"I, PIERRE SEEL, DEPORTED HOMOSEXUAL: A Memoir of Nazi Terror" by Pierre Seel

"I, PIERRE SEEL, DEPORTED HOMOSEXUAL: A Memoir of Nazi Terror"

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KIRKUS REVIEW

An intriguing memoir of life during wartime and after, centering on a seldom discussed aspect of the Nazi agenda. The author grew up in France's Alsace region, where as a teenager he was part of a discreet gay underground. During one clandestine rendezvous at age 17 his watch was stolen; when he reported the circumstances of the theft to the police, Seel wound up on an official list of homosexuals. A year or so later, in May 1941, after France fell, the Gestapo arrested the young man for being gay and sent him to the Nazi prison camp of Schirmeck, in Alsace. Seel describes with edgy restraint his brutal interrogation and the torments of incarceration; his worst moment came when he was forced to witness the execution of his lover, whom the guards stripped naked and had their attack dogs rip to shreds. Inexplicably, Seel was released after six months, but soon thereafter he, like many Alsatians, was conscripted into the German army, in which he served for the duration of the war. He was wounded in Yugoslavia and near the war's end was sent to the eastern front. At one point, he was ordered to spend a few days at one of Hitler's eugenics camps, where he watched model Aryan couples cavorting and wondered whether this sinister scene was supposed to convert him to heterosexuality. He never found out, but the episode exemplifies the hallucinatory horrors and absurdities the war forced Seel to contend with. Virtually all evidence of the deportation of homosexuals was deliberately forgotten in France after the war. Seel was married unhappily and had children, but he remained conflicted until bravely deciding in the 1980s to come out and to tell his story. Although the translation is painfully unidiomatic, Seel's memoir is arresting as personal narrative and as an indictment of the selective French national memory.

Pub Date: Aug. 30th, 1995
ISBN: 0465018483
Page count: 208pp
Publisher: Basic