The Nazis declared aim was the eradication of homosexuality. During 12 years in power they implemented a broad range of persecutory measures. An estimated 50,000 gay men were sentenced and imprisoned, some of whom faced the death penalty. Up to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps and made to wear the pink triangle symbol which identified them as homosexual men. Many of these Pink Triangle detainees were subjected to starvation and hard labour, castration, medical experiments and collective murder actions.
Lesbianism was not illegal in Germany, so lesbians did not suffer the same level of persecution as gay men. However, there is historical evidence of police records being collected on lesbians and of lesbians being sent to concentration camps on the grounds of their sexual orientation. They were known as Green Triangle detainees. New research shows that in Austria lesbians were criminalised and liable for prosecution and persecution.
After the war, neither the Allies nor the German or Austrian States recognised gay men or lesbians as victims alongside other groups, so they were not considered eligible for compensation. Only in 2001 was the German and Swiss Bank compensation programme extended to include gay victims.
Nazi laws against homosexuality remained in place in Germany until 1967. Unsurprisingly, very few victims of wartime persecution came forward to fight for recognition. Those that did were often further victimised. Comparatively few known victims are still alive today.
Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated annually in the UK. The purpose of Holocaust Memorial Day is to remember the Holocaust and other victims of the Nazi era in a way that alerts us to what can happen if we do not take personal and collective responsibility for tackling racism and other forms of bigotry.
The national event takes place on 27 January, and many other events take place in schools and communities throughout the month.
To find out more about the day and events near you, or to get involved, click on the web link below.