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Letter from Brussels: The Forgotten Holocaust

by De Ket in Columns & Opinions , 30 maart 2015

Dear Neighbors to the North, Seventy years ago, on January 27, 1945, Soviet troops invaded the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. They found 6,000 prisoners who were still alive. During World War II - depending on the source - approximately 11 million people were killed in concentration camps. The majority was Jewish, some six million people.

During the commemoration service in January, the extraordinary cruelty of the concentration camps was addressed. That in 2015 other cruelties take place on this earth, suddenly is not in the news.

The Jewish community may well have been hit hardest by the Holocaust, but one had to wait for an article in the Huffington Post to remind the public at large that besides the six million Jews, there were also five million other victims. Homosexuals, priests, Gypsies, people with mental or physical disabilities, communists, trade unionists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, anarchists and Polish.

An estimated 100,000 homosexuals were imprisoned, of which 5,000 to 10,000 ended up in one of the concentration camps. Most of them did not make it out alive. In the article about the “forgotten” groups, The Huffington Post deservedly paid tribute to the French-German Pierre Seel. He spent six months in a concentration camp, suffered the worst kind of (anal) torture, and was then released on the condition that he “would never report on his experiences in the concentration camp.”

For forty years he kept silent. He married and had three children. In the early 1980s, he spoke out and even received death threats. His book “Moi Pierre Seel, déporté homosexuel” (translated into English as “I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror”) makes a lasting impression and on occasion is very confrontational. The book is an additional illustration of the cruelties of the Nazi regime.

It is very unfortunate that the other groups of people are forgotten at every Holocaust memorial. Maybe there is no delegation of homosexuals presents because no gay bar or sauna can be found in the immediate vicinity.

Maybe because 5,000 to 10,000 homosexual victims are not important enough. Maybe because no one feels compelled to make every effort to reveal the horrible truth at such commemorations.

All over the world, there are only a couple of memorials for the homosexuals who did not survive the Nazi regime. Berlin is probably the most famous, but also Sydney has one. The inauguration of the monument in Berlin in 2008 did not go smoothly.

They refused to print a picture of two kissing men on the invitation, and the lesbians were not happy that the monument supposedly focused on male homosexuals. I am curious to see how many gays and lesbians in Berlin really did visit the monument in Tiergarten.

Hopefully the European gay umbrella organization ILGA Europe will do its utmost to keep that memory alive. And I do not mean preparing a press release to remind us of it, but to keep bringing the Holocaust trauma for homosexuals to the attention, even when the subject is not the Second World War.

Yours sincerely,

De Ket

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