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A Mutual Comfort Level

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Ernst Röhm’s homosexuality was no secret to Hitler or anyone else. Still, the two became friends in the early ‘20s, and Hitler placed Röhm in charge of his Sturm Abteilung (SA), the private army Hitler used to defeat his political enemies and gain popular support. Within three years of assuming leadership of the SA, Röhm had grown the army from 70,000 to 4.5 million.


Not only was Röhm gay, many of his fellow leaders of the SA were gay, as well. Röhm recruited his friends, even appointing one of his lovers, Edmund Heines, to be his deputy. Art historian Christian Isermayer described an early meeting of the SA as “quite well behaved but thoroughly gay”. Many of these early meetings took place in gay bars and “pick-up joints”, including Berlin’s Eldorado, where bisexual Karl Ernst and gay Paul Rohrbein, SA leaders, made many of the plans for the New Order. (Stewart, Graham. “Brownshirts Met in Gay Pick-up Joints”, The Times, 25 October 2008)


cover art

Hidden Hitler

Lothar Machtan

(Basic)

Hitler was apparently accepting of Röhm’s sexuality, even coming to his defense when Röhm’s intimate letters were published. Lothan Machtan’s controversial book The Hidden Hitler argues that Hitler didn’t worry about Röhm’s sexuality because Hitler himself was gay. Machtan’s book is thoroughly researched, but he fails to unearth any conclusive evidence that proves Hitler’s sexual proclivity for other men. 


Machtan presents several series of historical facts, anecdotes, and quotes, and draws the conclusion from each that Hitler had engaged in homosexual conduct. For instance, as a young man, Hitler lived in a hostel known as the home to numerous male prostitutes. At the time, he earned his living as an artist, making between 20 and 40 crowns a month, hardly enough to live on. Yet Hitler showed no signs of being indigent, so he must have had another source of income. Could Hitler have earned a little extra cash as a trick for wealthy aristocrats?


More convincing is Machtan’s telling of the relationship between Hitler and August Kubizek when Hitler was in his late teens and early 20s. The two men attended the theater together, took long walks and hikes, went on overnight camping trips, vacationed in known gay getaways, and even bought matching clothes. In his letters to Kubizek, Hitler shows great jealousy and asks for “exclusivity” in their relationship. The letters also show a longing for Kubizek when he is away, pleading with him to hurry home. In discussing Hitler, Kubizek noted that no one could “express my secret desires as unexpectedly as my friend.”


As for Hitler’s lengthy relationship with Eva Braun, Machtan maintains that she knew her role as Hitler’s “beard” and their last minute marriage before death was her reward for faithful servitude. No evidence suggests the relationship was ever consummated, and Hitler’s aides swear that it wasn’t. Braun is quoted as saying that the advantage of dating Hitler was that she never had to be jealous of other women.


Machtan presents enough anecdotes and circumstantial evidence to allow for the possibility that his conclusion is correct. Although Machtan fails to establish conclusively that Hitler was gay, he does make one important fact evident: Hitler was comfortable around gays, being in gay establishments, and counting gay men as his friends. Thus, his eventual assertion that Röehm and the other gay leaders of the SA were a threat due to their sexuality rings false.


The truth is that Hitler feared that Röhm and the SA were planning a revolt, a suspicion encouraged by Röhm’s enemy, Heinrich Himmler. This led to the infamous Night of Long Knives, during which close to a hundred SA leaders and supporters were executed, and Röhm and hundreds of fellow SA officers were taken into custody. Given the opportunity to commit suicide, Röhm refused and was shot.


Once Röhm and his supporters had been eliminated, Himmler was free to include homosexuals among those being rounded up for the camps. While there is no evidence that Röhm in any way protected the homosexual population, aside from his friends and lovers, it is a fact that arrests for homosexuality didn’t rise until after Röhm’s execution in 1934. The war against gays began with the press release stating that Röhm and others were killed due to their degenerate homosexuality.


Within a year of Röhm’s death, Paragraph 175, which had banned anal intercourse between men, was expanded to include any lewd or suspicious behavior between men. This is not to imply that gay men had free reign before Röhm’s death; social mores and government literature condemned homosexuality, but little action was taken against gays. Still, the elimination of Röhm unleashed a wave of hostility against gays.


Having established a plan for the perfect Aryan race with Himmler, Hitler had no more use for the gay community, even those who had helped him in his rise to power. Gays and lesbians were useless in the genetic manipulation needed to create the master race, so they, like Jews, gypsies, Poles, the disabled, and so many others, were expendable.


What the Nazis did to the homosexuals of Europe pails in number compared to other groups, and all those who were victims of the Nazi regime suffered unimaginably. Still, Hitler’s association with the gay community is noteworthy in that, among those persecuted under his rule, it is only with the gay community and the Catholic Church that he had extended exposure. It is easy to imagine him becoming disillusioned with the church, given his views, and having resentment towards it and its members. But the gay community had done nothing to cross him, and had been frighteningly accommodating in the early days of his campaign.


It is easy to speculate about Hitler’s sexuality, the number of gays in Hitler’s service, and the extent to which Hitler used his gay associates before casting them aside, but we will never truly know what was in the mind of the madman. Nonetheless, it is important to analyze his pathology in order to understand the actions of contemporary gay racists.


To understand why gay and lesbian individuals would join groups that appear to violate their self-interest, one must understand why anyone would join so-called “hate groups”. Carolyn Turpin-Petrosino studied this question, examining a variety of factors and their influence on the inclination to join. She found that, surprisingly, few members had experienced physical abuse, dispelling the myth of the injured and angry young man reacting to his own mistreatment.


Far more likely to influence the decision to join was exposure to the group, with word-of-mouth exposure more significant than internet or other media exposure. (“Hateful Sirens…Who Hears their Songs? An Examination of Student Attitudes toward Hate Groups and Affiliation Potential”, Journal of Social Issues, Summer 2002)


However, the internet plays a more important role for gay racists, according to Waldner, Martin, and Capeder in the Journal of Political and Military Sociology. Because many racists resent the inclusion of gay members, gay racists must rely on the internet instead of general meetings of racists to communicate.


From studying internet bulletin boards, the researchers concluded that gay racists have seven methods of addressing the apparent stigma associated with being gay and bigoted: minimizing the stigma, appealing to master status, appealing to higher loyalties, attacking the stigmatizers, blaming the victimizers, denying the oppressor, and rejecting the stigmatizer. (“Idealogy of Gay Racialist Skinheads and Stigma Management Techniques”, Summer 2006)


While scant research has been done on what propels persons to join groups that seemingly fail to welcome them, the reason that appears to be dominant is “appeal to higher loyalties”. On their website, Log Cabin Republicans offer this reason for their existence, declaring allegiance to the Republican ideals of “limited government, strong national defense, free markets, low taxes, personal responsibility, and individual liberty”, ideals that supersede the Republican stance on LGBT equality.


The ARC offers similar logic: the need to oppress and vilify non-whites and non-Christians is more important than the goal of achieving acceptance for gay racists. Members of both groups argue that they can change the perceptions of the respective organizations regarding gays and lesbians by “working from the inside”.


Gay individuals who supported Hitler’s rise to power had similar motivations, seeing Hitler’s economic proposals and plans for eliminating the Jewish threat as more important than any wrath directed their way.


A gay rights movement had begun in Germany in the 1890s, and the nation had gay-themed magazines. Mainstream periodicals and newspapers debated gay-rights issues. Reportedly, Berlin in the ‘20s had more gay bars than New York City had in the ‘80s. The flourishing gay and lesbian community felt comfortable with the new regime; homosexuality had been illegal for decades, but the laws were ignored and few anticipated the Nazi’s persecution of gays. LGBT persons had little reason to belief that their support of the Nazi agenda would be their own undoing.


It is doubtful that the founders of the American Resistance Corps knew the convoluted history between the Nazi party and the gay community, but is also doubtful that it would have mattered much if they had. Hatred is a powerful emotion, one that overrides logic and clarity of thought. It is an emotion that allows individuals to betray their self-interests, to support causes that society at large finds abhorrent.


History clearly teaches us that complacency allows that hate to grow, and the consequences of this hatred for the LGBT community are not only costly, they’re deadly.


 


Men, Heroes, and Gay Nazis - excerpt


Michael has been writing for PopMatters since 2000. His primary focus, aside from queer culture, is television reviews and commentary, and his article Male Bashing on TV has been reprinted in two college textbooks. He currently lives in Louisville, KY, and is a Lecturer of Communication Studies at Indiana University Southeast in New Albany, IN. As a teacher, he has an interest in the study of contemporary political rhetoric and argumentation. He and his partner Jim have been living in un-wedded bliss since 1995.


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