces: not

more than

fifteen

experiences, and

This

is

gay Holocaust survivors have spoken of

their

many of them have asked for anonymity.

understandable, given the world into which they were

released in 1945. Unlike other survivors, the

gay prisoners soon

discovered that their persecution had not ended. Their concentration

camp imprisonment became

a part of their police record, and

increased their vulnerability to police raids.

Throughout the 1950s

and 1960s, German courts convicted homosexual

men

at a rate as

high as that of the Nazi regime. Having survived the concentration

camps, some men could not find the strength to face this second wave
of persecution.
concentration

We

camp

know of

several cases where, after the war,

survivors were charged for violations of Para-

graph 1 75 and committed suicide either before the trial or afterwards
in prison. Still more escaped into marriage or into complete isolation.

While other Holocaust survivors were recognized

as survivors

by the outside world, the men who wore the pink triangle never received that recognition.

They were ignored in the memorials and in

4

The Men with the Pink Triangle

1

the

museums.

Still

seen as criminals and perverts, they never had an

opportunity to regain their dignity in postwar society.

but they were

denied their place in the

They survived,

community of survivors.

That exclusion from the memory of the Holocaust took a toll on
individual memories.

viewed.

As they

to

be inter-

their story they stop themselves, expressing

tell

doubts that "anyone

Most gay survivors are reluctant

is

interested to hear that

anyway."

Gay Holocaust survivors received no moral or financial support
after 1945

—

searchers, not
result,

not from the government, not from Holocaust re-

from the

fragile

gay and lesbian community. As a

some internalized Nazi persecution as their own fault, blam-

ing themselves for not having been smarter in hiding their lives. "It
all

happened because we stupid queens didn't hide our address

books," one survivor told me. Others, showing astonishing cour-

age for their time, tried to be recognized after the war as victims of
the Nazi regime, but they lost their battles in court.

Karl Gorath was one

who

fought for that recognition. Gorath

was twenty-six in 1939 when his jealous lover denounced him to the

As an SS guard held a gun to his head, Gorath was forced

Gestapo.

to sign a confession.

He

never saw a court or a judge, and was

brought to the concentration camp of Neuengamme, then to Wittenberge (Elbe) in 1940.

When he refused to reduce the bread rations for Soviet prisoners
of war, Gorath was sent on a penal transport to Auschwitz in 1942.

He managed

to switch his pink triangle for a red

act that probably saved his
liberated,

life.

one en route, an

Shortly before Auschwitz was

he and other inmates were sent to the camp

at

Maut-

hausen, and later to camps at Melk and Ebensee. After finally being
liberated

by the U.S. Army in

In 1949, Gorath

tion of Paragraph 175.

government

1945, he nearly died of cholera.

was sentenced

in 1953

He

asked for reparations from the

and again

refused: in the eyes of the

to four years in prison for viola-

in 1960.

German

Both times his request was

German government, homosexuals were

not victims of the Nazi regime. Today, 81 -year-old Karl Gorath
lives in

Germany, and has never received the

tion given to other Holocaust survivors.

financial

compensa-

Introduction

15

Museum
The German government may have forgotten

The United States Holocaust Memorial

but elsewhere he has, at

Gorath's story

is

last,

Karl Gorath,

been acknowledged as a survivor.

one of nine that are documented

act

unique ID
Museum, an

in the

card project of the United States Holocaust Memorial

of inclusion that amazes him. Documenting individual gay

victims of the Holocaust turned out be a very difficult undertaking.

Of the testimony that does exist, much was given anonymously
at first, survivors

were hesitant to provide their full names

—

—

while

others described only a portion of an individual's experiences and
suffering.

This

museum

is

the

major Holocaust

first

institution to

conscientiously integrate the experience of homosexuals into
exhibits

and educational programs.

It is

its

a step long overdue: ac-

cording to a recent survey commissioned by the American Jewish

Committee, only about half of the adults in
quarter of adults in the United States,

Britain,

and a mere

know that gays were victims

of the Nazi Holocaust.
Archives throughout the U.S. contain several thousand testimonies given

by survivors of the Holocaust, but none

are from gay or

lesbian survivors: the questionnaires guiding these interviews did

not include questions about the fate of those marked with the Pink
Triangle. There
literature,

is

an abundance of excellent Holocaust research

but only one book available in English provides a

person account of the

first-

men with the pink triangle. Homophobia has

never been discussed within Holocaust studies as an important part

of Nazi propaganda, racism, and population
It

has taken five decades for a

recognize the truth.
inflicted

Men

It will

politics.

museum or memorial to officially

take longer still to counteract the damage

by fifty years of official,

scholarly,

and

social neglect.

The

with the Pink Triangle offers a glimpse of a seldom-discussed

and barely explored history, a memory almost forgotten. At last, we
are ensuring that this

memory will

survive.

Dr. Klaus Miiller

June 1994

Hundreds of thousands of nonJews were sent by the Nazis to
concentration camps. They included Socialists, Gypsies, the
mentally ill, Jehovah's Wit
nesses, and homosexuals.

LATVIA
North
St'ri

LITHUANIA

O-

ifrStutthof

RavensbrGck
5en

*

Sachsenhausen^
Gross
Rosen
Kosen

^

MittelbauDora

\
(

"'

GERMANY
Natzweiler

^

FRANCE/

^Qfrf***"
"

c^

\

„->,-

^SLOVAKIA

S

-

Vx

i£*< m

I

Mauthausen

'

**\**\ AUSTRIA J HUNGARY /

'*

USSR

BEBiEfflH

J

c

Rossenburg *'t

Dachau*

-

OLAND

a

Buchenwald

\

V*'

^

>

\

Gosoie

%

- -w-"

RUMANIA

K.

Jasenovac

\^n

[^SEHBJ concentration
million people were

camp in which more than four
murdered by the Nazis from 1941 to

1945.

| Camps

set

^Other camps,

up

in

solely for the

murder of Jews.

which Jews and non-Jews were put to

forced labor, starved, tortured, and killed.

Q

Imprisoned as a "Degenerate

Vienna, March 1939.

was twenty-two years

I

old, a university

student preparing for an academic career, a choice that met
parents' wishes as
tics, I

much

as

my own.

Being

little

was not a member of the Nazi student

my

interested in poli-

association or any of

the party's other organizations.
It

wasn't as

if I

German was and

had anything
still is

my

special against the

mother tongue,

after

new Germany.
all.

bringing had always been more Austrian in character.
a certain tolerance
distinction

from

my

parents, and at

between people for speaking a

I

Yet

my

up-

had learned

home we made no

different language

from

ours, practicing a different religion, or having a different color of
skin.

We

also respected other people's opinions,

no matter how

strange they might seem.
I

found it

at university

when so much started to be said
German master race, our nation chosen by

far too arrogant, then,

about the

destiny to lead and rule

all

Europe. For

already not particularly keen

and

on

the

this

reason alone,

new Nazi

I

was

masters of Austria

their ideas.

My family was well-to-do and strictly Catholic. My father was
a senior civil servant, pedantic and correct in

all

his actions,

and

me and my three younger sisters. He
sensibly if we made too much of a
of
row, and he always spoke
my mother as the lady of the house. He
always a respected model for

would admonish us calmly and
had a deep respect for her, and

as far as

I

can

recall,

he never let her

birthday or saint's day pass without bringing her flowers.

My

mother,

who

is still

alive today, has

always been the very

embodiment of kindness and care for us children, ever ready to help

when one of us was in trouble. She could certainly scold if need be,

8

The Men with the Pink Triangle

1

but she was never angry with us for long, and never resentful. She

always a good friend as well,

was not only mother to

us, but

we

our secrets and

could trust with

even

in the

all

most desperate

Ever since

I

was

sixteen

when my

involved with
give
I

girls,

some thought

I

knew that I was more

my

attracted to

didn't think this

was anything

school friends began to get romantically

while

to

whom

always had an answer

situation.

own sex than I was to girls. At first I
special, but

who

was

I

what

this

still

stuck on another boy,

I

had to

meant.

was always happy enough in the company of girls, and enjoyed

being around them. But I came to realize early on that I valued them

more

school, rather than lusting after
that

for

I

same problems and concerns

as fellow students, with the

was homosexual never

women

or girls

—

them

led

me

like the other boys.

The

at

fact

to feel the slightest repulsion

quite the opposite.

It

was simply

couldn't get involved in a love affair with them; that

that

was foreign

I

to

my very nature, even though I tried it a few times.
For three years I managed to keep my homoerotic feelings
secret even from my mother, though I found it hard not to be able
to speak about this to anyone. In the end, however,

and told her everything that was necessary to get
not so

much

to ask her advice,

confided in her

I

it

off my chest

however, as simply to end

—

this

burden of secrecy.

it.

"My dear child," she replied, "it's your life, and you must live
No one can slip out of one skin and into another; you have to

make

the best of what

you

are. If you think

you can

find happiness

only with another man, that doesn't make you in any
Just be careful to avoid
as this

is

Try

a possible danger.

will protect

way inferior.

bad company, and guard against blackmail,
to find a lasting friendship, as this

you from many perils.

anyway. You have no need

it

for a long time,

Follow

my advice, and

I've suspected

at all to despair.

remember, whatever happens, you are my son and can always come
to

me with your problems."
I

was very much heartened by

Not that I

really expected

children's best friend.

my mother's

reasonable words.

anything else, as she always remained her

Imprisoned as a "Degenerate"

At university

I

small at

first,

know

got to

rather, feelings, similar to

several students with views, or,

my own. We formed an informal group,

though after the German invasion and the "Anschluss

was soon enlarged by students from

this

enough,

we

19

at the

the Reich. Naturally

one another with our work. Couples

didn't just help

soon formed too, and

"

end of 1938

met the great love of my

I

life.

Fred was the son of a high Nazi
years older than

I,

and

official

on completing

set

the world-famous Vienna medical school.

same time

the

sport,

and

He was

of medicine

him straightaway.

my

figure,

must have pleased him

I

Viennese charm and temperament.

which he liked.

at

forceful, but at

his masculine appearance, success in

and great knowledge made such an impression on

for

fell

with

sensitive,

from the Reich, two

his study

also

I

too,

I

me

that

I

suppose,

had an

athletic

We were very happy together, and made all

kinds of plans for the future, believing

we would nevermore be

separated.
It

was on

Austria had

a Friday, about

become simply
to

p.m., almost a year to the day since
I

heard two rings

somehow commanding. When I opened I
see a man with a slouch hat and leather coat. With

at the door. Short,

was surprised

1

the "Ostmark," that

but

word "Gestapo," he handed me a card with the printed
summons to appear for questioning at 2 p.m. at the Gestapo head-

the curt

quarters in the Hotel Metropol.

My mother and I were very upset, but I could only think it had
to

do with something

at the university, possibly a political inves-

tigation into a student

who had

fallen foul

of the Nazi student

association.
"It can't

be anything serious,"

Gestapo would have taken

I

told

my mother, "otherwise the

me off right away."

My mother was still not satisfied, and showed great concern. I,
had a nervous feeling in my stomach, but then doesn't anyone

too,

in a time
I

of dictatorship

happened

if they

to glance out

are called in

by

the secret police?

of the window and saw the Gestapo

man a few doors farther along, standing in front of a shop. It seemed
he

still

had his eye on our door, rather than on the items on display.

The Men with the Pink Triangle

20

Presumably his job was

any attempt by me to escape.

to prevent

was undoubtedly going

to follow

me

to the hotel. This

tremely unpleasant to contemplate, and

I

He

was ex-

could already

feel the

threatening danger.

My mother must have felt the same, for when I said good-bye to
her she embraced

me very warmly and repeated: "Be careful, child,

be careful!"
Neither of us thought, however, that

human wreck,

for six years, myself a

mented

as to the fate

we would

not meet again

woman,

she a broken

tor-

of her son, and having had to face the con-

tempt of neighbors and fellow citizens ever since

it

was known

her son was homosexual and had been sent to a concentration

camp.

my father again. It was only after my liberation in
1945 that I learned from my mother how he had tried time and again
to secure my release, applying to the interior ministry, the Vienna
I

never saw

Gauleitung, and the Central Security Department in Berlin. Despite
his

many

connections as a high

civil servant,

he was continually

refused.

Because of these requests, but above
imprisoned for homosexuality, and
official position

this

because his son was

was incompatible with

under the Nazi regime, he was forced to

on reduced pension

in

December

1940.

up with the abuse he received, and
filled

all

He

in 1942

his

retire

could no longer put

took his

with bitterness and grief for an age he could not

own

fit

life

—

into, filled

all those friends who either couldn't or
He wrote a farewell letter to my mother, asking

with disappointment over

wouldn't help him.

her forgiveness for having to leave her alone.

My mother still

the letter today, and the last lines read: "and so
tolerate the scorn

neighbors.

I

has

can no longer

of my acquaintances and colleagues, and of our

It's just

too

much

for

me! Please forgive

me again. God

protect our son!"

At

five to

activity,

SS

two

I

reached the Gestapo

men coming and

going,

men

in

HQ.

It

was

a hive of

Nazi uniforms or with

the gold party badge hurrying through the corridors and
stairs.

up the

Some men in civilian clothes passed me just as I came through

Imprisoned as a "Degenerate"

You

the front door.

21

could see from their faces that they were very

glad to have gotten out of the building.

showed

I

We

lis.

my summons, and an SS man took me to department

stopped outside a room with a large sign indicating the

official within, until a secretary sitting in the

SS uniform, showed us
SS

antechamber, also in

"Your appointment, Herr Doktor/" The

in.

man handed in my card, clicked his heels, and vanished.
The "doctor," in civilian clothes, but with the short, angular

haircut and smooth-shaven face that immediately gave
a senior officer, sat behind an

neatly arranged.
just carried
I

on

imposing desk piled up with

writing.

The room was

Still

nothing happened, for several minutes.

quite silent and

I

scarcely dared breathe, while he

wrote on. The only sound was the scratch of

became more and more nervous, though
ing-up"

me

tactic.

Quite suddenly he

"You

with cold gray eyes:

admit

files, all

He neither greeted me nor even looked at me, but

stood and waited.

steadily

him away as

laid

I

his pen.

I

recognized the "soften-

down

his

pen and stared

are a queer, a homosexual,

at

do you

it?"

"No, no,
accusation,

of some

it's

not true,"

which was the

political affair,

suddenly found

"Don't you

I

last

stammered, almost stunned by his
thing

I

expected.

I

had only thought

perhaps to do with the university;

now

I

my well-kept secret was out.
lie,

you

dirty queer!" he shouted angrily. "I

have

clear proof, look at this."

He took a postcard-sized photo from his drawer.
"Do you know him?"
His long hairy finger pointed at the picture. Of course I knew
the photo. It was a snap someone had taken showing Fred and me
with our arms in friendly fashion around each other's shoulders.
"Yes, that's

my student friend Fred X."

"Indeed," he said calmly, yet unexpectedly quick: "You've

done

filthy things together, don't

you admit?" His voice was con-

temptuous, cold, and cutting.
I

just

were

shook my head. I couldn't get a word out; it was as if a cord

tied

round

my

neck.

A

whole world came tumbling down

The Men with the Pink Triangle

22

inside

me, the world of friendship and love for Fred. Our plans for

the future, to stay faithful together, and never to reveal our friendship to outsiders,

seemed betrayed.

all this

was trembling with

I

agitation, not only because of the "doctor's" examination, but also

now

because our friendship was
picture and turned

it

love and deepest affection!"

photo that

it

had

revealed.

The "doctor" took

the

On it read: "To my friend Fred in eternal

over.

I

knew

showed me the

as soon as he

my vow of love on the other side. I had given it to

Fred for Christmas 1938.

It

must have got

into the

wrong hands,

immediately thought. Perhaps his father had found

seemed quite improbable,

as

he didn't bother

it,

I

though that

much about

his son,

how it seemed. But now the photo was here on
the table, before me and the Gestapo man.

or at least that was

"Is that
I

your writing and your signature?"

my eyes.

nodded, tears rising to

"That's

all,

then," he said jovially, content. "Sign here.

He handed me

a sheet half written on,

which

I

signed with

The letters swam in front of my eyes, my tears now
The SS man who had brought me here was now
room again.

trembling hand.

flowing openly.

back

in the

"Take him away,"

said the "doctor," giving the

paper and bending over his

again, not

files

SS man a slip of

deeming me worthy of

further attention.

I

was taken the same day

street,

to the police prison

which we Viennese know as the

on Rossauerlande

"Liesl," as the street used to

be called the Elisabethpromenade.

My pressing request to telephone my mother to
I'd

tell

been taken was met with the words: "She'll soon

not coming
I

home

her where

know

you're

again."

was then examined

bodily,

which was very

distressing, as

I

had to undress completely so that the policeman could make sure
I

was not hiding any forbidden

Then I could get dressed
taken away.
it

I

was locked

object,

even having to bend over.

again, though

my belt and shoelaces were

in a cell designed for

already had two other occupants.

My

one person, though

fellow prisoners were

Imprisoned as a "Degenerate**

one under investigation for housebreaking, the other for

criminals,

swindling widows on the lookout for a

know what

diately

wanted

them.

simply said that

I

23

to

I

was

I

didn't

new husband. They imme-

in for,

which

refused to

I

tell

know myself. From what they told

me, they were both married, and between

thirty

and thirty-five

years old.

When

they found out that

men gleefully told
me, which

I

was "queer,"

I

as

one of the police-

them, they immediately made open advances to

angrily rejected. First,

adventures, and in any case, as

I

I

told

was

in

them

no mood

in

for

amorous

no uncertain terms,

I

who gave himself to anyone.
They then started to insult me and "the whole brood of queers,"
who ought to be exterminated. It was an unheard-of insult that the
wasn't the kind of person

authorities should
as

two

have put a subhuman such as this in the same cell

relatively decent people.

Even if they had come into conflict

with the law, they were at least normal

They were on

erates.

should be classed as animals.
quite a while, stressing

comparison with the
language that

it

men and

not moral degen-

a quite different level from

all

homos, who

They went on with such

the time

how

insults for

they were decent

men

You'd have thought from

filthy queers.

in

their

was me who had propositioned them, not the other

way round.
As it happened, I found out the very first night that they had sex
together, not even caring whether

—

the view of "normal" people

outlet,

As
mal.

with nothing queer about
if

mal

made.

normal
and

thirst

Is there a

this division

into

weeks

normal and abnorit

wasn't only these

"normal" men.

between normal and abnor-

normal hunger and an abnormal one?

and an abnormal one?

thirst thirst?

Two

was only an emergency

that opinion, but almost all

wonder today how

is

this

it.

had the misfortune to discover that

two gangsters who had
I still

saw or heard. But in their view

you could divide homosexuality

later

I

I

—

Isn't

A

hunger always hunger,

What a hypocritical and illogical way of thinking!

later,

my

my

trial

was already up,

justice

showing an

Under Paragraph 175 of the German
criminal code, I was condemned by an Austrian court for homosex-

unusual haste in

case.

The Men with the Pink Triangle

24

and sentenced to

ual behavior,

added provision of one

fast

six

months' penal servitude with the

day a month.

Proceedings against the second accused,

my

dropped on the grounds of "mental confusion."
tion

was given

as to

what

this involved,

from the judge's face that he was

Never mind, in

Hitler's

less

and

were

friend Fred,

No exact explana-

it

was

clear

enough

than happy with this formula.

Third Reich even the judges, supposedly so

independent, had to adapt to Nazi reasons of state.

Some

"higher power" had put in a finger and influenced the

court proceedings. Presumably Fred's father had used his weight as
a Nazi high-up,

and managed to get

For my part, however,
continued

its

Nazi party and

his

was later to

persecution after

released again, so that

my sentence was up.

involved

itself in a

same "power"
I

was not to be

that the son of a high

was homosexual and mixed up

then became clear to

trial. It

son out of trouble.
find that the

no one would know

state leader

criminal

I

I

me why

in a

the Gestapo had

harmless "queer case."*

never found out whether Fred had been interrogated by the

Gestapo, nor did

I

see

him

in court.

He was referred to throughout
He

simply as the second accused, and never mentioned by name.
vanished from

my sight, and remains so today. After 1945, 1 tried to

find out

what had become of him and whether he was still

in vain.

His father is said to have shot himself at the end of the war.

I

was

sentence.

transferred to the Vienna district prison to serve

Once again

station, then
I

I

the

same bodily examination

for domestic

work on my

prison slang. Three times a day

my

as in the police

I

floor, as a "faci, " in the

had to serve meals, going from cell

accompanied of course by a warder, and once a week

to collect all the prisoners' shirts
I

but

was put in a single cell. Only two days later, however,

was assigned

to cell,

alive,

I

had

and give out clean ones. Every day

had to wash the corridors morning and afternoon, and do what-

ever other services might be needed by the warders (happily though
not sexual services!).
*

This

of course

camp, or Schuqhafe
Nazi euphemism, was by this time automatic
after a prison sentence for homosexuality.
is

true, but dispatch to concentration

(= protective custody)

in the

Imprisoned as a "Degenerate"

25

This work made my time in prison very much easier.

And on top
we facts were only locked in at 6 p.m. and our cells opened
again at 5 a.m., even if we were only permitted to leave them when
we had work to do.
In this way I came into contact with many prisoners, and often
of this,

helped smuggle messages from one

cell to

another. Several times

I

had to serve someone condemned to death their last meal, generally
a wiener schnitzel

and potato

salad,

knowing that at 4 a.m.

the next

morning they would be hanged or beheaded. Some of them were
political prisoners, resistance fighters against the

later learned in concentration

abolished even this

Through

I

camp that the Nazis had subsequently

humanitarian gesture.

these contacts with political detainees, Jews, crimi-

and others

nals,

little

Nazi regime.

like

myself

I

discovered a great deal about the

Up till then I had known
very little of the martyrdom of these victims, and this made me
stronger and more mature, helping me to bear my long years in
misery and suffering inflicted by the Nazis.

concentration camp.

we were

In the Vienna prison, however,
correctness.
lations,

treated with perfect

Even though the warders were strict in enforcing regu-

they often had a friendly word for us prisoners. Not once

my six months there did I hear of a prisoner being beaten.
On the day that my six months were up, and I should have been

during

released,

I

demanded

was informed
that

I

remain

that the Central Security
in custody.

I

"Liesl," for transit to a concentration

was again

Department had

transferred to the

camp.

I knew from other
who had been sent back from concentration camp for trial

This news was like a blow on the head, for
prisoners
that

we

"queers," just like the Jews, were tortured to death in the

camps, and only rarely came out

alive.

couldn't, or wouldn't, believe this.

At

that time,

thought

I

designed to upset me. Unfortunately,

it

it

however,

I

was exaggeration,

was only too

true!

And what had I done to be sent off in this way? What infamous
crime or damage to the community?

I

had loved a friend of mine, a

grown man of twenty-four, not a child.
ful

or

wrong in

that.

I

could find nothing dread-

26

The Men with the Pink Triangle

What does it say about the world we live in, if an adult man is
how and whom he should love? Isn't it always those lawmakers
who are sexually inhibited and have inferiority complexes who
told

raise the loudest

hue and cry about the alleged "healthy feelings" of

their fellow citizens?

1

Arrival at

By January

Sachsenhausen

1940 the complement for the transport

and we were to be taken to a camp.

was made up,

One night we were loaded thirty

to forty at a time into "green Henrys," the police

wagons, and

driven to a freight station where a prison train was already waiting.

This train consisted mainly of

cattle trucks

open windows, as well as so-called
cattle trucks,

and

was placed

my

of about

in

age.

cells, similarly

barred,

worst criminals.

one of these

cells,

together with two

young men

We remained together the whole journey.

lasted thirteen days,
furt,

with heavily barred

wagons. These were also

but divided up into five or six

set aside for the

I

cell

This

and proceeded via Salzburg, Munich, Frank-

and Leipzig to Berlin-Oranienburg. Each evening we were put

off the train and taken to a prison to spend the night, sometimes
truck, but other times

on

foot. If we

went on

foot,

heavy chains. These gave a ghostly ratde,

in long,

by

we had to march
like a slave

caravan in the depths of the Middle Ages, and passersby would stare
fixedly at us in terror.

The

cells in the cell

person, with a
ture,

wooden

wagons only had proper room

table

and bench. That was the

not even a water jug or chamber pot.

evening, at the prisons where

we

for

one

entire furni-

We were fed only in the

stopped overnight, also being

given there a large piece of bread to take on the train the next day.
If the train

of nature
I

was to stay clean, then we could only attend to the wants

at night.

discovered the very

first

were robbers, condemned

day

that

my two young companions

to death for a murder.

What

they were

doing in the concentration-camp transport was clear neither to

them nor

to

me. They were quite unperturbed, and with a certain

The Men with the Pink Triangle

28

grisly pride they took turns in describing the details of their crime.
I felt

more than uncomfortable

do anything about

in their

company, but could hardly

it.

They soon got it out of me that I was a " 175er,"
as they called

me from

with utter contempt;

a "filthy queer,"

then on. They, too, spoke of homosexuals
didn't bother

it

them

were certainly even more rejected by
however, that they were

at least

guards traveled only in the

They emphasized,

"normal men."

Normal they may well have been, but
first

that as murderers, they

society.

the day

was long and

the

and last carriages, so that we had no

direct supervision during the journey.

So they both

said they

were

With thumps and blows they
forced me to suck their cocks, which I never would have done
voluntarily, and this went on several times a day from then on. As
getting bored, and wanted a bit of fun.

far as

the

they were concerned

same

I

was a "filthy queer" and must have got

satisfaction as they did.

For me, however, the whole business was repulsive and made

me sick, yet wretched as I felt I was completely in their power. They
had no conception that sex had anything to do with emotional
feelings

and the desire for human contact

sexuals. All that they cared about

themselves.

The whole

contemptuously of
queer

at all,

was

a

— even among homo-

little bit

time, moreover, they spoke obscenely and

me and

other "filthy queers." They weren't

but quite normal, no matter that

forced their cocks into

When we

of pleasure for

it

was they who had

my mouth. A strange "normality"!

reached the Oranienburg station,

we were

again

loaded up a ramp onto trucks and driven to Sachsenhausen camp.

To make my experience in concentration camp a bit more comI should first of all describe how the camps were

prehensible,

constructed and run.

Almost every concentration camp had three

different zones.

The prison camp itself was made up of a large number of wooden
barracks, or "blocks,"

where the prisoners

lived.

These were

di-

vided by wide roads, then there were buildings for the kitchen,
laundry, sick bay, and other

facilities,

including a mortuary and

crematorium. Most important was the big parade ground, where the

Arrival at Sachsenhausen

29

worst excesses of the SS butchers were generally carried out, and

behind

it

camp gate with buildings on either side. One of these
known as the "bunker/' contained the arrest cells, the

the

buildings,

other the offices of the prison-camp

commanders and

the guard-

room. The whole prisoners' zone was surrounded by a barbed-wire
fence

more than

electrified.

three meters high,

in several

camps was

Outside the barbed wire stood several watchtowers

by SS guards. The gate had

regular intervals, always occupied

own

which

at
its

tower, with a platform from which the entire prisoners' zone

could be surveyed, and

if

need be

fired

upon by

the machine guns

placed there.

The garrison zone, which lay outside the barbed-wire surround
of the prisoners' zone, contained the headquarters building, the
various administrative buildings and offices, the barracks of the SS

guard battalion, the homes of the senior SS officers, the officers' and

NCOs'

clubs,

and usually a riding

stable, as well as other facilities

such as a vegetable garden, poultry farm, and so on.

The

third

zone was the SS residential area, well away from the

other zones, and in a

more pleasant setting.

It

contained nice family

homes where the SS officers and NCOs lived with their
when they did not have quarters in the garrison zone.
Each of our blocks had two wings, wing
on the

right. In the

wing contained
bunks

families,

A on the left, wing B

middle were the washroom and lavatories. Each

a dormitory

in three tiers,

and a dayroom. The dormitory had

accommodating from 150

to 300 prisoners.

What little free time we had could only be spent in the dayroom,
being

strictly

it

forbidden to enter the dormitory during the daytime.

The dayroom was equipped with

tables

and benches, and each

prisoner had to keep his few belongings and eating utensils in a

wooden cabinet divided

into drawers.

Each concentration camp had a camp SS, responsible
internal

who

for the

management of the prison camp, and an SS guard battalion,

stood guard outside the wire, occupied the main watchtower,

and patrolled the camp perimeter.

At

the head of the entire

camp stood

the

commandant, with

adjutants and the senior administrative officer.

his

Next came the com-

The Men with the Pink Triangle

30

manders of the camp SS, generally two

in

who had

number,

direct

charge of the prison camp and were immediately under the com-

mandant. These were the real and immediate masters of the concen-

and exercised an unmitigated violence

tration camp,
prisoners' zone.

two,

who had

them

in turn

in the

Below them stood the report officers, again usually

to report

on the

prisoners' records

and

files.

Under

were the SS block leaders. These had complete power

over the prisoners in their block, and although they had to account
to the report officers for everything that
straints

were ever placed on

their brutal

went on

no con-

there,

and murderous conduct

against the prisoners. Indeed, orders and instructions from head-

quarters constantly incited
severely.

them

to treat the inmates

still

more

block leaders committed the great majority of

These

At the same level as the block leaders there
work detachment leaders. Block leaders and work
detachment leaders were all NCOs, while report officers and camp
atrocities

and

killings.

stood the SS

commanders were commissioned

officers,

from SS Untersturm-

fiihrer upward.

Subaltern functions in the

by

selected prisoners,

camp administration were performed
a camp senior. He

and the SS also appointed

stood over the other prisoners and was responsible for them to the

SS camp commanders. This was an extremely dangerous position,
requiring a
for

all

good

deal of courage and imagination, but often being

that a passive tool in the

for too

many

interventions

hands of the SS.

It

was a difficult job,

on behalf of the prisoners

cost

many of

these seniors their necks.

The

prisoners' office, of which the

camp

senior

was

in charge,

came under the authority of the report officers, and was exclusively
staffed by prisoners. This regulated the immediate internal management of the prison camp, including such things
tion of

work detachments,

for parades,

as the

composi-

the distribution of rations, preparation

and so on.

Each block

similarly

block from the prisoners'

had a block senior, responsible for the
side.

These had to account to the SS block

leaders for everything that happened or

was supposed

to

happen

within the block, and they were powerful lords over their fellow

1

.

Arrival at Sachsenhausen

Together with the camp senior and the Obercapos, they

prisoners.

made up

3

the

camp

They,

"dignitaries."

too,

had power of life and

death over those in their charge. In the concentration camps every
prisoner always had

two masters

whip over him: the

to crack the

butchers of the SS and the "dignitaries" from his

own ranks.

For each of the two wings in a block, the block seniors appointed
one or two
and

tidy,

orderlies, in charge

of keeping their wing or room clean

and for distributing food.

The Capos were

work detach-

again prisoners, in charge of the

ments and responsible to the SS work leader for the appointed quota
of work having been performed. Under them they had foremen.

Sometimes several work detachments

in

— exam— were

one division

for

ple, building division,

quarrying division, and so on

the charge of a senior

SS detachment leader and an Obercapo.

All the positions of "dignitaries," from the
the lowest Capo,

were

filled

—

by prisoners with red or green
criminals.

They

camp senior down to

with very few exceptions
triangles

—

greatly abused the very real

especially the greens. Corruption

prisoners

put in

that

is,

power

—

only

politicals or

that they had,

and tyranny toward

their fellow

was especially rife in their ranks, and where brutality was

concerned they were in no

way behind

the SS, particularly in

dealing with those of us with the pink triangle.

As

their

initials

badge of

office they

wore

a black

armband with the

LA for camp senior
BA for block senior (Blockdlteste)

of their position in white, for example,

(Lageralteste),

The

prisoners' uniforms

were marked with a colored cloth

triangle to denote their offense or origin. Their prison

sewn below the

triangle.

across and placed point

The

triangle

down, and was

was about

stitched onto the left breast

of the jacket and coat and the outside right trouser

The

colors of the triangles

were

number was

five centimeters

leg.

as follows:

yellow for Jews,

black for anti-socials,

red for politicals,

purple for Jehovah's Witnesses,

green for criminals,

blue for emigrants,

pink for homosexuals,

brown

for Gypsies.

The Men with the Pink Triangle

32

The pink triangle, however, was about 2 or 3 centimeters larger
we could be clearly recognized from a

than the others, so that
distance.

Jews, homosexuals, and Gypsies, the yellow, pink, and

brown

were the prisoners who suffered most frequently and

triangles,

most severely from the tortures and blows of the SS and the Capos.

They were described as the scum of humanity, who had no right to
on German soil and should be exterminated. Such were the
oft-repeated words of the commandant and his SS subordinates. But
live

the lowest of the

low in this "scum" were we, the men with the pink

triangle.

we were unloaded on

As soon
some SS

NCOs came along and attacked us with sticks. We had to

form up

in

as

rows of five, and

it

the large,

open parade ground,

took quite a while, and

many blows

and insults, before our terrified ranks were assembled. Then we had
a roll call, having to step forward

and repeat our name and offense,

whereupon we were immediately handed over

to our particular

block leader.

When my name was

called

and mentioned Paragraph
get over there,

you

175.

stepped forward, gave

I

With

butt-fucker! "

the words:

"You

my

name,

filthy queer,

received several kicks from

I

behind and was kicked over to an SS sergeant

who had

charge of

my block.
The first thing I got from him was a violent blow on my face that
threw

me

to the ground.

I

pulled myself up and respectfully stood

before him, whereupon he brought his knee up hard into
so that

I

doubled up with pain on the ground. Some prisoners

were on duty immediately

called out to

"Stand up quick, otherwise

My

my groin

face

sergeant,

still

twisted,

who grinned

at

I

he'll

"That was your entrance

When

the

you

to bits!"

fee,

my

block

said:

you

you know who your block leader
about twenty

kick

stood up again in front of

me and

who

me:

filthy

Viennese swine, so that

is."

whole transport was

men in our category.

finally divided up, there

We

were

were driven to our block

at

Arrival at Sachsenhausen

the double, interrupted

33

by the commands: "Lie down! Stand up! Lie

down, stand up!" and so on, from the block leader and some of his
men, then having once again

to

form up

in ranks

We then

of three.

had to strip completely naked, lay our clothes on the ground in front
of us, with shoes and socks on top, and wait
It

was January and

—

wait

—

wait.

few degrees below zero, with an icy wind

a

blowing through the camp, yet we were

left

naked and barefoot on

the snow-covered ground, to stand and wait.

An

SS corporal

winter coat with fur collar strode through our ranks and struck

now another,

one of us,
don't

make me

with a horsewhip, crying: "This

feel cold,

you

so

is

in

now
you

filthy queers."

He

also trod deliberately

on the

boots,

making them cry out

in pain.

prisoners' toes with his

Anyone who made

heavy

a sound,

however, was immediately punched in the stomach with the butt

end of

his

whip with

a force that took his breath away.

Almost

sweating from dealing out blows up and down, the SS corporal said,

"You

queers are going to remain here until you cool off."*

Finally, after a terribly long time,

the showers

—

still

already had nametags put

when we

returned.

we were

allowed to march to

naked and barefoot. Our clothes, which had

We

some of the new arrivals

in,

remained behind, and had vanished

had to wash ourselves

in cold water,

collapsed with cold and exhaustion.

and

Only

then did the camp doctor have the warm water turned on, so that
we could thaw ourselves out. After the shower we were taken to the
next room, where we had to cut our hair, pubic hair included.
Finally we were taken, still naked
to the clothing stores,
where we were given underwear and were "fitted" with prison
clothing. This was distributed quite irrespective of size. The trou-

—

sers

I

received were far too short, and

calves; the jacket

came only

just

below

was much too narrow and had too-short

my

sleeves.

Only the coat fitted tolerably well, but by mere accident. The shoes
were a

little

too big and smelled strongly of sweat, but they had

leather soles,

*

The

slang

which made walking a

word

for

lot easier

homosexual used here

is

than the wooden-

warmer Binder,

brother," which gives occasion for a lot of vicious puns.

literally

"hot

The Men with the Pink Triangle

34

many new

soled shoes that

went, at

least,

I

didn't

arrivals received.

As

do too badly. Then we had

far as clothing

form up again

to

its organization explained to us by the
camp commander. Our block was occupied only by homosexuals,

outside our block and have

with about 250
nightshirts,

men

in each

We

wing.

could only sleep in our

and had to keep our hands outside the blankets,

for:

"You queer assholes aren't going to start jerking off here!"
The windows had a centimeter of ice on them. Anyone found
with his underclothes on in bed or his hands under his blanket
there

were checks almost every night

The

was bronchitis, and

taken into the sick bay to

ally

left

standing

good hour. Only a few people survived this treatment.

least result

triangle

taken outside and had

him before being

several bowls of water poured over

outside for a

— was

—

were

it

come out

was

alive.

rare for

any gay person

We who wore the pink

prioritized for medical experiments,

and these gener-

ended in death. For my part, therefore, I took every care I could

not to offend against the regulations.

—

that is, crimiOur block senior and his aides were "greens"
nals. They looked it, and behaved like it too. Brutal and merciless
toward us "queers," and concerned only with their own privilege
and advantage, they were as much feared by us as the SS.

was never permitted

In Sachsenhausen, at least, a homosexual
to

have any position of responsibility. Nor could

we even

speak

with prisoners from other blocks, with a different-colored badge;

we were told we might try to seduce them. And yet homosexuality
was much more rife in the other blocks, where there were no men
with the pink triangle, than

was

it

in

our own.

We were also forbidden to approach nearer than five meters of
the other blocks.

"horse," and

Anyone caught doing

was sure of at

so

least fifteen to

was whipped on the

twenty strokes. Other

categories of prisoner were similarly forbidden to enter our block.

We were to remain isolated

as the

damnedest of the damned, the

camp's "shitty queers," condemned to liquidation and helpless prey
to

all

the torments inflicted

The day
just half an

by the SS and the Capos.

regularly began at 6 a.m., or 5 a.m. in

hour

we had

to

summer, and

in

be washed, dressed, and have our beds

Arrival at Sachsenhausen

made

you

in the military style. If

breakfast,

had time, you could have

still

which meant hurriedly slurping down the thin flour soup,

hot or lukewarm, and eating your piece of bread.

form up

35

in eights

on

the parade

Then we had

ground for morning roll

followed, in winter from 7:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., and in

call.

to

Work

summer from

7 a.m. to 8 p.m., with a half-hour break at the workplace. After

work, straight back to the camp and immediate parade for evening
roll call.

Each block marched
its

in formation to the parade

ground and had

permanent position there. The morning parade was not so drawn

out as the much-feared evening roll

call,

for only the block

numbers

were counted, which took about an hour, and then the command

was given

for

work detachments to form up.

At every parade, those who had just died had also to be present;
that

is,

they were laid out

Only

well.

officer,

at the

having been

after the parade,

were they taken

end of each block and counted as
tallied

by

the report

mortuary and subsequently burned.

to the

Disabled prisoners had also to be present for parade.

Time and

we helped or carried comrades to the parade ground who had
been beaten by the SS only hours before. Or we had to bring along
fellow prisoners who were half-frozen or feverish, so as to have our
numbers complete. Any man missing from our block meant many
again

blows and thus further deaths.

We new arrivals were now assigned to our work, which was to
keep the area around the block clean. That
told

by the

very

last

at least is

what we were

NCO in charge. In reality, the purpose was to break the

spark of independent

spirit that

might possibly remain in

new prisoners, by senseless yet very heavy labor, and to destroy
the little human dignity that we still retained. This work continued
until a new batch of pink-triangle prisoners were delivered to our
block and we were replaced.
Our work, then, was as follows: In the morning we had to cart
the

the

snow outside our block from the left side of the road to the right

side. In the

afternoon

right side to the

form

this

left.

work either

we had

to cart the

same snow back from the

We didn't have barrows and shovels to per-

—

that

would have been far too simple

for us

The Men with the Pink Triangle

36

"queers." No, our SS masters had thought up something

much

better.

We had

to put

on our coats with the buttoned

and take the snow away

side

backward,

in the container this provided.

We had to

—

our bare hands, as we didn't
snow with our hands
have any gloves. We worked in teams of two. Twenty turns at
shoveling up the snow with our hands, then twenty turns at carryshovel up the

ing

it

away.

And

so right through to the evening, and

all at

the

double!

This mental and bodily torment lasted

six days, until at last

new

pink-triangle prisoners were delivered to our block and took over

from us. Our hands were cracked all over and half frozen off, and
we had become dumb and indifferent slaves of the SS.
I learned from prisoners who had already been in our block a
good while that in summer similar work was done with earth and
sand.

Above

the gate of the prison camp, however, the "meaningful"

Nazi slogan was written in big

capitals:

"Freedom through work!"

s A Camp of Torture and Toil

After the infamous snow detachment, we new arrivals were
transferred to the same work as the rest of our entire block: the clay
pit

of the Klinker brickworks. This clay

prisoners as the death

pit,

ers in all other concentration

and up

tion,

until 1942

it

pit,

known among

was both famed and feared by

all

us

prison-

camps, as a factory of human destruc-

was

the "Auschwitz" for homosexuals.

Only we were commandeered for work in the clay pit, to be hounded to death by the most terrible working conditions, as well as by
actual torture.

Thousands upon thousands of homosexuals must have lost their
tormented
tion

by

come forward
"good

of a deliberate operation of destruc-

lives there, victims

the Hitler regime.

taste"

And

to describe this

yet

till

very day no one has

this

and honor

its

victims.

It

seems that

nowadays prevents people from speaking of the de-

struction of concentration-camp victims, particularly

when

these

were homosexuals.

Work in the clay pit was the hardest it is possible to imagine, and
exposed to

all

the elements.

Whether

heat, or in winter with biting frost

number of carts

filled

in

summer, with singeing

and deep snow, a fixed daily

with clay had to be pushed by hand up to the

brick-making machines and their ovens, so that sufficient raw material

was always available and production need not be interrupted.

Since the clay pit

was

quite deep, the stretch

had to be hand-pushed on

rails to

the plant

up which these

carts

was both very long and

very steep. For half-starved prisoners covered with marl,

this

was

a real Golgotha.

The Capos who had immediate supervision over us were stricdy
human

ordered by the SS to spare no pains, which meant spare no

The Men with the Pink Triangle

38

life,

to get the prescribed

They used

this

tonnage of clay to the brickworks on time.

power of life and death with

sadistic cruelty, since

they were themselves threatened with relegation to the same labor

column if the daily quota was not achieved.
the brutality they inflicted
to

into the

fall

same

state

It is

not hard to imagine

on the prisoners in their charge, so as not

of toil.

Five or six prisoners had to load the carts with shovels, while
other groups of the same size pushed the full carts uphill.

The Capos

and SS rained almost constant blows on us, hoping to accelerate the

work in this way, but also giving free vent to their sadistic impulses.
It was no wonder that almost each day some prisoners deliberately
got their fingers or toes, even hands or feet, run over by the carts,
so as to escape from work in the clay pit. Yet even if they all were
sent to the sick bay, they were never seen alive and well again. They
just went to fuel the constant flow of human guinea pigs for "medical" research.

happened very often that the prisoners shoving a

It

uphill simply ran out

full cart

of strength, and the cart slipped violently back

down on them. If it could not be braked in time with wooden sticks,
then it ran right back with full force into the cart below. Many
prisoners were already so numbed and indifferent that they didn't
even bother to jump out of the way when a full cart came roaring
toward them. Then human bodies would fly through the air, and
limbs be crushed to pulp, while the remaining prisoners only received

more blows with

the stick.

The

clay pit thus took

of fatalities, both accident victims and those

toll

cumbed

to exhaustion.

The death pit

My dormitory, with

who

richly deserved

its

daily

simply suc-

its

name.

180 prisoners or more, contained the most

varied collection of people. Unskilled workers and shop assistants,
skilled
ists,

tradesmen and independent craftsmen, musicians and

art-

professors and clergy, even aristocratic landowners. All of

them, before their imprisonment in concentration camps, had been
decent people in private
zens,

who had

life,

many

indeed highly respected

never come up against the law, but were

citi-

set apart

only by their homosexual feelings. All of these otherwise decent
people had been assembled here, in this melting pot of disgrace and

A Camp of Torture and Toil

39

torment, the "queer block" of a concentration camp, for extermination through back-breaking labor, hunger, and torture.

them were
cents, as

child molesters or

all

None of

had had sex with children or adoles-

of these had a green

triangle.

triangle really outrageous criminals

Were we with our pink

and "degenerates," a menace

to society?

One of my

fellow prisoners,

still

recognizable as an intellectual

despite his battered face and clay-spattered body,

was a Jew as well.

Beneath the pink triangle he wore the yellow triangle, so that the

two together made a

star

of David.

He had to suffer twice-over the

chicanery of the SS and the "green" Capos, for being not only
queer, but a

Jew into

the bargain.

He was from Berlin, twenty-five years old at the time, and came
from a very well-to-do family. His parents, whose only son he was,

had already long since been liquidated in some camp or other,
agreeing that their property in

A farce, given that the Nazis would have confiscated

by

the Reich.

all

they had anyway.

The

after

Germany should be "safeguarded"

son, however,

still

had

significant property in Switzerland

and Portugal, and had inherited more besides.

way out, and was willing to

He wanted to buy his

turn over half his fortune to the Nazis

in return for permission to emigrate.

His lawyer, however, based in Switzerland, would only transfer
the

bank accounts and papers

to

him personally

in Zurich,

even

though German
ating the deal.

officials endowed with full authority were negotiThe Swiss lawyer, however, knew the kind of people

he was dealing with, and completely refused to agree to the property being transferred to his client in

prevent

this

his client

money,

Germany. He wanted

too, being "safeguarded"

by

to

the Nazis, while

remained in concentration camp. In this way he carried on

fighting for his client's

life

and fortune: money only in return for

emigration.

Our SS block

leader must have got

wind of these proceedings,

and was well aware that "his" Jewish queer had an enormous
fortune abroad. After evening roll

call,

during what

remained to the prisoners, and very often even

little

at night,

free time

he would

The Men with the Pink Triangle

40

send for "his" Jew and

snow, or

make him

stand for a couple of hours in the

make him do dozens upon dozens of knee-bends in the icy

cold in his nightshirt, until the poor devil collapsed of exhaustion

and passed out.

Then the SS man would lift him up and

tell

him he should make

over to him a portion of his property abroad and notify the Swiss
lawyer accordingly. If he did

and get him a cushy job

in

this,

he would then leave him in peace

domestic work.

But the Berlin Jew never gave
he was hounded and tortured
If

I

do, they'll just

kill

SS man hopes that
keep

I

might give

even though

this

only meant

more. "I mustn't sign anything.

me, so that

extortion," he once said as he told

he'll at least

in,

still

I

can't

be a witness to the

me of his life.

in, he'll

"But as long as the

carry on torturing me, but

me alive. And I want to live!"

Fourteen days more he had to bear the torment and torture of
the SS sergeant. Falling

from one

faint into another, a

mental and

physical wreck, he stubbornly refused to sign anything, as this

would have meant

Then suddenly his torture was
and taken away by the Gestapo. It seemed

certain death.

ended, he was fetched

—

at least

that the deal of Jew against

money

that his Swiss lawyer's negotiations

that

was my fervent

had

finally

wish — and

had been successful

taken place.

Money

doesn't stink, so our Nazi champions of race in Berlin

would have

said,

even Jewish money

— and

"queer" into the

bargain.

For

all

the deaths and mutilations in the clay pit, the

prisoners in our block continued to

rise.

Almost every week new

transports arrived, each time including a group of gays

be quartered in our block.
these

new

arrivals

that action

cleanse

It

was

who had to

noticeable that the majority of

were Austrians or Sudeten Germans.

was under way

number of

in these

new "German

It

seemed

districts" to

them of "degenerate" homosexuals.

Toward the end of February 1940 a priest arrived in our block,
a man some sixty years of age, tall and with distinguished features.
We later discovered that he came from Sudetenland, from an aristocratic German family.

"

A Camp of Torture and Toil

41

He found the torment of the arrival procedure especially trying,
naked and barefoot outside the block.

particularly the long wait

When his tonsure was discovered after the shower, the SS corporal
in

charge took up a razor and said,

head myself, and extend
priest's

scalp.

"I'll

go

to

work on

And

his tonsure a bit."

this one's

he shaved the

head with the razor, taking little trouble to avoid cutting the

Quite the contrary.

The

priest returned to the

dayroom of our block with

his

head

cut open and blood streaming down. His face was ashen and his eyes

He

uncomprehendingly into the distance.

stared

sat

down on

a

bench, folded his hands in his lap, and said softly, more to himself
than to anyone
I

else:

"And yet man is good, he is a creature of God!"

was sitting beside him, and said softly but firmly: "Not all men;

there are also beasts in

human

form,

whom

the devil must have

made."

The priest paid no attention to my words; he just prayed silently,
merely moving his lips. I was deeply moved, even though I was by
then already numbed by all the suffering I had so often seen, and
indeed experienced myself. But

I

had always had a great respect for

priests, so that his silent prayer, this

called

on

for help

and strength

ment, went straight to

mute appeal

to

in his bodily pain

God,

my heart.

Our block Capo, however, a repulsive and brutal
have reported the

whom he

and mental tor-

"green," must

praying to the SS, for our block sergeant

priest's

suddenly burst into the dayroom accompanied by a second

NCO,

from the bench and punching and

insult-

seizing the terrified priest

The

ing him.

and

priest

bore the beating and abuse without complaint,

just stared at the

two SS men with wide, astonished

eyes. This

must simply have made them angrier, for they now took one of the
benches and tied the priest to

They

started to beat

his stomach, his belly,

more and more
of you!

The

him

and

ecstatic,

You butt-fucker!

it.

indiscriminately with their sticks,

his sexual organs.

They seemed

and gloated: "We'll drive the praying out
Butt-fucker!

priest collapsed into unconsciousness,

and then

fell

on

to get

unconscious again.

was shaken awake,

The Men with the Pink Triangle

42

Finally the

two SS

sadists ceased their

blows and

the day-

left

room, though not without scornfully calling back to the man they

had

now

piss

with your asshole in future."

The
him on

"Okay, you randy old

quite destroyed:

and groaned.

priest just rattled
his bed.

He

tried to raise his

the strength, and his voice gave out

We

hand

rat-bag,

released

you can

him and

in thanks, but

laid

he hadn't

when he tried to say thank you.

He just lay without stirring, his eyes open, each movement contorting his face with pain.
I felt I

was witnessing the

crucifixion of Christ in

modern guise.

Instead of Roman soldiers, Hitler's SS thugs, and a bench instead of
the cross.

The torment of the Savior, however, was scarcely greater

than that inflicted on one of his representatives nineteen hundred
years later here in Sachsenhausen.

The next morning, when we marched
had almost

to carry the priest,

from pain and weakness.
block sergeant, the

to the parade ground,

who seemed about to collapse

When our block senior reported to the SS

latter

came over

to the priest

"Can't you stand up, you asshole?" adding:
filthy swine,

say what you are!"

the insults, but

we

again

and shouted:

"You filthy queer, you

The priest was supposed

to repeat

no sound came from the lips of the broken man. The

SS man angrily

fell

on him and was about

to start beating

him once

again.

Suddenly the unimaginable happened, something that
inexplicable to

me and that I

is still

could only see as a miracle, the finger

of God:

From the overcast sky,

a

sudden ray of sunshine illuminated the

priest's battered face.

Out of thousands of assembled prisoners, it lit only him, and
very moment when he was going to be beaten again. There
was a remarkable silence, and all present stared fixedly at the
sky, astonished by what had happened. The SS sergeant himself looked up at the clouds in wonder for a few seconds, then
at the

let his

hand, raised for a beating, sink slowly to his side, and

walked wordlessly away
ranks.

to take

up

his position at the

end of our

A Camp of Torture and Toil

43

The priest bowed his head and murmured with a dying voice:
"Thank you, Lord ... I know that my time has come...*'
He was still with us for the evening parade. But we no longer
needed to carry him: we laid him down at the end of the line with
the other dead of the day, so that our
for the roll call

— no

numbers should be complete

matter whether living or dead.

By now it was April,

yet

I

was

still

alive, despite constant

work

in the clay pit.

Though already weak in my body, my mind was still absolutely
clear

and

alert.

concentration

A necessary condition, if one was to remain alive in

camp and

survive the incessant torment.

One day I was called out at morning parade and transferred to a
different work detachment, assigned to build a new firing range for
theSS.

God, how happy I was to get out of the death pit!

An end to the

daily beatings of the Capos, an end to seeing the daily mutilation of

my fellow prisoners, my tormented and despairing companions in
pain.

At last

a different kind of work.

My joy, unfortunately, was brief and soon cut short, for it turned
out that

I

fire.

Once

again,

was only homosexuals who were employed, plus

a few

it

had only exchanged the frying pan for the

Jews who never returned
found out
life,

how

to the

in this unit too,

camp

evening

alive.

no concern was shown

particularly the lives of queers

We

in the

for

I

soon

human

and Jews.

had to carry earth and clay to build up a mound for the

firing-range butts, to stand behind the target zone,

already installed. At

first this

which was

went off quite smoothly; we carted

our barrows and the earth wall slowly rose. But then, after only a

few days, groups of SS men came to the

firing

range to

start their

we prisoners had to carry on emptying our
mound. Naturally enough, we wanted to stop

shooting practice, while

barrows onto the

unloading when the shooting practice was going on, but the Capos

and SS guards forced us to continue with blows and threats of a
beating.

Then shots started to whip through our ranks, and several of my
fellow sufferers collapsed, some only wounded, but many killed.

The Men with the Pink Triangle

44

We soon found out that the SS far preferred to fire on us prisoners
than they did at the proper targets, and had directly aimed

at certain

people pushing their barrows.

Every day, our group suffered some dead and wounded.

came

to

work each morning

which of us were

to

We

of terror and dread, not knowing

full

meet our death, but sure

that

some or other of

We had become a sitting target for the SS, who greeted

us would.

each direct

hit

with a shout of glee.

This lasted almost two weeks, and claimed more than

— more

fifteen

dead

— dead

fact,

than the notorious clay pit claimed in the same time, even

prisoners with the pink triangle

though the number of prisoners working there was
In this

way

victims, in

far greater.

the SS's demonic machinery of extermination rav-

aged the ranks of us gays, pruning the numbers in our block only to

make way for the next batch of homosexuals sent in from the Reich
and

its

newly occupied

territories.

The command of the Nazi regime for a drastic purge of homosexuals, these "degenerates" among the German people who were
to be dispatched for extermination,
efficiently

and with

sadistic zeal.

was carried out by the SS jailers

But the intention was not

just to

us off immediately, but rather to torture us to death by a

kill

combination of terror and brutality, hunger and bitter
It

must have been great sport

What
human beings to play with!

a nice change for them, to

came through

the rain of bullets miracu-

angle prisoners as living targets.

have

live

For two whole days
lously unscathed.

bargain.

I

Then one of the Capos,

a "green," offered

a

stronger than

to the shots

of the SS.

my will to live was now
my commitment to human decency. No matter who

Quickly thinking
might condemn

it

over,

I

agreed, for

me for it, the sight of the dead and wounded at the

range had had too great an effect on me.

afraid.

me

would be his lover and have sex with him. Then I'd

no longer be exposed

if it

I

need only load earth into the barrows, and not carry them

to the butts, if I

firing

toil.

for the SS, then, to use us pink-tri-

Why shouldn't

was degrading?

I

I

was afraid,

seize this opportunity to save

my

terribly

life,

even

A Camp of Torture and Toil
On May

15, 1940, at

morning parade,

45

a transport

was put

gether, quite unexpectedly, for transfer to another camp.

go with

it,

and scarcely an hour

and driven away. In some ways

weeks

my
I

later

we were

my

Capo.

He

was assigned only

Departure from

shook hands, he

my Capo

said,

friend

feelings,

I

on both

to

for in the last

few

this sexual rela-

to eat,

and thanks to

and nondangerous work.

was

brief and painless.

"I'm sorry for you," and

relationship of convenience

With anxious

me

got more for
to easier

to-

was

loaded onto a truck

was sorry to go,

had been almost bearable, through

life

tionship with
his help

I

I

sides

was

at

I

We
A

thanked him.

an end.

boarded the truck, not knowing what

how I would survive in the new camp.
Experience, however, had taught me that it was possible to keep
alive even in concentration camp. And I was obsessed by a single
the future

would

thought: that

I

bring, and

was determined

to survive.

2

Flossenburg

was only during the journey that we learned from the SS guards
we were being taken to Flossenburg. I had already heard tell of
that camp from other prisoners in Sachsenhausen. According to
It

that

them, things were just as brutal in Flossenburg as at Sachsenhausen,
so

we need have no hopes

that

we were

in for

any better times. In

one concentration camp was as bad as another.

that respect,

Flossenburg lay in the mountainous region of Bavaria, near the

Czech border,

at

about 700 meters above sea

level.

town was Weiden. The concentration camp was
slope, not far

from Flossenburg

village.

The

built

But no matter

nearest

on a gentle

how

sceni-

cally beautiful, with a ruined fourteenth-century castle rising pic-

turesquely in the landscape, Flossenburg

memory

is still

for tens of thousands of human beings,

and torment there they

will curse

it

for

all

a place of dreaded

and for

their pain

time.

When our transport of three trucks arrived in Flossenburg, and
we were unloaded onto the parade ground, we were surprised to
find that we didn't face the same circus that was customary for new
that is, abuse, insults, and blows. Our
arrivals in Sachsenhausen

—

seemed more

arrival, at least,

"civilized,"

which was a pleasant

experience.

Out of over

a

hundred Sachsenhausen prisoners transferred to

Flossenburg, only five bore the pink triangle: a Czech singer from

Prague, age 35; a
24-year-old

civil

man from

in the Hitler

servant from Graz in Austria, age 42; a

Salzburg, said to have been a senior official

Youth; myself, and another Viennese, both aged

Just as in Sachsenhausen,

we were

but this time only wing A of the block

was

for homosexuals.

22.

quartered in a "queers" block,"

—

that

is,

one dormitory

—

47

Flossenbiirg

This wing alone was occupied by more than two hundred men,

and here too, as

in

Sachsenhausen, the light was kept on the whole

night, though only

we had

to

in the "queers'

wing" of the block. Once again,

keep our hands outside the blanket while

was presumably

a regulation in force for

with blocks for homosexuals. Only a year later,

disbanded and

we were

we

slept.

This

concentration camps

all

when this wing was

scattered in smaller groups throughout the

other blocks, was this regulation no longer applied.

We were led to our block by an SS guard, and transferred there
to the sergeant in charge. This
a

good while, while

man kept us standing and waiting for

group of eight to ten Capos gathered round

a

us and looked us up and down.
exactly

Capos

why

I

was already wise enough

a section of the "dignitaries"

— were admiring

for a possible lover

have a

full

my

years, and because

was obviously very much
I

could

situation in

much like

know

us in this way. They were on the lookout
among the new arrivals. Because I still did not

I

had

thanks to the supplementary rations from

tions.

to

included the

beard, even though nearly twenty-three, so looked

younger than

I

— who

tell

as

at the center

much from

which the

five

their

out a bit again

filled

my Sachsenhausen Capo,

of these Capos' considera-

unconcealed discussions.

of us found ourselves seemed

a slave-boy market in ancient

to

The

me very

Rome.

In the end the SS sergeant and the block senior

came out of the

block office and put an end to the Capos' game. While the sergeant
read us out the special regulations for the homosexual wing of the
block, the block senior stood behind
us,

him and took

a

good look

at

with the same idea in mind as his Capos had had before. His eyes

stayed fixed on me for a good while, and a contented smile appeared

on

his face.

When the sergeant had departed,

had to assign us new

arrivals

and the block senior

our beds, he immediately came up to

me and said, "Hey, you, kid, do you want to come with me?"
"Yes, certainly,"

meant.
him.

I

said right

away, knowing very well what he

My immediate acceptance somehow made an impression on

He

said,

"You're a clever kid,

the shoulder. Flossenbiirg was a

Sachsenhausen.

The

I

like that,"

camp run by the

and patted

me on

"greens," just like

great majority of elders and Capos, in other

The Men with the Pink Triangle

48

words, came from the ranks of the criminal prisoners, as naturally

enough did the camp senior and head Capo.

The

senior

whose lover

I

became was

from Hamburg, very highly regarded

a professional criminal

in his milieu as a safecracker.

He was much feared by the prisoners for his ruthlessness, and even
by his Capo colleagues, but he was generous and considerate to me.

Only half a year later he became camp senior, and remained so until
the Americans liberated the camp.

Even

later on,

when

I

was no

longer his lover, his eye having fallen on a young Pole, he kept a
protecting hand over me.
over, and

I

am

still

saved

my

more than

life

very grateful to him for

this today,

ten times

more than

He is once again living in Hamburg, though

twenty-five years later.
I

He

have had no contact with him since April 1945.
I

was told by my fellow prisoners here that our SS block sergeant

was very "sharp," immediately ready with punishments, and never
smiling or showing any emotion, but never laying a hand on a

new

prisoner himself. After the five of us

arrivals

had made our

beds in the prescribed fashion and put our modest belongings away
in the appropriate place,
details to

we had

to parade again for

our personal

be taken down. The sergeant used a pen of one of the

prisoners to write

down

these particulars, asking each of us every

possible question.

When it came to my turn and he looked me in the eyes, it was as
if a flicker

right

of understanding flashed from him to me.

words

to express

it,

but

it

was

like

an

I

electric

can't find the

shock that

I

we looked at one another those few seconds. He
never spoke to me much while I was in his block, but I often found
seemed

to feel as

him gazing at me.
Once, when an SS corporal struck
to

him

alone!

in time,
M

me

for not taking

my cap off

he burst out of his office and cried, "Leave that

man

Whereupon the corporal left off, saying, "Okay then, okay,"
and made his departure. The sergeant stared at me with a serious
expression and went back into his office. Time and again I caught
him looking in my direction when he thought he was unobserved.
I

never discussed

this

with any of

my

fellow prisoners, not even

49

Flossenbiirg

with

my friend the block senior, but I had the instinctive feeling that

he was fond of me, and also "one of us," of the same sexual
persuasion as

we who wore the pink triangle.

He concealed his feelings by rejecting any personal contact with
us prisoners, and by his strictness and rigidity. For even the slightest

infringement of camp regulations, and that might

cough

as a

at the

wrong time or

five to ten strokes

a button missing, he

on the "horse," the customary

mean

as

little

would order

penalty. But he

never watched the punishment himself, and on one occasion

when

he had to be present, he turned away. In mid- 1941 he volunteered
for the Russian front

We gays were
fifteen

work

and vanished from our

sight.

assembled into work detachments of twelve to

men, led by an SS work

in the granite quarry.

leader, a

This

is

Capo, and a foreman, to

where the stones were dug and

prepared for Hitler's great building projects, for roadway bridges

and the like. Great halls were dug into the quarry, where the cutting
and finishing of the stones was carried out, and the granite blocks
received their final form and possible polishing.

The work of quarrying, dynamiting, hewing, and

dressing

was

extremely arduous, and only Jews and homosexuals were assigned

The quarry claimed very many victims, with the SS and Capos
often deliberately contributing to the large number of accidents.
What car driver today, hurtling along the German roadways,
knows that each block of granite has the blood of innocent men on
to

it?

it.

Men who did nothing wrong, but who were hounded to death in

concentration camps solely for reason of their religion, their origin,
their political views, or their feeling for their

granite pillars that hold

untold victims

—

Today people

are only too willing to

forgetfulness over

own sex. Each of the

up the roadway bridges

cost the lives of

a sea of blood and a mountain of human corpses.

all

throw a cloak of silence and

of these things.

Because of my relationship with the block senior, the Capo in
charge assigned
this

was

still

work day
rations.

me to somewhat easier work in the quarry, though
And I could not have kept up the heavy
day if my friend had not procured me additional

hard enough.

after

The Men with the Pink Triangle

50

Just like the prison

No

sentries.

itself,

the granite quarry

was com-

by barbed wire, and guarded outside and

pletely surrounded

by SS

camp

prisoner

meters to the wire. Anyone

without warning, since

was permitted

who

was shot by

did so

inside

to get closer than five

the SS guards

was already considered

this transgression

attempted escape. For shooting a prisoner who "attempted escape,"

an SS

man

It is

received three days' special leave.

not hard to imagine, therefore,

how keen

were

the SS

to

organize "escapes" of this kind, for the sake of their extra leave. In
the relatively short time that

I

worked

witnessed at least ten occasions when SS

and threw

it

against the wire.

in the quarry,

I

myself

men seized a prisoner's cap

They would then demand

that the

prisoner fetch his cap back. Naturally enough, the prisoner tried to
refuse, as

everyone knew this meant certain death. The SS

started beating the

choose the
the

poor devil with

sticks, so that

way in which he was to die:

either

men then

he could only

be beaten to death by

SS beasts or be shot by the guards for "attempted escape."
It

happened several times, too, that a prisoner would himself run

against the wire in despair, to get shot and be freed from pain,

hunger, and the unbearable

toil.

When a prisoner was shot in the quarry, all other prisoners had
immediately to
the victim,

on

lie

on the ground and keep

their

heads down, until

who was not always immediately dead, was taken away

a stretcher. This

might take anything up to an hour and a

Anyone who moved, moreover, got

kidneys from the patrolling SS guards, so that he nearly
senses.

Only

rain or

on cold

in

half.

a kick in the head or the
lost his

summer was this procedure relatively bearable; in
days it was more than painful, which was precisely

the SS's idea.

One way of tormenting Jews and homosexuals that the SS in the
who were
already physically at the end of their tether. A man who had not

quarry were very fond of was to drive crazy prisoners

done anything

in particular, but

officer in charge,

Two men

would have

was simply picked upon by the SS

a metal bucket placed over his head.

would hold him down, while the SS men and Capos

banged on the bucket with

their sticks.

The terrible noise amplified

Flossenbiirg

51

through the bucket soon brought the victim to such a pitch of terror
that he completely lost his

destroyed.

Then

the bucket

mind and

his sense

was suddenly removed from

and he was pushed toward the wire fence.
himself in time.

on

fired

of balance was

He

his

head

could seldom right

And if he staggered inside the 5-meter zone, he was

in the usual

way. "Games" such as these were a favorite

pastime for some of the SS guards,

who had no need

disciplinary measures, their victims being just the

Jews whose extermination was planned
After two weeks or so in the quarry,

work detachment

at the instigation

for in

to fear

any

homosexuals and

any

case.

was assigned to a different

I

of my block senior

This

friend.

was the camp's building division, in charge of all construction work
whether within or outside of the camp
The building division had several work detachments, one for
each of the different building sites. I was to work as a clerk in the
in the Flossenbiirg area,
itself.

building material stores, and so had an easy and comfortable job
that

no longer put

my

life

At

in daily jeopardy.

last I'd

come

through!

The only reason I was given this position was that I had passed

my

"probation" period as the block senior's lover, and without

attracting attention.
relationship, but
If

my

lover

What was on trial was not

was feared among the

respected, and as these
is,

criminals

good

the sincerity of the

my silence and discretion about

— he was

relations with the

it.

he was also

"dignitaries,"

were almost exclusively "greens"
a kind of underworld boss.

—

He had

that

very

SS camp commanders and officers, keeping

on good terms with them by way of
generally handicraft items

made by

little

These were

presents.

the prisoners, such as Viking

and wick-

ships, painted or in bottles, watercolors, straw baskets,

erwork of various kinds, which he got made in return for cigarettes
or

little

packets of food. These products of prison handicraft were

very popular with the SS, as they could also be sold
outside the camp. In this way, then,

my block

at a

senior

good price

managed

to

purchase the favor of many SS officers, and built up a position of

power both among the ordinary prisoners and among
colleagues. His influence

was so great

that at the

his

Capo

end of 1940,

The Men with the Pink Triangle

52

as

already mentioned, the SS appointed him to be

I

camp

senior.

Naturally enough, he also had his enemies, particularly

who would have

the politicals,

themselves. In these

first

some "reds"

is,

—

that

liked to

among

have got the position for

days of my friendship with him, therefore,

political prisoners

— approached me

in the

quarry even though they lived in another block and belonged to
another work detachment.

between

me

They wanted to

he had approached

me

sexually.

the form of jokes, for example,

give

it

to

find out

what there was

how he treated me, and whether
They put these questions to me in

and the block senior,

you every day?";

"Has he got

a big one?";

"Does he

"Is he really loving?"

The only purpose of these jokes, however, was to bring to light
a homosexual relationship that was officially forbidden. As later
emerged, their idea was to overthrow the block senior in this way
and put an end to his influence in the camp. The "greens" would
then lose their positions to the "reds."
I

never

let

anything

or gave any indication that there was

slip

anything "between us," simply answering their ironic questions
with:

"Ask him yourself, I don't know anything about it." For what

did

know very well is that if I gave away even the least thing about

I

our relationship,

I

would be torn

between reds and greens.

to pieces in the

power

struggle

Any homosexual relationship could bring

very severe punishment to both parties, generally leading to death.

At

least this

bit

more

was the case

My block
prive

in 1940; later

on camp morals were

a

little

relaxed.
senior, of course,

knew

all

about the attempt to de-

him of his position and chance of promotion

— and

also about

my obstinate silence as to our relationship. He was happy to use his
connections and arrange for

me

be assigned to a desk job

to

in the

building material stores, even though positions of this kind were in
general quite taboo for prisoners with the pink triangle.

"You're a

sticker, kid,"

he told

the shoulders. "I like that, and

though

I'd rather

I

me

like

generously, with a slap on

you

still

more

for

it,

even

have a bird."

By "sticker," he meant that I kept my mouth shut and didn't give
anything away, even under threat. His rough confession of love,

53

Flossenbiirg

even with the rider that he preferred women, somehow made

happy and met

my

need for protection. From then on

me

was very

I

attached to him.

When

was sentenced

a prisoner

out on the "horse," and

all

be beaten,

to

this

was

carried

prisoners in the block had to attend and

witness the punishment. If this was carried out on the parade

ground, then

all

The "horse" was
was

prisoner

tied

on

The

wooden

a

his

torso faced vertically
the other side.

legs

dogwhip, a

frame, like a bench, to which the

way

that his

was

a torture in

fall.

stick, or, in

head and

upward and his legs down

his buttocks

were pulled forward and

the blows began to

either a

to attend.

stomach, in such a

down,

to be tied to the "horse*'

when

camp had

prisoners in the

itself.

also secured. Just

But what torment

The instrument used could

vary,

most cases, the much-feared horse-

whip.

The

NCOs who

almost invariably carried out the punishment

were generally those with the most sadistic disposition, who volunteered to

What we are talking about here, of course, are
punishments imposed by the camp commanders. Many

do the

the official

job.

of the SS block leaders and work detachment leaders, however,
keenly delivered their
these

own punishments on

were not carried out

in the

shops. Frequently a prisoner
tried to put a

open but

condemned

the "horse." But then

in the offices

to

and work-

be whipped in

this

way

second pair of underpants or something similar under

his trousers as "protection." If this

ment was made more

was

severe, and he

noticed, then the punish-

was whipped on

the naked

behind.

Once, when a Czech prisoner from
trying to escape, he

"horse," the highest

evening

roll call

block, and

we

was sentenced

number

my

dormitory was caught

to twenty-five strokes

that could

be given

on the

at once.

After

he was tied to the "horse" erected outside our

gays, the whole of wing A, had to stand in rows to

witness the punishment.

The evening meal was

canceled for that

day.

The camp commander, an SS
smooth shaven, and about

Obersturmfiihrer-of small stature,

forty-five years of age,

was

a repulsive

The Men with the Pink Triangle

54

beast. If

he caught any

man

with the pink triangle in the slightest

infringement of regulations, he sentenced him to punishment on the
"horse."

At

least

every second day there was a procedure of

kind outside our block,

at

this

which he was always personally present.

When the Czech homosexual from my dormitory was tied to the
"horse," an SS sergeant

who was well known for his beatings
The lashing was to be inflicted on the

appeared with the horsewhip.

Czech's naked buttocks. At every stroke, the offender had to count
aloud, and if he did not call the

number correctly, out of pain, or not

loud enough, then the blow didn't count.

way

It

often happened in this

that the victim rece