Inventing History: Toward a Gay Holocaust Literature

by Kai Hammermeister
Citation
Title:
Inventing History: Toward a Gay Holocaust Literature
Author:
Kai Hammermeister
Year: 
1997
Publication: 
The German Quarterly
Volume: 
70
Issue: 
1
Start Page: 
18
End Page: 
26
Publisher: 
Language: 
English
URL: 
Select license: 
Select License
DOI: 
PMID: 
ISSN: 
Abstract:

KAI HAMMERMEISTER

Mary Washington College

Inventing History: Toward a Gay Holocaust Literature

In thefollowing I will speakabout something that does not yet exist, namely, a gay Holocaust literature. In fact, the thoughts I have to offer on this subject might turn out to be nothing but an elaboration on the word "yet." This essay, therefore, deals with the almost completelack ofsomething which, in my opinion, we should have, but at the same time, it also deals with its beginnings, since I do hold that such a genre is about to come into existence. Finally, I will try to defend the claim that a gay Holocaust literature is a desideratum. I am aware of the somewhat paradoxical statement that such a literature has started to emerge in the course of the last two decades. I call this claim paradoxical, because it seems that the homosexual survivors of the NS camps have not left a literature behind. We are aware of the fact that the majority of the imprisoned homosexuals were killed in the concentration camps! or-if not-have already died by now. A man, after all, who was imprisoned at the age of20 in 1935 would today be almost 80 years old. We might therefore have little reason to expect the emergence of a gay Holocaust literature ifit does not already exist. Nonetheless, I want to propose that such a literature is to come and that, indeed, we do have some beginnings of it already, though not those we might expect, or where we might expect them, or by those authors we would readily think of.

The following remarks are divided into three parts: first, an inquiry into the conditions of the historical possibility-orbetter, impossibility-of a gay Holocaust lit-

The German Quarterly 70.1 (Winter 1997) 18

erature. For this I will talk about some historical facts regarding the concentration camp system and the situation of homosexual survivors of the camps in postwar Germany In section II, I will take a philosophical detour inquiringinto the role ofthe eyewitness in relation to literature; for this, I will look at Kierkegaard's Philosophische Brocken in order to give that text a pragmatist spin. Finally, I want to consider an example of what I hold to be the emerging gay Holocaust literature, namely Martin Sherman's play Bent. Let me state at the outset, moreover, that the absence of a gay Holocaust literature inevitably brings to mind the body of material that does exist and with which we are more familiar, namely the testimonies and narratives of the persecution of the Jews, which clearly constitute themostvisible, but nonetheless not the only Holocaust literature. I wish to state emphatically that the Holocaust literatures ofJews, gypsies, the handicapped, socialists, homosexuals, members of the Bekennende Kirche, and others must not be seen as competitive, nor as mutually exclusive. But they might serve different purposes for differentgroups, sincecommemoration, too, is largely determined by the needs, pains, and beliefs of the present.

I

The trouble already begins when we consider the historical facts. Though we do have a fairly good sense of the how and why of the persecution of homosexuals under Hitler, this sense nevertheless remains a rough outline without much color or detail. Historians have bemoaned this fact time and again; it seems that one cannot write about the gay Holocaust without lamenting the absence of enough documents, dossiers, confessions, reports, or simply stories. This lament echoes in the introductory remarks from books on the persecution of homosexuals between 1933 and 1945. Let me begin with a novelist:

While entire libraries are dedicated to chronicles of the Second World War, Nazi Germany, the Holocaust, and the concentration camps, books on what happened to homosexuals caught up in those events would fill only a couple of inches of shelf space. To paraphrase Edna St. Vincent Millay, "the presence of their absence is everywhere.Y

Or, from a recent book which assembles documents about the persecution of homosexuals by the National Socialists: "Die historische Forschung hat hier noch viele Leerstellen auszufullen. Besonders schmerzlich spiirbar werden sie beispielsweise bei der Rekonstruktion des Schicksals schwuler Manner und lesbischer Frauen in den faschistischen Konzentrationslagem. Dazu liegen bisher nur sehr wenige Arbeiten vor."3

Nonetheless, historians have agreed on a general picture regardingthepersecution of homosexuals by the National Socialists. Without going into phases and specificities of this persecution, I only want to mention a couple of numbers that serve to emphasize the extent of these events. About 100,000 gay men wereregisteredby theGestapo, half of whom were sentenced by an NS court for their homosexuality It is widely assumed that between 10,000 and 15,000 gay men wore the pink triangle in concentration camps; the number ofhomosexual inmates in other prison camps, for example in the so-called Moorlager, is still unknown.s Some, however, have suggested a much higher number of gay victims.

Heinz Heger writes that "hundreds of thousands of people were sadistically tortured to death simply for having homosexual feelings,"5 and Robert Reinhart states that "tens of thousands of gays died in the Holocaust.t'" Though obviously there is still some dispute about the actual number of victims, in general historical research has documented the persecution and murder of homosexuals under Hitler as a phenomenon of undeniable proportions. The facts, one should think, are known. But not even this is the case: "According to a recent survey commissioned by the American Jewish Committee, only about half of the adults in Britain, and a mere quarter of the UnitedStates, know that gays werevictims of the Nazi Holocaust."? Maybe, however, this shameful lack of knowledge about the Nazi period and its victims is not that very surprising, for the memory of victims and their persecution seems to depend largely on stories, on individual narratives, on names and faces we know from books or movies, and in the case of homosexual Holocaust victims, we simply do not have these historical stories. As one sociologist states: "Ours is an empty memory. We have few names, and fewer faces: not more than fifteen gay Holocaust survivors have spoken of their experiences, and many of them have asked for anonymity'S' Few names, few faces, few reports, and-I might add-no literature we could readily think of. Whereas the suffering of the Jews is commemorated in works like those by Anne Frank, Primo Levi, and Eli Wiesel, we know of no comparable gay narratives. And while we have the poetry of Nelly Sachs and Paul Celan as an impressive literaryMahnmal, no widely read poem commemorates the gay experience of the Holocaust. To this lack of literature one might also want to attribute a certain lack of knowledgeon thepartofthegeneral public, though prejudice and willful ignorance might certainly also playa role. I wish to speculate briefly about the historical reasons for this absence of a gay Holocaust

literature, in order to point out afterwards some other historical reasons for the slow emergence of such literature since the 1970s.

One historian assumes that in 1981, about 1,000 homosexual survivors of concentration camps were still alive,9 but by 1994 only fifteen (mostly anonymous) eyewitness reports had been gathered. Most of these are very short survivor accounts printed in historical volumes; some others are to be found in the new Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C. Why so very few (published) statements, why this absence of a literature written by persecuted homosexuals? A likely answer is that after their liberation from the camps, homosexuals were not only not recognized as victims of the NS regime, they were even the target of continued legal discrimination:

For them, the fear did not end with the forces of liberation. They lived in continual fear of being re-arrested. Some were treated as repeat offenders after the war, under the same law against homosexuality, Paragraph 175 of the criminal code, that was originally put in place in 1871 and which was revised and strengthened by the Nazis. The Nazi version of Paragraph 175 was, in fact, explicitly upheld in 1957 by the West German supreme court. Anti-gay laws and prejudice had existed before Hitler came to power, argued the court, and therefore couldn't be seen as peculiar to Nazi ideology.10

In other words, homosexual victims were not recognized as such after the end of the war in 1945. Moreover, "throughout the 1950s and 1960s, German courts convicted homosexual men at a rate as high as that of the Nazi regime.... We know ofseveral cases where, after the war, concentration camp survivors were charged for violations of Paragraph 175 and committed suicide either before the trial or afterwards in prison.i'U With these facts in mind, it is easy to see why the gay survivors of the camps did not speak up. It is precisely because articulating their status as victims would have put them into the position of victims again, this time under a different government, but the same discriminatory paragraph. Testimonies of homosexual camp inmates were actively hindered; silence for years remained the norm. Under these circumstances not only was a gay Holocaust literature unthinkable, but even historical research on the fate of homosexual victims was largely impossible. Onlyafter Stonewall and the gay liberation of the 1970sdid historical researchonthissubject begin, for the emergence of historical research on gay inmates depended on a different social attitude toward homosexuality in general.l-' The same can also be said about a gay Holocaust literature. Before the 70s it was simply not possible to have one; only recently have the historical conditions been favorable for the emergence of such a literature.

II

Two things, however, still need to be clarified. The first is the question of why we should want to have a gay Holocaust literature. The second is the problem of whether it is possible to have such a literature if it is not created by the victims of the persecution. I want to turn to these issues now by referring to Kierkegaard's Philosophische Brocken. The connection between this text and my topic might not be immediately clear, but I hope it will become so in a moment.

I am interested in the Philosophische Brocken because in this text, Kierkegaard elaborates on the relationship a contemporary eyewitness and a member of a following generation have to the same historical event. I realize that the use of a Christian philosopher in the context of a discussion of the Holocaust could, by some, be regarded as problematic. However, there should be no doubt that my pragmatist interpretation of Kierkegaard is not the expression of a Christian sensibility; instead, it must be understood as the historicist and anti-metaphysical adaptation of a theological discussion. In my reading, Kierkegaard's notion of the absolute is much closer to Romanticist aesthetics than to Christian theology.

Kierkegaard distinguishes between three kinds of truth claims which he labels "historical," "eternal," and "absolute." Since he does not want to give up either the temporal or the eternal, he attempts to unite these two under the final of these three headings. For him, the absolute manifests itselfin the Incarnation, Christ's existence as man on earth: "Das Paradox vereint gerade den Widerspruch, ist die Verewigung des Historischen und die Historisierung des Ewigen."13 Obviously, however, this union of the historical and the eternal is a self-contradiction, but one which a person can nevertheless appropriate. Such appropriation takes the form of the famous leap, the demise of reason and the embrace of faith: "Aber dieser Untergang des Verstandes ist ja auch das, was das Paradox will, und so sind sie ja doch im Einverstandnis miteinander" (45).

Kierkegaard now relates this argument both to the contemporaries of Christ and tofuturegenerations.IfChristmustbe understood as the one who enables the "Wiedergeburt" (21), allowing the comprehension of the absolute as historical and eternal at once, are then those who have seen him in person in a historically advantageous position? Are Christ's contemporaries closer to the absolute because they are closer to the historical moment which reveals it? Kierkegaard's answer to this is a clear No. Not the living (physiological) presence of Christ during Christ's historical lifetime turns one into His contemporary; but only the paradox which has resolved itselfin faith does so: "Der wirklich Gleichzeitige ist dies nicht kraft der unmittelbaren Gleichzeitigkeit, also muB auch der Nichtgleichzeitige (unmittelbar verstanden) der Gleichzeitige sein konnen durch das andere [den Glauben], wodurch der andere der wirklich Gleichzeitige wurde" (62). Contemporaneityceases to be an historical category and becomes an absolute one. The difference between a contemporary of Christ and a member of a future generation is thus canceled under the perspective of absolute truth. All that the latter needs in order to become a contemporary is some very basic historical information about the existence of Christ.

Let me now relate these arguments to my subject. Pragmatists tend to get nervous when philosophers try to introduce distinctions such as the historical, the eternal, and the absolute. Even if these exist as realities, pragmatists assume that we do not have the means to tell them apart, for our understanding seems incapable of transcending the historical in favor of something outside of history. We only transcend an historical context in order to find ourselves in a different context no less historical than the first. But in order not to throw overboard all of Kierkegaard's terminolog}', let me propose the following hypothesis: I'd like to suggest that in the context of my argument, we think of literature as analogous to the Incarnation. As an absolute, a literary artifact would then combine both the eternal and the historical. Under this perspective, the historical would mean that every literary product is in its production, its subject, and its reception situated in a definite historical period. But literature cannot be reduced to its historical dimension. There always remains a residue, an overflow of something which aims to transcend every specific historical context ofproduction or reception, in order to enter a different historical context. We might want to call this driving force of transcendence the eternal. Far from being a transcendental revelation, this eternal moment is the endlessness of the interpretative screw, turned and re-turned by generations of readers into the text, but never entering it fully;never pinningit down, always stick

ing out and asking for yet another turn. The eternal is the never-ending recontextualization ofeach work ofart, thelimitless number of possible juxtapositions of this work with other works, other philosophies and theories, other historical events. Our interpretations are actualizations of the historical and the eternal in literature. This is also why we need the plurality of interpretations, since only the renewed return to the same historical moment from a different historical vantage point actualizes the eternal.

I want to return now to two of my opening questions, which might be easier to answer when we accept my analogy of literature to the Incarnation. I asked in the beginning why we should care to have a gay Holocaust literature at all. It seems to me that this question can be answered if we manage to come up with a use for such a literature, and I will attempt to offer exactly such utility. Afterwards, I will return to Kierkegaard and the historical eyewitness, in order to speculate about the authors of a gay Holocaust literature.

What, now, could be the utility of a gay Holocaust literature? What are the reasons for wishing such literature into existence? It seems that there are several possible answers to this question. The first could run like this: We should have a gay Holocaust literaturebecauseit commemoratessuffering. Since every expression of suffering deserves our respect, the memory thereof is thusvaluableinitself. Butwhereasthefirst part of this proposition is true without a doubt, the second part does not necessarily follow. A memory for its own sake is not only rather empty; it is-aswe havelearned from Freud-alsohardlypossible.Wemust have a reason to commemorate suffering, something that tells us what exactly we are supposed to do with such a memory. Painful memories without a relation to our present behavior or to that which we anticipate for the future are those we will be most interested in forgetting. Let me therefore try to introduce the element of utility into the

memory of the Holocaust. Every expression of suffering, we would then say; deserves our respect and serves as an appeal to its elimination or to avoid its repetition. But we can find still another reason for this specific memory: We might also claim that every struggle for dignity in the face of suffering deserves our respect and can serve as an example to be admired. Whereas the first of the two reasons for the existence of a gay Holocaust literature focuses on our moral obligations to other human beings, the second stresses elements such as pride and dignity; and is thus concerned more with the development of the individual in search of Vorbilder. I will come back to these two truths-these two utilities-ofa gay Holocaust literature in section III, in which I will claim that the literature I am talking about is characterized by a predominance of the second moment over the first.

Before I advance, however, I want to return briefly to another argument Kierkegaard presents. Kierkegaard states that in relation to Christ the teacher, all generations are in the same position. The historical eyewitness does not haveanyadvantage over, say; you or me when it comes to the acquisition of truth. All that future generations need is a very basic knowledge of an historical incident, namely the existence of Christ as a man. I hold that in respect to a gay Holocaust literature the situation is analogous. When we regard the truth of such literature as its incentive to either eliminate suffering or admire dignity, we do not have to care whether such literature has been produced as an eyewitness account or was created by a future generation. And these future generations, in fact, have all the knowledge necessary to come up with a gay Holocaust literature, because, as we have seen, its only requisite is the basic knowledge of an historical event. This knowledge, as I have suggested in part I, does indeed exist for us and serves well as thestartingpointforthecreationofsuch a literature. Whether the author of a work

on the fate of homosexuals in the concentration camps has himself suffered or only imagined the cruelties described only matters when we know the author in person and have to adjust our behavior accordingly When we deal with texts, however, autobiography and fictional accounts oftentimes fulfill the same purpose.

III

I want to give some substance to my argument now by advancing Martin Sherman's drama Bent as a good example of what I could imagine a gay Holocaust literature to be. I think we can regard as the distinguishing feature of this kind of writing its emphasis on the element of pride over that of suffering, and its portrayal of the historical victims as victors while still preserving their suffering. The gay Holocaust literature as it is now emerging is a literature of survival, of victory in defeat, and of dignity It solicits not so much pity as admiration. This is why, historically, it could not have come into existence before a widespread gay liberation movement. We only care about the history of those who matter to us. As a silenced and humiliated group after the end of the Second World War, homosexuals were in no position to create a historical literature centered on dignity and the preservation of their suffering. The silence for a quarter century after 1945 is part of that story and needs to be told as well.

Gay Holocaust literature, to repeat my point, focuses less on responses like compassion, the desire to eliminate suffering, and solidarity, and more on pride, dignity, self-affirmation, and survival. Thus it appeals less to our moral obligations than to our sense of self-perfection, admiration, and the search for historical VorbilderP: I make out two means by which this literature achieves these goals. The first is the introduction of love and sex into the setting of the death camps. The second one is the affirmation of sexual identity under the most cruel of circumstances. I shall attempt to highlight these two moments through a reading of Sherman's play

Bent was premiered in 1979 in London and in the same year moved to Broadway, where it starred Richard Gere in the original production. Its author was born in 1938 in Philadelphia and resides in London. He therefore is clearly not a survivor of the Holocaust, nor is he a German. The plot of the drama can be summarized briefly as follows: Max and his lover, Rudy, escape arrest by the Gestapo on the morning after the "Night of the Long Knives" in 1934. They hide in a tent colony in the German countryside, and when an uncle of Max's offers to provide him with false documents to leave the country, he turns them down, because in accepting, he would have to leave his lover behind. Shortly thereafter, both Max and Rudy are arrested by the Gestapo and immediately sent on a transport train to one of the concentration camps. While waiting at the train station, Rudy is brutally tortured to death by an SS officer, who forces Max to assist him in his murder. In order to save his own life, Max complies, and is urged to do so by Horst, a "pink triangle" inmate also awaiting the transport. In a scene reminiscent of Peter's denial of Christ, Max denies any connection with his lover:

The Guard drags Rudy in. Rudy is semiconscious. His body is bloody and mutilated. The guard holds him up. The Officer enters the circle. Max looks away. The officer looks at Max. Max is still mumbling to himself OFFICER (to Max): Who is this man? MAX: I don't know. (Stops mumbling, looks straight ahead.) OFFICER: Your friend? (Silence) MAX: No. (Rudy moans.) OFFICER: Look at him. (Max stares straight ahead.) Look! (Max looks at Rudy. The Officer hits Rudy on the chest. Rudy screams.) Your friend? MAX: No. (The Officer hits Rudy on the chest. Rudy screams.) OFFICER: Your friend? MAX: No. (Silence) OFFICER: Hit him. (Max stares at Officer.) Like this. (Hits Rudy on the chest. Rudy screams.) Hit

him. (Max doesn't move.) Your friend?

(Max doesn't move.) Your friend? MAX:

No. (Closes his eyes. Hits Rudy on the

chest. Rudy screams.) OFFICER: Open

your eyes. (Max opens his eyes.) Again.

(Max hits Rudy on the chest.) Again! (Max

hits Rudy again and again and again ...)

Enough. (Pushes Rudy down to the

ground, at Max's [eet.) Your friend? MAX:

No. OFFICER (Smiles.): No.15

After this scene, Max and Horst arrive at the camp, where they lose sight of each other for a while, since Max persuades the SS guards to give him a yellow star instead of a pink triangle, and thus lives in a different area of the camp. By bribing a Kapo, however, Max manages to get Horst into his work unit, where the two of them can communicate with relative ease. The remaining portion of the drama centers around these encounters, which produce exactly those results I have advanced as characteristicof a gay Holocaust literature, namely, the introduction of love and sex into the camp setting and the achievement of dignity in cruel and humiliating circumstances.

In her book The Body in Pain, Elaine Scarry has defined the aim of torture as forcing the prisoner into an experience which cannot be described or expressed with the vocabulary of quotidian existence. By making this most cruel and overpowering experience of torture incommunicable, the victim's vocabulary appears meaningless, and it, like the person, falls apart. Torture is about the unmaking ofa person. We have come to regard concentration camps as torture institutions with exactly this goal governing their operation. I want to speculate that when love and sex make their appearance in the death camps, historically as much as in the literature about them, it is in order to counteract the attempt to destroy not only the body, but the person who suffers from the torture. Perverse though they may seem, love stories in concentration camps are attempts to survive by using pleasure as an antidote to torture. One encounter between Max and Horst depicts precisely this forbidden pleasure as a means of survival. Standing outside, under the eyes of the guards during a three-minute work break, the following occurs:

MAX: We can't look at each other. We

can't touch. HORST: We can feel ... /Feel

what?lEach other. Without looking. With

out touching. I can feel you right now.

Next to me. Can you feel me?/No./Come

on. Don't be afraid. No one can hear us.

Can you feel me?/Maybe./No one's going

to know. It's all right. Feel me./May

be./Feel me.llt's hot./I'm touching you.1

No./I'm touching you./lt's burning./I'm

kissing you./Burning./Kissing your eyes.1

Hot./Kissing your lips.lYes./Mouth./ Yes.1

Inside your mouth.lYes./Neck.lYes.1 Down

... lYes./Down ... lYes./Chest. My tongue

... lBurning./Your chest.lYour mouth.II'm

kissing your chest.lYes.lHard. lYes./Down

... lYes./Down ... /Yes.lYour cock.lYes./Do

you feel my mouth?/Yes. Do you feel my

cock?lYes. Do you feel ... /Do you feel ...

/Mouth./Cock./Cock./Mouth.1 Do you feel

my cock?/Do you feel my mouth?/Yes.IDo

you know what I'm doing?lYes. Can you

taste what I'm doing?lYes./Taste./Feel.l

Together ... ITogether ... /Do you feel me?1

I feel you./1 see you./1 feel you./1 have

you./1 want you./Do you feel me inside

you?/I want you inside me./Feel ... II have

you inside me./lnside ... IStrong./Do you

feel me thrust ... lHold./Stroke ... IStrong

... IOh IStrong ... II'm going to .

IStrong /Do you feel I'm going to .

II feel us both./Do you IOh yes ... IDo

you /Yes. Yes./Feel /Yes. Strong .

IFeel IMore ... IOhh INow ... /Yes .

INow! (Both have an orgasm.) (123-26)

In this sexual encounter Max and Horst achieve two things. Their imagination allows them to interact in a way strictly forbidden by the guards: they were not allowed to look at each other, but in their non-physical sex play Horst at one point says "I see you." Moreover, the constantly repeated adjective "strong" does not only refer to the thrusting of one partner, but also serves as a kind of mantra of survival. What the two get out of this pleasure is strength-a stronger will not to break under the torture of the guards. Sex emerges as the signifier of human dignity, especially since this kind of sex is what brought Max and Horst to the camp in the first place: "We did it. They're not going to kill us. We made love. We were real. We were human. We made love. They're not going to kill us" (129).

But Bent is not only about the sexual encounters of two homosexuals in a concentration camp; it is also a love story between these two. Andwhereassexualpleasure serves well as the means to resist torture, love changes those involved in it. The love storybetween Horst and Max is a story about dignity and self-acceptance. When Horst and Max meet each other in the camp, Max is wearinga yellow star, because Horst had told him, with historical accuracy, that "pink was the lowest" (109). He procured his yellow star by proving to the guards that, in fact, he was not "bent" and perfectly able to have sex with a woman. At one point he relates this story to Horst:

HORST: Who was she? MAX: Only ... maybe maybe only thirteen ... she was maybe she was dead. HORST: Oh. MAX: Just. Just dead, minutes ... bullet ... in her ... they said ... prove that you're ... and I did ... prove that you're ... lots of them ... watching ... laughing ... drinking ... he's a bit bent, they said, he can't ... but I did HORST: How? MAX: I don't ... I don't know. I wanted... HORST: To stay alive. MAX:And there was something HORST: Something ... MAX:Exciting HORST: Oh God. MAX: I hit him, you know. I kissed her. Dead lips. I killed him. Sweet lips. Angel. (111)

By transferring his libidinal attachment from Rudy, in whose killing he was forced to assist, to a dead young girl, Max can "prove" that he is not "bent" after all. But by displacing his sexual interest from Rudy to the dead girl, Max is at the same time condemned to lose his memory of his former lover as well as his belief in the possibility of homosexual love: "Queers are not meant to love.... You know who loved me? That boy.That dancer. I don't remember his name. But I killed him" (132).

In his developing love for Horst, Max will not only regain his belief in homosexuallove, but he will do so by acknowledging what he had denied in the beginning: his own homosexuality Horst's function is to teach Max that he "should be proud of something" (118). This "something," of course, is his sexual orientation, which Horst tries to make Max respect and stand up for. Time and again he tells him: "You shouldbe with us, whereyou belong" (131). The wearing of the yellow star for Horst is "a lie" (119), since Max is supposed to wear a pink triangle. For this to happen, however, a final catastrophe is needed in order for Max to regain his dignity. In the last scene of the play; a guard throws Horst's hat into the electric fence surrounding the camp and orders him to pick it up, which would mean certain death. Instead of following this order, Horst attacks the guard and is shot. Max, then, takes his body over to the pit into which the murdered prisoners are thrown. He resumes his work:

He picks up a rock. He moves it to the other side. He moves another rock. He moves another rock. He moves another rock. He pauses. He takes a deep breath. He moves another rock. He moves another rock. He stops. He tries totake anotherdeep breath. He can't. His hand is trembling. He steadies his hand. He picks up another rock and starts to move it. He stops. He drops the rock. He moves toward the pit. Hejumps into the pit. He disappears. A long pause. Max climbs out of the pit. Max holds Horst's

jacket with the pink triangle on it. Puts the jacket on. Max turns and looks at the fence. Max walks into the fence. The fence lights up. It grows brighter and brighter, until the light consumes the stage.Andblinds the audience. (147)

Reminiscent of the finale of a Wagnerian music drama, this ending might be read as yet another version of a Liebestod, or of the apocalyptic conclusion to Gotterdammerung, in which Brunnhilde rides her horse onto Siegfried's funeral pyre and the flames consume the entire stage. Wedo not get a Hollywood happy ending, but we do get one that celebrates dignity; love, and, paradoxically enough, the defeat of the torturers. And this is what a gay Holocaust literature can be about, be it in Martin Sherman's play,in some of the short stories of Lev Raphael.l'' or in Robert C. Reinhart's novel Walk the Night. It is a literature that does not necessarily depend on the testimonies of survivors, though it participates in the commemoration of their suffering by responding to the need of the present for stories in order to counteract the remoteness of the numbers of the past.

Notes

lRiidiger Lautmann estimates that 60% of the homosexual camp inmates died during their imprisonment; in comparison, the figures for political prisoners are 41%, and for Jehovah's Witnesses, 36%. See Riidiger Lautmann,

Seminar: Gesellschaft und Homosexualitiit

(Frankfurt a. M.: Suhrkamp, 1977) 361. Qtd. in Richard Plant, The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War against Homosexuals (New York: New Republic Books, 1986) 235.

2Robert C. Reinhart, Walk the Night: A Novel ofGays in the Holocaust (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1994) ii.

3Giinter Grau, ed., Homosexualitat in der NS-Zeit. Dokumente einer Diskriminierung und Verfolgung (Frankfurt a. M.: Fischer, 1993) 27.

4For these figures, see Hans-Georg Stiimke and Rudi Finkler, Rosa Winkel, Rosa Listen: Homosexuelle und "Gesundes Volksempfinden" von Auschwitz bis heute (Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1981) 261 ff.

5Heinz Heger, The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True, Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps, revised ed., trans. David Fernback (Boston: Alyson Publications, 1994) 118.

6Reinhart ii. 7Klaus Miiller, introduction, The Men with the Pink Triangle 15.

8Miiller 13.

9Stiimke and Finkler 301.

loMiiller 8. Compare also Stiimke and Finkler: "Die Bundesrepublikkniipfte nicht an die liberale Weimarer Tradition an, sondern iibernahm die nationalsozialistische Rechtsauffassungund legitimierte die Verfolgungu.a. mit der 'Rechtmafiigkeit' der faschistischen Fassung des Paragraphen 175. Juristisch ging fur die Homosexuellen daher der Nationalsozialismus erst 1969 zu Ende, als der Paragraph 175 erstmalig nach 1935 reformiert wurde. Die Zeit zwischen 1933 und 1969 umfaBt die bisher schwersten Homosexuellen-Verfolgungen in der neueren deutschen Geschichte. Eine Wiedergutmachung fur erlittenes NS-Unrecht wurde Homosexuellen nach 1945 nicht zugesprochen" (10).

IlMiiller 13.

12See, for example, Stumke and Finkler: "In der bisherigen Literatur zum Dritten Reich ist das Schicksal der Homosexuellen weitgehend 'vergessen' worden ... Erst im Jahre 1977 erschien eine erste wissenschaftliche Abhandlung iiber den Rosa Winkel in den nationalsozialistischen Konzentrationslagern" (12).

13Soren Kierkegaard, Philosophische Brokken (Frankfurt a. M.: Syndikat, 1984) 57.

14GayHolocaust literature can be expected to change in response to new historical findings and to the changing juridical and social situation of homosexuals. Currently, emancipatory moments still playa large role in these texts; these will very likely disappear with the decreasing necessity to rally for homosexual equality.

15Martin Sherman, Bent, in Out Front: Contemporary Gay and Lesbian Plays, ed. Don Shewey (New York: Grove Press, 1988) 79-149, here 105-06.

16See, for example, Lev Raphael, Dancing on Tisha b'Av (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1990).

Comments
  • Recommend Us