2024-07-18 3:58 AM

The LGBTQ+ Reach: July 4-10, 2024

The Beer Hall Putsch

In November 1923, Adolf Hitler launched an insurrection to overthrow the democratic government of Germany. Munich police killed more than a dozen Nazi stormtroopers as they marched into the city. At the time of the attempted coup, the Nazi party was about 50,000 people.

Hitler was arrested and convicted of high treason, but his sentence was light. According to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum’s “Holocaust Encyclopedia,” by his trial in April 1924, “in cases of high treason, [judges tended] to show leniency towards right-wing defendants who claimed to have acted out of sincere, patriotic motives.” Hitler was given “the lightest allowable sentence of five years in a minimum security prison… with the possibility of parole. He was released in December 1924.”

Despite displeasure on both sides of the political spectrum, officials “acted with restraint to avoid giving the impression of trying to influence” the affairs of the justice system.

The “Holocaust Encyclopedia” continues:

“Hitler led a pleasant lifestyle for an inmate. Prison authorities allowed him to wear his civilian clothes, to meet with other inmates as he pleased, and to send and receive many letters. Prison authorities also permitted Hitler to use the services of his personal secretary, Rudolf Hess, a fellow inmate convicted of high treason. While in prison, Hitler dictated to Hess the first volume of his infamous autobiography, Mein Kampf.”

The Enabling Act

On March 23, 1933, the Enabling Act, or “The Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and the Reich” was passed. The act allowed Adolf Hitler to enact laws, including ones that violated the law, without oversight.

In order to receive the two-thirds majority needed to pass the act, the Nazi party placed 107 members of congress into detention camps. For their “protection.”

Germany’s Supreme Court accepted the vote without regard for the elected officials under arrest.

Germany in the 1920s

In 1919, the Institute for Sexual Science was formed in Berlin. Founded by Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld, a homosexual, the ISS sponsored research, counseling, and treatment surrounding taboo issues like marital problems, sexually transmitted diseases, and laws governing sexual activity, abortion, and sexuality. Despite sexual relations between men being technically illegal, Germany was quite progressive, and its cities were home to vibrant gay communities.

In January 1933, all homosexual and lesbian organizations were banned. That May the Institute for Sexual Science was ransacked, followed by a public burning of books from its library deemed “un-German.”
In “The Racial State: Germany 1933 — 1945,” a Gay German man recounted the atmosphere of fear this created:

“Then came the thunderbolt of [January 30, 1933], and we knew that a change of political climate had taken place. What we had tried to prevent, had taken place.

“Over the years, more and more of my political friends disappeared, of my Jewish and of my homosexual friends. Fear came over us with the increasingly coordinated pressure of the Nazis. For heaven’s sake not to attract attention, to exercise restraint. 1933 was the starting-point for the persecution of homosexuals. Already in this year we heard of raids on homosexual pubs and meeting places. Maybe individual, politically uneducated homosexuals who were only interested in immediate gratification did not recognize the significance of the year 1933, but for us homosexuals who were also politically active, who had defended the Weimar Republic, and who had tried to forestall the Nazi threat, 1933 initially signified a reinforcing of our resistance.

“In order not to mutually incriminate ourselves, we decided to no longer recognize each other. When we came across each other in the street, we passed by without looking at one another. There were certain possibilities for us to meet, but that never happened in public.

“For a politicized homosexual, visiting places which were part of the homosexual subculture was too dangerous. Friends told me that raids on bars were becoming more frequent. And someone had written on the wall of the subway tunnel of the Hamburg SBahn between Dammtor station and the main station, “Street of the Lost.” That was some sort of film or book title. We found this graffiti very amusing, for most of us tried to cope with the thing by developing a sort of gallows humor.”

In 1934, a special Gestapo division was setup to track homosexuals, which compiled the “pink lists” from all of Germany’s police departments.

On October 10, 1936, the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion was formed. The Office enforced laws against abortion and homosexuality, and tracked “homosexual activity.”

By 1945, about one in ten German gay men were estimated to have been arrested, half of whom were sentenced, many of whom went to concentration camps.

The Bottom Line

This week’s SCOTUS decisions may not be about LGBTQ+ rights, but it has struck a nerve in many LGBTQ+ individuals — myself included — who see the echoes of history and worry about what is to come.

Will we be safe? Will our allies be bullied into silence? Will truth, justice, or fairness matter? Do they still now?

The stakes this November could not be higher.

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