Untimely Observations

Gay Nazis


Not too long ago, many mainstream historians were apt to depict the Nazis as sexual deviants. There's certainly no shortage of evidence supporting this view: the leader of the SA and Hitler's onetime rival for power, Ernst Röhm, carried on various liaisons with some of the working-class men who made up the "Brownshirts," and his indiscretions weren't lost on the Nazi's left-wing opponents, who attacked him in no uncertain terms. Röhm's penchant for buggery was, in fact, used as a pretext for his execution by the Nazi leadership during the "Night of Long Knives" of June and July 1934, though intra-party disputes were more decisive. Eugen Kogon, a historian and concentration camp survivor who wrote a 1946 volume detailing the system of Konzentrationsläger, paid special attention to the plight of gay men, who, according to him, weren't only treated more harshly than their peers but sometimes raped or offered food to perform gay acts by their Nazi tormentors. 

Much of this historiography likely informed the "fascist = pervert" meme found throughout European cinema of the '60s and '70s, most notably in Pier Paolo Pasolini's Salo (1975), based on the Marquis de Sade's 120 Days of Sodom, and Luchiano Visconti's The Damned (1969), which features a famous scene in which the SS guns down Brownshirts in flagrante delicto

All of this has gone down the memory, of course, and it's easy to see why. Andrew Sullivan wouldn't have much use for trumpeting Ernst Röhm as a great "gay conservative," nor is it likely that LAMBDA will list the SA captain as a representative of the great diversity within the gay and transgendered community celebrated during Gay Pride Month, formerly known as "June." 

The "Gay Nazis" came to mind recently, as I read about a controversy brewing over one of Berlin's innumerable Holocaust memorials. 

Holocaust scholars on Thursday attacked a bid to include images of kissing lesbians in a monument dedicated to the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis, saying it distorted history.

The monument was erected in May 2008 opposite the city's large memorial to the six million Jewish Holocaust victims.

It is currently comprised of a concrete slab with a window through which viewers can watch a video of a "never-ending" kiss between two men.

Under the original plans, the video is to change every two years to feature two women locked in an embrace, meaning the switch is due in May.

But Alexander Zinn, a board member of the foundation that maintains the former Nazi concentration camps near Berlin, said such a move would distort history as there were no known Holocaust victims targeted for being lesbian.

"Historical truth must remain the focus," Zinn told AFP.

He has banded together with other Holocaust experts and fired off a letter of protest to Culture Minister Michael Neumann and Berlin's openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit.

Neumann defended the plans as true to the original concept of the memorial in addressing present-day discrimination against lesbians and gays as well as the plight of homosexuals at the hands of the Nazis.

Zinn is certainly correct, historically speaking. As the leftish historian Elizabeth Heineman describes in a recent volume, the Nazis never actively persecuted lesbians; they didn't even criminalize lesbianism as they felt that healthy, intimate female friendships might includes acts easily mistaken for being Sapphic...

But saying this is pointless, for the reality is that the multitude of Holocaust museums and memorials -- the "industry," as Norman Finkelstein describes it, of academic departments, pressure groups, and government and corporate "reparations" -- has very little to do with history, properly understood.

"The Holocaust" -- the utterance of which has been known to silence critics of Israel and ruin right-wing movements of all kinds -- has become a kind of prism of "white guilt" -- and an ideological weapon to be used against anyone associated with traditional European culture. Males (see also, "heteronormativity"), Christians (Catholics and Protestants), Pagans, Germans, Americans who didn't want to fight World War II hard enough, conservatives, immigration restrictionists, business owners (see also "racist capitalism"), lovers of the operas of Richard Wagner, and many, many others are, it seems, implicated equally in the Third Reich's persecution of the Jews of Europe.    

This recent controversy reveals that "The Holocaust" has moved well beyond Jewish issues, as Berlin's "cultural minister" openly admits -- the "Holocaust" monument is to honor "modern day victims" of Germany's Internal Nazi, regardless of whether their identity group was persecuted by the actual Nazis. 

I lived in Berlin for a spell in 2006, and believe me, the city's lesbians were being attacked in the streets! Just wait until the Berliners realize that they have elected an openly gay Bürgermeister -- there'll be hell to pay!