Between 1933 and 1945, Germany's National Socialist (Nazi) government under Adolf Hitler used its monopoly of authority to attempt to rid German territory of people who did not fit its vision of a "master Aryan race." Foremost among the so–called racial enemies, according to the Nazis' antisemitic ideology, were the Jews. When Germany's pursuit of "living space" led to World War II and the conquest of much of Europe, the Nazis undertook the systematic murder of every Jew in Europe.

Many other groups were targets of persecution and even murder under the Nazis’ ideology, including Germans with mental and physical disabilities, homosexuals, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roma ("Gypsies"), Poles, and Soviet prisoners of war. Millions perished in this state–sponsored tyranny.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is dedicated to preserving the memory of all who suffered during this unprecedented tragedy. This online exhibition examines the campaign of persecution and violence against the homosexuals of Germany.

The Nazi campaign against homosexuality targeted the more than one million German men who, the state asserted, carried a "degeneracy" that threatened the "disciplined masculinity" of Germany. Denounced as "antisocial parasites" and as "enemies of the state," more than 100,000 men were arrested under a broadly interpreted law against homosexuality. Approximately 50,000 men served prison terms as convicted homosexuals, while an unknown number were institutionalized in mental hospitals. Others—perhaps hundreds—were castrated under court order or coercion. Analyses of fragmentary records suggest that between 5,000 and 15,000 homosexual men were imprisoned in concentration camps, where many died from starvation, disease, exhaustion, beatings, and murder.

In the racist practice of Nazi eugenics, women were valued primarily for their ability to bear children. The state presumed that women homosexuals were still capable of reproducing. Lesbians were not systematically persecuted under Nazi rule, but they nonetheless did suffer the loss of their own gathering places and associations.

Nazi Germany did not seek to kill all homosexuals. Nevertheless, the Nazi state, through active persecution, attempted to terrorize German homosexuals into sexual and social conformity, leaving thousands dead and shattering the lives of many more.

A homosexual couple in Posen. Germany, date uncertain.

A homosexual couple. Berlin, Germany, ca. 1930.

Two friends in Berlin. Germany, 1926.

Friends at an outing in Berlin. Germany, 1930.

Exhibition Sponsors
This exhibition was underwritten in part by grants from the Duane Rath Endowment Fund and the Foundation for Civil Rights, with additional support from the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibition Fund, established in 1990.

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