Jul 25, 2013

Other Victims of Nazism

These Gypsy children were
sent to Auschwitz
In addition to Jews and the mentally and physically handicapped, the Nazis targeted several other groups for elimination. These included the Roma and the Sinti (Gypsies); homosexual men; and, to a lesser extent, Jehovah's Witnesses. The reason for their persecution was that, in one way or another, all of these groups threatened the purity of the German master race.

The Nazis' treatment of the Roma and Sinti in many ways mirrored their treatment of the Jews: Gypsies were considered racially inferior and targeted for genocide. A special camp was set up for them within Birkenau, where families were permitted to stay together until they were exterminated together. In the meantime, Dr. Josef Mengele performed brutal pseudoscientific experiments on many of the inmates. The Roma word for the Holocaust is Porajmos, meaning "the devouring."

With regard to gays, the Nazis were able to take advantage of the same sort of long-standing hatred and prejudice that many Germans felt toward Jews. In 1871, the year of Germany's unification, Paragraph 175 was added to the Criminal Code, stating, "Unnatural fornication, whether between persons of the male sex or of humans with beasts, is to be punished by imprisonment." During the sexually liberated Weimar period, an active campaign was undertaken to remove Paragraph 175 from the Criminal Code, but the effort failed. Thus, when the Nazis came to power in 1933, they didn't have to enact new laws to imprison homosexual men; they merely had to enforce the law already on the books.
 
Nazis prosecuted homosexual activity because they thought it weakened Germany, contributing to the country's moral decay, declining birthrate, and overall insecurity. During the twelve years of Nazi rule, as many as fifty thousand men were prosecuted under Paragraph 175. Some were jailed briefly, and others forced to join the military. The worst offenders, numbering about fifteen thousand, were placed in "protective custody" and sent to concentration camps, where they were forced to wear pink triangles on their prison uniforms. Lesbian activity, on the other hand, existed in an official limbo, neither condoned nor criminalized. As historian Claudia Schoppmann has noted, because not many women moved in Nazi circles of power, "it was considered superfluous to criminalize lesbians."

Because Jehovah's Witnesses weren't considered racially inferior, they weren't targeted for destruction. Yet, because their faith prohibited them from swearing oaths to Germany, they were persecuted; imprisoned; tortured; and, at times, executed. (‘The Bedside Baccalaureate’, edited by David Rubel)