Alongside millions of Jews, homosexuals were also persecuted by the Nazis.

Gay men had no place in the Nazi vision as they did not enable growth of the Aryan population and were deemed unfit to be soldiers. Soon after Hitler took office, he banned all homosexual and lesbian organisations. In May 1933, the Institute for Sexual Science in Berlin was ransacked and most of its 12,000 books publicly burned. This marked the beginning of ridding Germany of any openly homosexual or lesbian culture.

Dr Magnus Hirschfeld, a Jew and homosexual, founded the Institute for Sexual Sciences. Berlin, Germany, 1928. —Süddeutscher Verlag Bilderdienst, Munich, Germany Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Enforcement of Paragraph 175 – the German statute prohibiting homosexuality between men – had been sporadic prior to 1933. However in 1934, a special Gestapo division on homosexuals was set up, and in June 1935 the Nazis harshly revised the Criminal Code. Anyone found guilty could be sentenced to a decade in prison.

The law did not ban sexual acts between women, so although lesbianism was not condoned, women did not face the same persecution and very few lesbians were arrested or punished.

In October 1936, Himmler created a Reich Central Office for Combating Homosexuality and Abortion. This gave the police powers to jail indefinitely without trial anyone they deemed dangerous to Germany’s moral fibre.

Friedrich Althoff (b. May 16, 1899), a waiter from Duesseldorf. —Landesarchiv Nordrhein-Westfälisches Hauptstaatsarchiv Düsseldorf Copyright: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

Around 90,000 men were arrested for homosexual activity between 1937 and 1939. Between 5,000 and 15,000 were imprisoned in concentration camps.

It is unknown how many perished, but one leading scholar, Ruediger Lautmann, believes the death rate may have been as high as 60 percent.

Many survivors testified that men who wore the homosexual symbol of a pink triangle were often treated particularly severely by guards and other inmates because of widespread prejudice against homosexuals. Many were subject to physical and sexual abuse.

After the outbreak of war, persecution increased. From 1942, judges and SS camp officials had the right to order castration of imprisoned homosexuals without their consent. Beginning in 1943, homosexuals were among concentration camp prisoners killed as part of an SS-sponsored ‘extermination through work’ programme.

After the war, gay concentration camp survivors were not acknowledged or compensated as victims of Nazi persecution. Some had to serve out terms of imprisonment regardless of time spent in concentration camps. The amended version of Paragraph 175 remained in effect until 1969, with many gay men living in fear of arrest or imprisonment.

It wasn’t until 8 May 1985 that homosexuals murdered by the Nazis received their first public acknowledgement in a speech by West German President, Richard von Weizsäcker. Finally, in 1994 Germany officially abolished Paragraph 175. In 2002 Germany pardoned those convicted under the statute during the Nazi era.

This year, we want to extend our collection to shed light on the persecution of gays during the Nazi regime. Their experiences need to be heard. If you are able to help in our search for relevant artefacts and stories, we would love to hear from you. Please email: [email protected]