January 27 is the International Day in Memory of the Victims of the Holocaust, and reading books that describe the experiences of our queer ancestors helps give insight into what it was like to live as a queer person during one of the darkest periods in history.
The Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated on this day in 1945, and we have an opportunity to remember and honour the victims and survivors with a few books that capture their stories:
Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood
First published in 1939 and composed of six short stories, Goodbye to Berlin tells the story of different people who were impacted by the rise of the Nazis including a rich Jewish heiress, and a gay couple.
The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals by Richard Plant
This comprehensive account of life as a queer person in Nazi Germany was created by a German refugee. The Pink Triangle includes diary accounts, letters, interviews with survivors, and previously untranslated documents that depict what LGBTQ+ people endured during the holocaust.
The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps by Heinz Heger
Up until the 1970s, history books largely ignored the persecution of LGBTQ+ people during the holocaust. During the rise of the gay movement in the ’70s, historians began acknowledging that gay people suffered enormously during the Nazi regime. This survivor wrote The Men with the Pink Triangle to bravely tell the story of his experience.
Pink Triangle Legacies: Coming Out in the Shadow of the Holocaust by W. Jake Newsome
Now a symbol of Pride, the Pink Triangle Legacies traces the reclamation of the pink triangle from its concentration camp beginnings into a symbol of queer activism and liberation from West Germany to the United States.
Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken by Nita Tyndall
This queer romance novel is set during World War II. Charlotte Kraus risks everything and breaks Nazi rules to dance in an underground club with the girl she loves. Nothing Sung and Nothing Spoken has been described as a heart-wrenching story about finding, “queer joy even in the midst of the horrors of war”.
Many LGBTQ+ stories remain untold, but these offer some insight into the lives of queer people during Nazi Germany.
While queer history has not historically been centred during holocaust remembrance events, the German Parliament officially commemorated the LGBTQ+ victims of the Nazi regime for the first time at this year’s Holocaust Remembrance Day ceremony.
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