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Gay people were among Nazis’ ‘forgotten victims’

Your recent feature “Rampant cannibalism in German concentration camp” made for sober reading.

The mention of the German government awarding compensation to survivors remaining alive in 1964 is not entirely true.

While most categories of camp inmates were compensated, the Federal Republic of Germany held out for several decades in compensating internees who had been incarcerated by the Nazis on the basis of their sexual orientation.

The persecution of gay people did not end with the liberation of the camps.

Nazi sodomy laws remained on the statue books in East Germany until 1949, 1969 in West Germany, and 1971 in Austria.

More shockingly, West German courts actually ruled that gay internees — numbering over 100,000 — did not belong to the class of persons who had been “unjustly” persecuted and were thus eligible for restitution payments.

It would take several decades of agitation and shaming, both within Germany and internationally, before the governement finally, in 1987, set up a special fund for the “forgotten victims”.

By this stage, few remaining gay survivors had either the energy or necessary documentation to process their claim.

Tonie Walsh

Independent Curator Irish Queer Archive

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