In this series, historian Dr. Jake Newsome shares the true stories of LGBTQ+ people in Nazi Germany. Based on his own research and the scholarship of leading historians across the world, these stories teach us about how and why the Nazis viewed LGBTQ+ people as a threat to the “master race,” as well as the ways queer people navigated the dangers of fascism to resist, build community, and attempt to live life on their own terms.
May these stories help preserve their memory.
To serve various learning styles, each online biography is accompanied by a YouTube video and companion PDF that can be printed or used offline. All resources contain information on sources and suggestions for further reading.
If you would like an overview of the Nazi persecution of LGBTQ+ to place the following stories in their historical context, you can watch the video lecture “They’re Enemies of the State!”: The Nazi Persecution of LGBTQ+ People during the Holocaust.
Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was a pioneering German sexologist and political advocate who founded the Scientific Humanitarian Committee, the first LGBTQ+ rights organization in the world. During Germany’s Weimar Republic, he also established the Institute for Sexual Science, which provided counseling, healthcare, and a range of other services to Germany’s LGBTQ+ communities. When the Nazis came to power, they targeted Hirschfeld because of his work.
Gerd Katter was a trans man born in Berlin, Germany in 1910. As a teenager, Katter was a patient at Magnus Hirschfeld’s famed Institute for Sexual Science, and even received a “transvestite pass” that allowed him to live openly as his true self without reprisal from the police. Katter’s story showcases his bravery while also teaching us about life in early twentieth century Berlin.
The artist Richard Grune was twenty-three years old when he moved to Berlin to find a place for himself in the city’s world-famous LGBTQ+ community. Unfortunately, Adolf Hitler was appointed chancellor at the same time. The Nazis arrested Grune for being gay and he spent a decade locked away in prisons and concentration camps.
Born in 1891, Eve Adams was a Polish, Jewish immigrant to the United States, an entrepreneur, an author, and a leftist. She also never hid the fact that she loved women. After she was deported to Europe in 1930, Eve became a victim of the Holocaust.
Fritz Kitzing was a gender-nonconforming person who was just 27 years old when the Nazis came to power in Germany. They faced harassment, discrimination, and violence from the German police, Nazi organizations, and ordinary citizens. Despite this, Kitzing navigated the web of laws and policies and insisted on living their life.
Ernst Pack was a construction worker and German veteran of World War I. The Nazis arrested him multiple times for violating Paragraph 175, Germany’s national anti-gay law. He was eventually sent to concentration camps, where he was forced to undergo an invasive and irreversible medical procedure aimed at “curing” him of being gay.
Ilse Totzke was a music student in Würzburg, Germany. Multiple people in Totzke’s neighborhood denounced her to the Nazis for being a “social degenerate” manhater who “did not receive gentleman visitors.” The Gestapo seemed more interested in the fact that Totzke continued associating with Jewish people, despite the Nuremberg Laws, which prohibited such interaction between Jews and non-Jews in Germany. Totzke persisted and risked her life to save her Jewish friend.
Dr. J will continue to add more LGBTQ+ Stories from the Holocaust here in the future, so check back occasionally! If you have questions about any of the stories or would like to submit a suggestion for a future story, email firstname.lastname@example.org.