Kazerne Dossin highlights persecution of homosexuals during the Nazi regime

The Nazi regime claimed many victims, including gays and lesbians, victims who have long been unknown and unacknowledged. Kazerne Dossin aims to change this with the exhibition Homosexuals and Lesbians in Nazi Europe. The exhibition, which was previously on display at the Mémorial de la Shoah in Paris, now has an additional Belgian and Dutch section.

In Germany, the first gay movements emerged in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The rise of the Nazis initially caused no problems. Although the Nazi party was homophobic, the homosexual Ernst Röhm was the head of the Sturmabteilung (SA). Male friendship and body cults were also encouraged, and are still present in far-right youth movements today.

Night of the Long Knives

This more or less moderate attitude towards homosexuality ended when communist propaganda described it as a "fascist perversion". The Night of the Long Knives in 1934, when Röhm was murdered after a power struggle, marked a turning point. It opened the door to the persecution and murder of many homosexuals.

"They did not contribute to the living space," Anne-Sophie Van Vyve of Kazerne Dossin tells De Morgen. The Nazis wanted to procreate and breed a strong race. "Anything that did not contribute to that was a burden," she says.

"It was thought that women could not have sex with each other"

During the Second World War, the Nazis invoked Article 175 of the German Penal Code to persecute homosexuals. Women, however, were spared. "It was thought that women could not have sex with each other." ​ Only "unnatural fornication" between men or between humans and animals was punishable by imprisonment.

"It was a disease, contagious, something young people had to be protected from"

"There was a very different idea of homosexuality," Van Vyve says. "It was a disease, contagious, something young people had to be protected from. People talked about it in those terms to stigmatise it. But people also thought it was curable. In Buchenwald, the Nazis even experimented on them and killed at least one man."

Life stories

The exhibition places the changing fate of gays and lesbians during the Second World War in a European context. Numerous life stories are presented. Gay men and women were also Jews, members of the resistance or sympathisers with the Nazi regime.

The exhibition also looks at the wider history, from the first gay movements at the end of the 19th century to the most recent developments in the commemorative process. The exhibition can be visited at Kazerne Dossin until 10 December.

Kazerne Dossin is a memorial, museum and documentation centre on the Holocaust and human rights. During the Second World War, from 1942 to 1944, the German occupiers used the Dossin barracks as an assembly camp for Belgian Jews and Roma and Sinti. Some 25,500 Jews and 354 Roma and Sinti were deported from the camp, most of them to Auschwitz-Birkenau. Less than 5 per cent returned alive.



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