The History of the Gay Male and Lesbian Experience during World War II


Pierre Seel

Pierre Seel


From I, Pierre Seel: Deported Homosexual by Pierre Seel, translated from French by Joachim Neugroschel, published by Basic Books, a division of Harpers Collins, 1995

pgs 42-44

"One day the loudspeakers ordered us to report immediately to the roll-call site. Shouts and yells urged us to be there without delay. Surrounded by SS men, we had to form a square and stand at attention, as we did for morning roll call. The commandant appeared with his entire general staff. I assumed he was going to bludgeon us once again with his blind faith in the Reich, together with a list of orders, insults and threats -- emulating the infamous outpourings of his master, Adolph Hitler. But the actual ordeal was far worse: an execution. Two SS men brought a young man to the center of the square. Horrified, I recognized Jo, my loving friend, who was only 18 years old. I hadn't previously spotted him in the camp. Had he arrived before or after me? We hadn't seen each other during the days before I was summoned by the Gestapo.

"Now I froze in terror. I prayed that he would escape their lists, their roundups, their humiliations. And here he was, before my powerless eyes, which filled with tears. Unlike me, he had not carried dangerous letters, torn down posters, or signed any statements. What had happened? What had the monsters accused him of? Because of my anguish I have completely forgotten the wording of the death sentence.

"The loudspeakers broadcast some noisy classical music while the SS stripped him naked and shoved a tin pale over his head. Next, they sicced their ferocious German shephards on him: the guard dogs first bit into his groin and thighs, then devoured him right in front of us. His shrieks of pain were distorted and amplified by the pain in which his head was trapped. My rigid body reeled, my eyes gaped at so much horror, tears poured down my cheeks, I fervently prayed that he would black out quickly.

"Since then I sometimes wake up howling in the middle of the night. For fifty years now that scene has kept ceaselessly passing and repassing through my mind. I will never forget the barbaric murder of my love -- before my eyes, before our eyes, for their were hundreds of witnesses..."

From Paragraph 175 a documentary by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman, 2000.

When Alsace-Lorraine was annexed by the Germans in 1940, the Nazis systematically began to weed out "anti-social" elements. They directed the French police to establish the notorious "Pink Lists" to keep track of homosexuals. One of their targets was 17-year-old Pierre Seel. Pierre was arrested after reporting a theft that occurred in a homosexual club. He was interrogated both about his sexuality and about his suspected involvement in resistance activities before being sent to the internment camp at Schirmeck. While there he was forced to build crematoria, at Struthof, a neighboring concentration camp, and was violated with broken rulers and used as a human dart board by camp orderlies with syringes. At the end of 1941, Pierre and thousands of other Alsatians were forced to join the German army. This was the ultimate humiliation: to be forced to fight on the side of the enemy. Having survived several allied bombings, he was eventually taken prisoner by the Russians, who gave him his freedom. After the war he was allowed back into his family under the condition that he never reveal the true circumstances of his arrest. He went into a downward spiral, entering a marriage of convenience and eventually becoming suicidal -- until deciding to take a stand and make his story public.

PHOTO Pierre Seel from Paragraph 175 Official website of the documentary.