German Embassy pursues redress for gay holocaust victims

Meeting between OutRage! and German Embassy

The German Embassy in London has forwarded a report to the office of Chancellor Helmut Kohl in Bonn, setting out proposals to remedy the injustices suffered by gay holocaust victims.

The proposals were made by OutRage! during a meeting at the German Embassy with the First Counsellor for Legal and Consular Affairs, Herr Rainer Dobbelstein.

The Embassy has also forwarded to Bonn details from OutRage! of the Nazi doctors, Gerhard Schiedlausky and Carl Værnet, who medically abused gay prisoners at Buchenwald. (Dr. Værnet’s ‘experiments’ included castration and hormone implants.)

OutRage! has formally asked the German Government to track down these doctors and, if they are still alive, to bring them to trial on charges of ‘crimes against humanity’.

The OutRage! proposals in full are that the German Government should:

  • Apologise for the Nazi persecution of gay people (successive German governments have always refused to apologise).
  • Compensate gay holocaust survivors (gays are denied compensation on the grounds that they were ‘common criminals’).
  • Remedy the deficit in gay survivors’ pensions (the work of SS guards is added to their pension entitlement; but the years spent in the camps by gays are deducted from their pensions).
  • Put on trial the Nazi doctors involved in barbaric medical ‘experiments’ on gay concentration camp prisoners (none of the doctors were indicted at Nuremberg (Nürnberg) — or since).
  • Fund educational programmes in schools, and public memorials to commemorate gay people murdered by the Nazis (most public records of the holocaust obscure the antigay terror).

“Herr Dobbelstein seemed sympathetic to the idea of redress for gays who suffered in the holocaust”, said Huw Williams, who was part of the OutRage! delegation to the Embassy. “But he was defensive on the issues of educational programmes and pension rights, arguing that the climate of economic austerity made it difficult for the German Government to be as generous as it would like. He also claimed that holocaust memorials already mention the Nazi witch-hunts of gay people. Some do: but others don’t. Often the acknowledgement is a tiny, obscure reference that many visitors would never notice”.

Queer Remembrance Day

Nearly 300 lesbians and gay men attended a Ceremony of Remembance at the national war memorial, the Cenotaph, in London, on Sunday, 2nd. November. They were commemorating lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who died fighting Nazism and who perished in the concentration camps.

The ceremony was organised by OutRage!, who declared Sunday, 2nd. November “Queer Remembrance Day”.

The keynote speaker was 74-year-old Sharley McLean, a lesbian who fled to Britain as a refugee from Nazi Germany in 1939. Her gay uncle, Kurt Bach, was arrested by the Gestapo in a gay bar in Berlin in 1937, and died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp.

After the speeches, there was a minute’s silence. Then dozens of pink wreaths and bouquets were laid on the Cenotaph.

The commemoration was denounced by the ex-services association, the British Legion, as “distasteful” and “offensive”, and “bound to offend many former soldiers”.

Gay war veterans are never acknowledged by the ex-services association or by the official state-sponsored Remembrance Day ceremony. At least 250,000 gay people served in the British Armed Forces during 1939-45. The current ban on homosexuals in the military is an insult to their service and sacrifice.

The huge media coverage of Queer Remembrance Day has raised awareness about the contribution of lesbian and gay service personnel to the defeat of Nazism, and about the queer holocaust that has been suppressed by revisionist historians.

Coinciding with a campaign by the German SPD and Green parties, OutRage! has written to Chancellor Helmut Kohl, urging him to:

  • Apologise for the Nazi persecution of gay people
    — successive German governments have always refused to apologise
  • Compensate gay holocaust survivors
    — gays are denied compensation on the grounds that they were ‘common criminals’
  • Remedy the deficit in gay survivors’ pensions
    — the service of SS guards is added to their pension entitlement; but the years spent in the camps by gays is dededucted from their pensions
  • Put on trial the Nazi doctors who were involved in barbaric experiments on gay concentration-camp prisoners
    — none of the doctors was indicted at Nuremberg (Nürnberg), or has been since

Letter to Bundeskanzler Helmut Kohl

The Chancellor,
D-53106 Bonn,


I am writing on behalf of OutRage! –the campaign for lesbian, gay and bisexual human rights– concerning the persecution of homosexuals during the Nazi era and the subsequent mistreatment of gay holocaust survivors by the German authorities.

We are shocked that the German government still refuses to compensate most gay holocaust survivors for their suffering, on the grounds that the Supreme Court ruled in 1957 that they were common criminals and were therefore legitimately incarcerated.

Furthermore, it cannot be morally right that the work of SS concentration camp guards is counted towards their pension entitlement, wheareas the years spent in the camps by gay prisoners are deducted from their pensions.

We would like to know why no Nazi doctors were ever prosecuted at the Nuremberg (Nürnberg) Trials –or since– for abusing gay concentration camp inmates in gruesome ‘medical’ experiments that, at Buchenwald, included forcible castration and hormone implants.

It is long overdue that the injustices suffered by the lesbian and gay victims of Hitlerism were remedied. We ask you, as Chancellor of democratic Germany, to:

  • apologise for the terrorisation of gay men and lesbians during the Third Reich;
  • authorise the payment of compensation to homosexual holocaust survivors, on a par with compensation to Jewish survivors;
  • recalculate the pensions of gay survivors to ensure that their period of detention in the camps is counted towards their pension entitlement;
  • bring to trial, on charges of crimes against humanity, the Nazi doctors involved in the medical abuse of gay prisoners.
    We look forward to receiving your assurance of prompt action to rectify these past injustices.

Yours sincerely,

Peter Tatchell.