Italy finally ready to recognise the suffering of gays in Holocaust camp

A black marble plaque surmounted by a pink triangle will be unveiled next Wednesday at the site of the only Nazi concentration camp in Italy.

A black marble plaque surmounted by a pink triangle will be unveiled next Wednesday at the site of the only Nazi concentration camp in Italy.

The pink triangle was the symbol sewn for identification on the uniforms of homosexuals imprisoned in the camps. It has since been adopted by the gay movement as a more general symbol of their persecution, both under the Nazis and under other, less malign regimes.

The unveiling at San Sabba, a rice-mill near Trieste converted into a concentration camp by the Nazis in 1943, is the first public recognition in Italy of the suffering of gays under the Nazis. The plaque, proposed by Arcigay, Italy's most prominent gay rights group, is backed by the city's mayor and council.

"The plaque is important," says Sergio lo Giudice, president of Arcigay, who will do the unveiling. "It's a sign that something in Italy is changing."

And changing quickly; in 2003 when gay activists attempted to get the persecution of homosexuals under the Nazis recognised officially, Trieste's ruling centre-right slapped them down. Roberto Menia, a councillor with the "post-fascist" Alleanza Nazionale, said: "For the sake of political correctness we're forced to be buggers."

In 1930, Mussolini opposed introduction of a law targeting homosexuals, saying: "To the fortune and the pride of Italy, this abominable vice does not exist here". Just last year, Italy's minister for Europe, Rocco Buttiglione, told MEPs in Brussels he considered homosexuality a sin.

But now the city council has voted unanimously to let the commemoration go ahead. The plaque will be unveiled on the eve of Holocaust Memorial Day, at the culmination of a torchlit peace procession.

Homosexuals were among several non-Jewish groups sent to concentration camps in their thousands by the Nazis. Other groups included political enemies of the Nazis and Jehovah's Witnesses. Holocaust historians point out that, unlike Jews, Gypsies and other "non-Aryans", these groups were not sent to be exterminated but "re-educated".

That, at least, was the theory. But prejudice and hostility towards them from other inmates as well as the camp authorities and SS guards meant that most died within a relatively short time.

Unlike the Jews, they were not herded into the camps en masse but taken "in random samples", wrote Rüdiger Lautmann, professor of sociology at the University of Bremen. "They were supposed to renounce their particular orientation. Hitler considered homosexuality as a predisposition that could not be changed ... [but] its manifestations could be blocked."

Severe measures were intended as behaviouristic conditioning, a way to cause unlearning through aversion. Professor Lautmann said: "If necessary, homosexuals were to be castrated, but they were permitted to continue to work. As a matter of policy, extermination was therefore restrained. In practice there were other contrary impulses on the part of the SS, and those who wore the pink triangle met an unusually harsh fate."

Professor Lautmann says two-thirds of gays in the camps died there. The survivors were so cowed that it was not until the play Bent in 1979 that their suffering became widely known.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

The Green Recruitment Company: Operations Manager - Anaerobic Digestion / Biogas

£40000 - £45000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Operation...

Recruitment Genius: Account Director - OTE £60,000

£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Inbound Sales Executive

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Inbound Sales Executive is required t...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...

Day In a Page

Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones
Theme parks continue to draw in thrill-seekers despite the risks - so why are we so addicted?

Why are we addicted to theme parks?

Now that Banksy has unveiled his own dystopian version, Christopher Beanland considers the ups and downs of our endless quest for amusement
Tourism in Iran: The country will soon be opening up again after years of isolation

Iran is opening up again to tourists

After years of isolation, Iran is reopening its embassies abroad. Soon, there'll be the chance for the adventurous to holiday there
10 best PS4 games

10 best PS4 games

Can’t wait for the new round of blockbusters due out this autumn? We played through last year’s offering
Transfer window: Ten things we learnt

Ten things we learnt from the transfer window

Record-breaking spending shows FFP restraint no longer applies
Migrant crisis: UN official Philippe Douste-Blazy reveals the harrowing sights he encountered among refugees arriving on Lampedusa

‘Can we really just turn away?’

Dead bodies, men drowning, women miscarrying – a senior UN figure on the horrors he has witnessed among migrants arriving on Lampedusa, and urges politicians not to underestimate our caring nature
Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger as Isis ravages centuries of history

Nine of Syria and Iraq's 10 world heritage sites are in danger...

... and not just because of Isis vandalism
Girl on a Plane: An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack

Girl on a Plane

An exclusive extract of the novelisation inspired by the 1970 Palestinian fighters hijack
Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

Why Frederick Forsyth's spying days could spell disaster for today's journalists

The author of 'The Day of the Jackal' has revealed he spied for MI6 while a foreign correspondent