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Yet Another Historian Refutes ‘Gay Nazi’ Claim

By Evelyn Schlatter on August 29, 2011 - 4:45 pm, Posted in Anti-LGBT

Professor Jonathan Zimmerman is the latest historian to publicly refute the claim that gay men were largely responsible for the Nazi Party and the Holocaust. Zimmerman is chair of the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences in the Professions at New York University’s Steinhardt School of Culture, Education, and Human Development.

The gay Nazi claim derives from the 1995 book The Pink Swastika, by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams. (Lively’s routine defamation of the LGBT community led to his Abiding Truth Ministries being added to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate group list). In that book, the authors claim that “the Nazi party was entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals throughout its short history” and that those men largely orchestrated the Holocaust. Lively and Abrams also argue, in contravention of the historical record, that persecution of homosexuals by Nazi Germany is largely a myth.

But as Zimmerman writes in his editorial, Lively’s “history” has nothing to do with reality. Rather than encouraging or coddling gays, he says, the Nazis banned homosexual activity as early as 1935. And in 1936, the Nazi Party established a Central Office for Combating Abortion and Homosexuality. In 1941, Hitler ordered the death penalty for any SS and police members found guilty of homosexual activity. Between 1933 and 1945, Zimmerman says “the Nazis arrested roughly 100,000 men as homosexuals.” Most were sent to prison, but “between 5,000 and 15,000″ ended up in concentration camps, where they were forced to wear pink triangles. Many died.

These facts have long been known to virtually all serious World War II historians and, in fact, were highlighted earlier this month, when the last known gay survivor of Hitler’s concentration camps died.

Lively’s book has been discredited by other legitimate historians (see here, here and here), but that doesn’t stop people like Bryan Fischer, director of issue analysis for government and public policy at the American Family Association (AFA) from using it as a way to demonize LGBT people (the SPLC lists AFA as an anti-gay hate group). Nor does it stop antigovernment conspiracy sites like World Net Daily (WND) from hawking the book. Joseph Farah, editor of WND, brushes off criticism of The Pink Swastika and instead says that “[t]he book more than stands up to all the attacks I’ve seen, most of which are completely baseless.” That from a man who’s sure President Obama wasn’t born in this country and who publishes articles on his site like this one, in which the writer claims that soybeans cause homosexuality.

There is an irony to all of this. As Zimmerman points out in his editorial, before Hitler came to power, rampant anti-gay prejudice in Nazi circles was highlighted by German socialists and communists as a way to discredit Hitler and his hateful party. And now anti-gay groups are using claims of Nazism to discredit LGBT people. What a tangled web they weave.

  • Bill Cohen

    Can anyone provide academic bibliographies in these areas?

  • joe

    Not a very convincing rebuttal.
    You didn’t seem to even try to directly challenge any of the specifics in any way. The fact that a majority of major party members were gay including hitler himself does not seem to be in dispute. Basically your entire argument is that they had anti-gays laws so they couldn’t be gay. Obviously you have never met anyone in the closet before

  • ethan davidson

    It is a common propoganda tequnique to take something with a grain os truth and greatly exagerate it. Certainly there were gays in the Nazi power structure, both in the SA and elsewhere. They were deeply closeted, and did nothing to defend the great majority of gays, who were put in camps, where they had the lowest status, below that of Jews. Stories are told of men doing horrible things just to be able t switch a pink triangle for a yellow star, And then there were those with both.
    One is reminded of the FBI, where closeted gays J edgar hoover, Clyde Tolson, and Roy Cohn pesecuted gays, probably to draw atention away from the fact that they themselves were in the closet.
    But this compasrison only goes so far. The closeted gays in the Nazi power structure were not at the very top. That was Hitler, a perverted heterosexual who sexualy harrased his niece.
    The closet is, by defintion, a dark and hidden place, and we may never know for sure who was in and who was out.

  • Reynardine

    It was indeed Ernst. He and his contingent were indeed considered rivals by Hitler, because they espoused the “socialist” part of “National Socialism”, which proposed breaking up the great Junker estates, the massive industrial complexes, the large chain stores, and distributing them to small farmers and businessmen and factory owners. This part of the Nazi platform was not written by Hitler and the chances are he never was serious about it, but his deal with the “big boys” determined him never to do any of it. The Roehm clique’s “degeneracy” was the excuse for their liquidation, but he had no such excuse for General Schleicher or the Strassers. As for Hitler’s own degeneracy, he liked to draw dirty pictures of his niece, for which he made her pose.

  • Hartmut

    §175 predated the 3rd Reich and survived it for decades. In the early Weimar republic there was a campaign to get rid of it making use of a short period when censorship was officially abolished. A famous example is the movie “Anders als die Andern” (Different from the others). The Nazis, usually in the shape of chief ideologue Rosenberg’s Kampfbund für Deutsche Kultur (fighting league for German culture) was the main opposing force specializing in creating a ruckus* at screenings (also at stage plays of similar content). This would then serve as an excuse for a crackdown by government and bans of the ‘offensive’ material.
    Ernst Roehm was seen by a majority as an embarassement to the Nazi movement and was a constant target of lurid jokes.
    Accusing disagreeable officials of homosexuality was also a useful tool to remove them from office, cf. the Blomberg-Fritsch Affair of 1938/9. Ironically, for the pink swastika claims, they became a target because they were opposed to Hitler’s aggressive war plans.

    One could as well claim that Nazism was actually a Jewish conspiracy. Alas, even for that nonsense you’ll find ardent supporters (even contemporary ones that considered Nazism ‘verjudet’ (steeped in Jewishness).)

    *releasing mice, throwing stink bombs, heckling etc.

  • Jaime

    One thing that many people don’t know is that after the war, the laws against homosexuality were not removed in Germany, so while the Jews and others were released from the concentration camps to freedom, the gays were sent to prisons for the crime of being gay. The fact that the gays continued to be persecuted even after the war makes the gay nazi lie even more offensive.

  • GMpilot


    I think you meant Ernst Roehm, not Eric…

  • Bud Perry

    Reynardine, you mean Erntz Roehm, not Eric. He was executed to eliminate him as a rival of Hitler’s.

    The really sad thing is that many of the homosexuals were not liberated from the camps after the allies and the U.S. liberated nearly everyone else. The homosexuals were still considered abnormal undesirables and many were simply transferred to prisons.

  • David Hart

    The simple fact is that Scott Lively isn’t interested in truth. In contrast, Lively is interested in making money off his books while demonizing his favorite target – LGBT people. Like David Barton, Lively knows that he has an incurious constituency who will believe everything that he says – no matter how preposterous. Critical thinking is not exactly their strong suit.

    Many of these people are also rabidly antisemitic which they try to hide by conflating Judaism with their support for Israel. Being twice blessed (Jewish and gay), I have no use for these sanctimonious Christianist crackpots.

  • A.D.M.

    There was a documentary released not too long ago called “Paragraph 175.” It’s about how Adolf Hitler ordered that gay people be targeted. Gay people were hunted and killed by Nazi Germany. That’s a fact.

  • Reynardine

    Eric Roehm and his contingent were, in large part, macho-homosexuals, and they were all killed off on “The Night of the Long Knives” in June, 1934. The reason for their execution was supposed to be their “degeneracy”, but in fact, they believed in the “socialist” part of National Socialism, which Hitler had renounced in the secret pact with the German industrialists which enabled him to take power.

  • John

    I don’t understand how these people think. Do they know that the Nazis persecuted gay people, and simply lie through their teeth? Do they honestly believe their own propaganda? Or are they simply so intelectually lazy that they just don’t care about what actually happened?

  • Bron

    “Gay Nazi” = too bizarre to comprehend in the first instance!