After years of extremists promoting 'Holocaust revisionism,' some anti-gay religious crusaders now allege that far from being persecuted by Nazis, homosexuals were behind the Holocaust.
For decades now, "Holocaust revisionists" in the U.S. and Europe have published pseudo-scholarly papers and books claiming to prove that the Nazis never carried out a systematic extermination of Jews. In 1995, a book called The Pink Swastika made similar claims about the Nazis' treatment of homosexuals during the Holocaust.
Written by fundamentalist activists Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams, The Pink Swastika says that rather than being victimized by the Nazis, gay men in Hitler's inner circle actually helped mastermind the Holocaust.
"While we cannot say that homosexuals caused the Holocaust, we must not ignore their central role in Nazism," write Lively and Abrams. "To the myth of the 'pink triangle' — the notion that all homosexuals in Nazi Germany were persecuted — we must respond with the reality of the 'pink swastika.'"
Historians agree that this "reality" is utterly false. But many anti-gay crusaders have used the "gay Nazi" myth as proof that gay people are immoral and destructive.
"When lawlessness is abroad in the land, the same thing will happen here that happened in Nazi Germany," Pat Robertson once warned viewers of his 700 Club. "Many of those people involved with Adolf Hitler were satanists. Many of them were homosexuals. The two seem to go together."
The Pink Swastika has been promoted by anti-gay groups like the Family Defense Council. The FDC's Dr. Howard Hurwitz called the book "a thoroughly researched, eminently readable, demolition of the 'gay' myth, symbolized by the pink triangle, that the Nazis were anti-homosexual."
In fact, while the number of homosexuals who died in the Holocaust does not approach the number of Jewish or Gypsy victims, the historical record shows that between 50,000 and 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality (or suspicion of it) under the Nazi regime. They were routinely sent to concentration camps and marked with a pink triangle on their prison garb.
They were not systematically exterminated. But huge numbers are believed to have died in the work camps, along with an untold number of homosexual Jews, Gypsies and other "defectives" who were sent to extermination camps.
The myth that Nazis condoned or promoted homosexuality sprang up as a slander against Nazi leaders by their socialist opponents in the 1930s. Only one of the half-dozen leaders in Hitler's inner circle, Ernest Rohm, is believed by credible historians to have been gay.
The "gay Nazi" slander stuck, though, partly because German laws against homosexuals remained in place for a quarter of a century after World War II ended. That effectively silenced many homosexual victims of the Holocaust from telling their stories. A landmark survivor's memoir, The Men With the Pink Triangle, began to break that silence in 1972.
There is no question that the Nazis saw homosexuality as one aspect of the "degeneracy" they were determined to extinguish. When it came to power in 1933, the Nazi Party moved quickly to strengthen Germany's existing penalties against homosexuality. On Oct. 11, 1936, Hitler's security chief, Heinrich Himmler, went further, announcing that homosexuality was to be "eliminated" in Germany, along with miscegenation between the races.
In 1942, the death penalty was instituted for homosexuality. Offenders in the German military were routinely shot. "That wasn't a punishment," Himmler explained, "but simply the extinguishing of abnormal life. It had to be got rid of, just as we pull out weeds, throw them on a heap, and burn them."