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Homosexuality in the Third Reich

RICHARD EVANS: As far as homosexuality goes of course, there’s a kind of obsession in the SS and Himmler in particular, maybe because the SS consisted of large numbers of men in close unit groups, he wanted to sort of stop it. He believed homosexuals were effeminate and they weren’t producing children for the German race, which was the centre of German Nazi population policy, so there was a particular animus against them. They were put into concentration camps, arrested and so on, under the existing law, which was sharpened and made more severe. However one shouldn’t entirely exaggerate this because the numbers of homosexuals that were convicted and put to jail under Chancellor Adenauer in West Germany in 1950s is about the same as it was under the Nazis.

LAURENCE REES: Why, given all these reasons Himmler was so against homosexuality, wasn't the Nazi persecution of homosexuals even more widespread?

RICHARD EVANS: Well their fate was worse than in the 1950s in that they weren’t just sent to ordinary prisons they were sent to concentration camps as well. They were subjected to experimentation, they were sometimes castrated, they were extremely badly treated in camp - near the bottom of the hierarchy of prisoners. And of course the law was changed by Himmler to broaden the definition of homosexual conduct or unnatural intercourse to give the Nazis power to make large numbers of arrests.

LAURENCE REES: How can people who are extremely intelligent think that the way to deal with homosexuality is - as Dr Schultz did - to take a homosexual man and say 'you’ve now got to have sex with a female German prostitute or we’ll send you to a concentration camp'?

RICHARD EVANS: Well because Himmler thought that most homosexuals were socially conditioned and only a minority were biologically, hereditarily that way inclined so that they could not do anything else. So it was a way of finding out who was just socially conditioned and therefore not really homosexual and those who were innately homosexual and therefore deserved to be maltreated and killed.