Lesbians in the Nazi Era

Question

I am presently gathering information for my thesis paper and my topic is "Lesbians in the Nazi-Era." I found your Website while surfing and looking for information that might lead me to learning the histories of these women.

I have many questions I could pose to you, but here are only a few. First, were Lesbians kept only at Ravensbrück, or were they kept at other camps? And what was their fate?

I am also looking for any contacts you might be able to provide. I also speak German, so I am not limited to English-speaking info-sites. I shall be in Berlin for the summer in order to work more closely with the men and women who have researched this topic more widely, so if you have also any Berlin, or for that matter German contacts you could tell me about, I would appreciate that as well.

Harry W. Mazal OBE answers:

I am one of the persons who responds to the questions that are sent to The Holocaust History Project. I will try to offer some guidance on the subject.

One excellent place to begin is,

The Holocaust and History: The Known, The Unknown, the Disputed And The Reexamined
Berenbaum, Michael and Peck, Abraham J. (editors)
c. 1998, Indiana University Press
ISBN 0-253-33374-1

This massive book (836 pages) contains a number of excellent essays on the Holocaust. Of interest to you would be: "The Pink Triangle: Homosexuals as 'Enemies of the State'" by Ru¨diger Lautmann. Although this essay deals principally with male homosexuals, Professor Lautmann would probably be an excellent contact for you in Germany as he has written a number of important papers on the subject:

Rüdiger Lautmann is Professor of General Sociology and the Sociology of Law at the University of Bremen, Germany. Among his many books are The Study of Society and Homosexuality; Equalizing Gender and Legal Reality; Constraints to Virtue: The Social Control of the Sexualities; Homosexuality: Handbook of the History of Research; and The Homosexual and His Audience (all in German).

Another book that might be useful is: Aimee & Jaguar: A Love Story, Berlin 1943 Fischer, Erica (translated from the German by Edna McCown) English translation 1994, HarperCollins Publishers ISBN 0-06-018350-0

(From the dust cover)

Out of the vacuum created by history's scant attention to Nazi persecution of homosexuals comes a unique and maddeningly tragic story of love between two women of startling contrast. Aimee & Jaguar is the first book of its kind: it tells through Rashomon-like firsthand accounts, of the horrors - and the joys - shared by Felice Schragenheim, who did not survive the war - and Elisabeth Wust, who lived to finally tell their story after more than fifty years of silence. Aimee & Jaguar is set against a compelling historical backdrop of increasing pressure placed on Jews, homosexuals, and non-Aryans in Nazi Germany beginning in the early 1930's.

In 1943, as Allied bombs rained down on her home city of Berlin, Elisabeth Wust, Gentile mother of four and wife of a Nazi officer stationed at the front, met Felice Schragenheim in a Berlin coffee shop. And what began as a polite, hesitant curiosity about each other sooin developed into a passionate love that would last a lifetime. What Elisabeth would not know during the early part of their relationship was that Felice was a submarine -- a Jew living underground. Upon learning the truth behind the mystery surrounding Felice's identity, Elisabeth was forced to confront and come to terms with her own ingrained anti-Semitism.

The two women lived together in Elisabeth's home in what they believed was a blissful safe haven in a world gone awry. Ultimately Felice was revealed to the Gestapo and deported to the Czecho- slovakian ghetto of Thereseinstadt. Devastated yet determined, Elisabeth - putting her own life in danger - tried in vain to join Felice in the ghetto, and it was only several years after the war's end that she learned of Felice's fate: she had been sent to Bergen-Belsen. where she died in 1945.

Felice, of course, was imprisoned and died not because she was a Lesbian, but because she was a Jew. In general, Lesbians do not appear to have fared as badly as did homosexual males. From The Other Victims: First Person Stories of Non-Jews Persecuted by the Nazis,
Ina R. Friedman, 1990, Part I, Chapter 2 "The Pink Triangle," p. 28:

While some lesbians were sent to concentration camps, there were no laws against lesbianism. The Nazis could not believe that German women would be interested in anything other than the=20 production of children.

I will continue to look for additional information in my library.In the meantime, you have a few references which may be of some use.

Yours sincerely,

Harry W. Mazal OBE

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