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Friday, August 5, 2011

Holocaust’s Last Gay Survivor Dead at 98

By Kilian Melloy -

Rudolph Brazda
Rudolph Brazda  (Source:Ronny Hartmann, File /AP Photo)
The terrors of the Holocaust wiped out six million Jews. What is less known is that a number of other groups were also targeted for forced labor and extermination by the Nazis, with gays being among them.
It’s estimated that around 100,000 gay men were arrested during the Nazi regime. Of those, about half were incarcerated, and as many as 15,000 were sent to concentration camps under the Nazis, a Wikipedia article says.
"It is unclear how many... eventually perished in the camps, but leading scholar Ruediger Lautman believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60%," the Wikipedia article notes. "Homosexuals in the camps were treated in an unusually cruel manner by their captors."
The Nazis forced gay concentration camp prisoners to wear pink triangles as a means of identification; GLBT equality groups later embraced the pink triangle which now stands as a symbol of the civil rights struggle for equality before the law.
But when the Allies liberated the concentration camps, gays were not set free; rather, they were turned over to the civil authorities. All too often, they were locked up once again.
The issue of gays having been persecuted, arrested, incarcerated, and murdered under the Nazi machine was left unaddressed for decades. In 1979, playwright Martin Sherman used the topic as the basis for his play "Bent," a separate Wikipedia article says. "When the play was first performed, there was only a small trickle of historical research or even awareness about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. In some regards, the play helped increase that historical research and education in the 1980s and 1990s," the article adds.
In 2002, the German government finally issued an apology to the gay community.
One of the gays sent to the camps under the Nazis was Rudolph Brazda, who spent three years at Buchenwald. Brazda was thought to be the last surviving gay man to have been sent to the camps for his sexuality upon his recent death, the Associated Press reported in an Aug. 4 article. He was 98 years old.
The AP story drew on a statement made German group the Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD), which reported that Brazda died on Aug. 3. The report "didn’t give details of the location or cause of death," the AP article said.

The AP reported that Brazda spent the years 1942 - 1945 at Buchenwald. He was sent to the camp after "repeatedly [running] into trouble with Nazi authorities over his homosexuality," the article said.
"When a memorial to the Nazis’ gay victims was unveiled in Berlin in 2008, the LSVD said the last ex-prisoner that it knew of had died three years earlier," the AP article recounted. "But the group said it was then contacted by Brazda, who visited the memorial at its invitation and became an honorary member."
The openly gay mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, lauded Brazda. The two men had met in 2008, the AP reported.
"He is an example of how important the work of remembrance is for our future," Wowereit told the media.
"Fewer and fewer people can give information about repression under the Nazi dictatorship authentically and from their own experience."
"Nazi Germany declared homosexuality an aberration that threatened the German race," the AP reported.
Similar rhetoric has been used against gays in the United States, and recently anti-gay screeds that claim gays will cause the destruction of all humanity unless stopped have been at the heart of a campaign in the African nation Ghana, where a regional minister has launched an effort to round up and "get rid of" gays.
The anti-gay crackdown started last month when a regional minister, Paul Evan Aidoo, responded to lobbying from Christian and Muslim groups with a directive that gays be placed under arrest. Aidoo tasked Ghanaian security agencies with finding and detaining gays, and also called for heterosexuals, such as landlords, to turn in people they suspect might be gay.
Aidoo has described the effort to round up and arrest gays as an initiative to "get rid of" all homosexuals.
Kilian Melloy is EDGE Media Network’s Web Producer and Assistant Arts Editor. He also reviews media, conducts interviews, and writes aggregate news stories and commentary for EDGE.

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