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.