For as log as I can remember a fascination with World War II has been with me. Not only the war as a whole but more specifically the Holocaust. As a child my father, who lived in Germany during the 1960's would tell me stories of what he knew about the country and it's people. He often would speak in short German phrases and let us look at his old Photo Albums of the German people and the countryside. It was hard for me to wrap me head around those peaceful photos and the ones that I saw in the other books I would look through.
My father ordered a Time-Life series of books with thousands of photos and descriptions of the Holocaust. Those books scared me and fascinated me as well. How could, just a generation before me, this madness have existed? How could so many people be collected, tortured and murdered for no other reason than being born who they were? How could this history so far removed from me continue to affect me so greatly?
By the time I was a University student studying the History of 20th century germany and was writing a lengthy paper that I realized my connection. For the first time ever I learned of the Pink Triangle.
The Pink Triangle was one of the Nazi concentration badges used to identify male prisoners who went sent their because of their homosexuality.
In the 1920's, Berlin, unlike many other major cities in the world had a thriving "Gay Culture." Despite the fact that most civilized countries had criminal laws against Homosexuality, the post WWI German culture seemed to turn a blind eye to the romance of the gay youth. By 1933, many of these gay men and women would start to be rounded up, tried, sentenced to concentration camps, labour camps and death. Their deaths often came at the hands of their guards and often other prisoners. They would often be beaten to death by fellow inmates for no other reason than being homosexual. Gay men would be used as human targets by the SS Guards who would use the Pink Triangles on their chests for target practice. Up to 100,000 homosexuals would arrested and tried during the Nazi era and those who were found guilty and refused to conform to heterosexual lifestyles were simply packed into cattle cars and shipped away. Some 60% of those where never seen again.
Men, just like me, were victims of the Holocaust. Men, who for no other reason but for loving a man were used for target practice. Used for medical experimentation. Used to death. Most of the Pink Triangle men who survived the war and the hands of the Nazis were simply retied after the war but the Allies and the Russians for the same crime of Homosexuality and were thrown back in to post war prisons and often spent up to 20 years in jail for being Gay in Hitler's Germany. It is horrific and unimaginable.
I cant't even fathom having to experience such fear and such horror for being the man I am today. I spent a great deal of my life hiding who I was in order to protect myself and my family. However I was never protecting anyone from the murderous hands of our government.
This badge of the Pink Triangle is exactly why blogs like mine need to exist today. Stories need to be told and people need to understand that I am gay today because I was born this way. Just like the men two generations before me. They did not choose to be rounded up, tortured murdered and dumped into mass graves and not even be given the dignity of an acknowledgement for some 50 years after their deaths.
So here we are today. Sons and daughters, brothers and sisters and I ask, what can we do to preserve the memory of the thousands of Homosexuals that were slaughtered and forgotten by history until now? Maybe we can make ourselves aware of the world that we currently live and and see that the hatred and murder that is now documented and honoured as a moment is history is in fact a moment in our present. I am not only talking about the Matthew Shepard tory or the endless numbers of gay youth that are committing suicide at an alarming rate, but the number of homosexuals that are being rounded up in many countries today and publicly executed. A message to others like them that this will be their fate if they live the life they were meant to love.
In Iran these two gay young men where hanged publicly for being gay. The bear the Pink Triangles of today. their lives were stolen out of hatred and ignorance.
I'm fully aware that my life is not something that everyone understands, that everyone chooses to try and understand, or that everyone will ever understand. But I don't understand Spanish yet I don't persecute those who speak it. I don't understand calculus but I don't gather up the mathematicians and hang them. I don't understand a lot of things. So I read, I learn and I educate myself and my child to ensure that I am doing my part to make sure that I, nor the generations that follow me will ever be caught in the middle of a holocaust.
I never want to hide who I am much less have to hide for my life for fear of being captured and killed for who I am. I am proud gay man and I mourn the loss of these men who came before me. They wore the Pink Triangle and a badge of shame and often they died and were buried without a thought or a prayer because of that Pink Triangle.
Today I see the Pink Triangle as a symbol of hope. It is a mark that gay men and women see as a moment in time that we can never forget. We are lucky and blessed to live in such a time when we can love who we love and marry who we chose and we are proud of how far we have come. We also are aware that all of this can be lost in the blink of an eye. For we know that those who forget our history are doomed to repeat it.
I will never forget what happened at the hands of the Nazi's. The millions of Jew's, Poles, Slavs, Gypsies and Homosexuals that were ripped from the arms of their loved ones, labeled, branded and murdered. Until recently the Homosexuals were left off the lists and were forgotten. I will never forget. You should never forget. Our children should never forget. The next time you see a Pink Triangle I hope you stop, remember and think, that If Hitler were around today I would be arrested and most likely tortured and worked to death or shot in the chest as target practice just because I wrote this blog. Imagine that...