On rereading this memoir I am surprised at how, unlike most things I write it is free of opinion, explicit or implied.
It may be that there is so much factual material I want to record or it may be that the subject is so complex and large that I have refrained from playing superficially at the edges.
Narrated by Rupert Everett, the feature-length documentary is by the US directors Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, who won an Oscar for their AIDS film, Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt. The Nazis again intensified the war against what they called “abnormal existence” in 1935, broadening the definition of homosexual behaviour and the grounds for arrest. A man could be incarcerated on the basis of a mere touch, gesture or look.
“You are suspected of being a homosexual”, they told him. ” Heinz is one of only eight known gay holocaust survivors who are still alive.
Together with five others – and one lesbian – he recalls the homophobic witch-hunts of the Third Reich in the gut-wrenching film, Paragraph 175.
*************************************************************************** There is nothing left of the grand architectural vision Adolph Hitler and Albert Speer designed for their Germania/our Berlin except some lampposts along Strasse des 17 Juni. The very public icons of remembrance and reconciliation are the museums about the evil that was initiated by the Third Reich and the touching homages to the victims.
Some of the shadows of the city’s history are to be found in memorials and museums I visited.
Historian Martin Gilbert’s book, Never Again, purports to be “a comprehensive account of the holocaust”. The death rate of gay prisoners in the camps was 60 per cent, the highest among non-Jewish victims.
Yet the fate of non-Jews merits only one two-page chapter and the mass murder of queers is dismissed in a single 13-word sentence. Heinz Dormer spent nearly ten years in prisons and concentration camps. This ‘homocaust’ was an integral part of the Holocaust.Among the prisoners, there was a “hierarchy”: at the top, criminals (rapists, murderers), then Communists (red triangles), then homosexuals (pink triangles), Jehovah’s Witnesses (purple triangles), and Jews (yellow triangles).Over 200,00 enemies of the Reich were imprisoned here from 1936; in 1941, 10,000 Soviet prisioners were brought here to be killed and the Soviets kept it operating for the first 10 years of their occupation when 12,000 people died here.We can’t permit such danger to the country; the homosexual must be entirely eliminated”. Heinz miraculously survived a total of eight-plus years in concentration camps.With these chilling words, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, set out the Nazi master plan for the sexual cleansing of the Aryan race. After spending a year and a half in Dachau, Heinz was released but soon rearrested and sent to Buchenwald. Following the war, he never spoke to anyone about his experiences. Gay ex-prisoners were regarded as common criminals – not victims of Nazism.The film Paragraph 175 rescues historical truth from half a century of amnesia and censorship. Even after the Nazi defeat in 1945, gay survivors continued to be persecuted.