A Gay Man’s Recollections
of Persecution, Concentration
Camp and Afterwards
Rudolf Brazda, who died in 2011, recalled the disdain of being seen to have the pink triangle: “The other prisoners would say, ‘Oh looks, this one’s a fag.’”
Brazda had kept his silence until 2008, when a memorial for the gay victims of the Holocaust was unveiled and Berlin’s gay mayor marked their passing. Finally ready, he contacted the mayor to tell his story.
As a young man, Brazda led a happy and open life in Leipzig, Germany. In 1937, Brazda was arrested for ‘unnatural lewdness,’ and sentenced to six months incarceration after officers found love letters he’d written to his boyfriend.
Soon after, a more systematic, brutal persecution began. “The Nazi stormtroopers dragged us out by our hair,” Brazda recalled. “We gays were like hunted animals. Wherever I went with my companion the Nazis were always already there.”
Arrested again in 1941, he was this time sent to a concentration camp, given the number 7952, and made to sew a pink triangle on to the left breast of his camp uniform. “I didn’t understand what was happening but what could I do? Under Hitler you were powerless,” he recalled.
“I arrived in a very big room. There was a pool there. In that pool we had to undress, and we had to bathe, naked. It was called ‘disinfection.’ In that moment, an SS officer pushed my head under the disinfectant liquid. I still had my gold chain, with a cross. It was a gift from my boyfriend. He ripped it and asked if I was a churchgoer. Of course I didn’t answer.”
He was subject to forced labour and remained there for 32 months.
To win their release from the camps, some gay men were forced to undergo mutilation – frequently tantamount to murder – in so-called medical experiments by Nazi doctors, who insisted that homosexuality was a disease that could be cured.
Brazda was badly beaten by SS guards, once having three teeth knocked out, and once told he was about to be executed. But he reckoned he survived because of two SS guards who helped him. One, possibly himself gay, "who became a little infatuated with me," got Brazda off hard-labour quarry duty and eventually got him extra food rations withheld from Jewish inmates.
In late March 1945, as the allies closed in, another SS officer hid him in the camp's pig shed so that he wouldn't be taken on a forced march. "I lay there with the pigs for 14 days until the Americans came," he said in his memoirs. "After that I was a free man. Others died, but I came through."
Brazda spent the rest of his life quietly in Mulhouse, Alsace, on the French side of the border, along with his partner Edouard "Edi" Mayer, with whom he lived for 50 years until Mayer died in 2003. When Brazda was 95, he saw a television report from Germany saying there were no more Pink Triangles alive but that a memorial was being unveiled in Berlin to commemorate them. (See Images below)
Through friends, he made himself known to Berlin's gay mayor Klaus Wowereit, who invited him to the city to lay a flower at the memorial.
On 3 August, 2011, Rudolf Brazda died at the age of 98, in Bantzenheim, France. In the final years of his life, he continued to tell his story as a warning to future generations of what happens when we don’t respect differences.
During these last years, he said: “If I finally speak, it’s for people
to know what we, homosexuals, had to endure in Hitler’s days.
It shouldn’t happen again.”
The Memorial to Homosexuals persecuted under Nazism
Opened in Berlin May 27, 2008
The Cuboid is made of concrete. On the front side of the cuboid is a window, through which visitors can see a short film of two kissing men.
Gay victims of Nazism were not officially recognized in the immediate aftermath of the Third Reich - Paragraph 175 remained part of the German penal code during the 1950s and 1960s. In the 1980s, these "forgotten victims" were finally discussed. In 1985, for instance, president Richard von Weizsäcker remembered homosexuals as a "victim group".
The group Der homosexuellen NS-Opfer gedenken and the organization Lesben- und Schwulenverband began promoting a memorial in Berlin in 1993.
On 12 December 2003, the Bundestag approved the erection of the memorial in Berlin at the boundary of Tiergarten
Below is the plaque placed at the memorial Cuboid.