An impassioned and cogent history of the persecution of gay men during the Holocaust.
Setterington opens with the riveting anecdote of a Jewish survivor of Auschwitz who was rescued and nurtured by a man with a pink triangle on his uniform. From this beginning, he moves back in time to introduce readers to early-20th-century Berlin, a bastion of gay tolerance despite the anti-homosexual law known as Paragraph 175. He goes on to chronicle the Nazis’ crackdown on gay men, their deportation to concentration camps, the experiences of both Jewish and Gentile gay men, and the aftermath of the war. Most cruelly, gay survivors were treated as criminals rather than victims, since their liberators viewed homosexuality as a crime. Illuminating the historical overview are stories of specific young (mostly teenage) gay men, taken mostly from memoirs. They are related with immediacy, personalizing the potentially mind-numbing catalog of horrors that make up any Holocaust account. Details, too, take readers into the heart of the insanity: Paragraph 175 was enforced in Western European “Aryan” territories such as the Netherlands but not in Poland and Eastern Europe, where they were seen as part of the strategy to undermine the already-“degraded” Slavic peoples. Never downplaying the appalling cataclysm that was the murder of 6 million Jews, Setterington nevertheless effectively makes the case for history’s need to remember Hitler’s other victims as well.
Despite its brevity, a remarkably informative and necessary work. (notes, bibliography) (Nonfiction. 12 & up)