2. THE NEW ORDER, 1933—1939

The Nazis took power in January 1933 on a platform of law and order, "traditional values," and an ideology of racial purity that included virulent antisemitism and the persecution of unwanted social groups. Among its first steps to create the "New Order," the regime shut down homosexual gathering places, organizations, and publications in a broad attack on "public indecency." The Nazi assault on homosexuality had begun.

Adolf Hitler and Heinrich Himmler review Hitler's SS bodyguard regiment. Nuremberg, September 1935.

As the regime consolidated power and centralized state authority, the instruments of persecution emerged. Propaganda in the wake of a major political crisis in mid–1934 linked homosexuality to subversion, even treason, thereby encouraging public intolerance. In 1935, Nazi authorities rewrote criminal law Paragraph 175, and subsequent court interpretation radically expanded the range of punishable "indecencies between men." Enforcement of Paragraph 175 fell to the Criminal Police and the Gestapo, unified by 1936 under the SS and its leader, Reichsführer–SS Heinrich Himmler.

The nation's police forces gained extraordinary authority to employ surveillance on suspect individuals and to seize and detain "enemies of the state." During the 30 months from early 1937 to mid–1939, German police arrested almost 78,000 men under Paragraph 175, one–third of whom were convicted and sentenced to prison. Hundreds more were interned in concentration camps outside the legal process. All were subjected to brutal mistreatment at the hands of police, interrogators, and guards.

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