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Location: Kansas City, Missouri, United States

Doing my part to irritate Republicans, fundamentalists, bigots and other lower life forms.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Eulogy for a little known hero

An 82-year-old man died this week in Paris. His name was Pierre Seel.

It's not surprising that his name isn't recognized. After all, the French government had tried for years to sweep him under the carpet for what he represented: French complicity is the Nazi persecution of gays during World War II.

Seel was the last surviving "pink triangle" in France. He was arrested by the Nazi-controlled Vichy government in France at the age of 17 and sent to the only concentration camp located in France because he was gay. At the camp he was raped repeatedly by Nazi guards and sodomized with a wooden stake. His 18-year-old lover was killed at the camp and Seel was forced to watch while his lover was fed to the dogs the Germans used to help patrol the camp.

This is how Seel described his lover's death:

All the inmates were summoned to stand at attention in the camp's assembly ground. The camp commandant and all his troops were there. Into the center of the square we were ordered to form, two SS men dragged a young man. With stupefaction I recognized my beloved, Jo -- he and I hadn't seen each other since a few days before my arrest....The loudspeakers played noisy military music as the SS men stripped him naked, and violently jammed a metal bucket over his head. They unleashed on Jo the camp's ferocious guard-dogs, German Shepherds, who began to rip at his flesh -- first his genitals, and his thighs, and then they devoured Jo before our eyes. His screams of pain were amplified and distorted by the bucket over his head. Frozen in place and trembling, wide-eyed at seeing so much horror, I had tears running down my cheeks. I prayed that he would rapidly lose consciousness....

His experiences were recounted in his memoirs and seen the documentary on the Nazi persecution of gays, Paragraph 175. Seel was one of a handful of gay survivors of the Nazi extermination machine located to be interviewed for the film. Most of the surviving "pink triangles" (named for the patch on their prison uniforms that identified them as gay) lived out their lives in shame, shunned by their families and friends after the war. Most died quiet, anonymous deaths.

But not Seel. He refused to let the world forget.

As cruel as Seel's fate in the concentration camp was, what came later was just as cruel.

Throughout his life, Seel fought for the recognition of what happened to gays under the Vichy government and its Nazi overlords. He fought for compensation as well, but his attempts were denied by the French government. He penned his memoirs to draw attention to what had happened to gays in France under the Nazi occupation - and to what had happened to him as he continued to force France to admit its involvement in the imprisonment, torture and death of its own citizens.

Finally in 2003 Seel received official recognition as a victim of the Holocaust by the International Organization for Migration's program for aiding Nazi victims. But the fame he received would have its own consequences. After an appearance on French TV, Seel was assaulted and beaten by a street gang who called him a "dirty faggot."

Seel was a true hero for speaking out about what happened to him under the Nazis (and the Nazi-controlled Vichy government). Most gay survivors of the Nazi gay purges lived and died in shame, but Seel spoke up and refused to let the world ignore the fact that gays were not only the victims of the Holocaust, but victims of the German and French governments' attempts to hide this aspect of the Holocaust.

May his spirit find peace!

Addendum: Ironically, as I write this I think back to an incident that happened in a gay chat room last night. One of the chat participants showed up on cam with a graphic of a swastika.

If this was an attempt to spark controversy, then it was an extremely poor one. It's too bad that even in the gay community there are pieces of trash who find the Nazi symbol of hate "ironic" or even humorous to display in a gay chat room.

Almost as disheartening were the few individuals who defended the idiot's right to display the swastika as "free speech." Sorry, but tolerating that kind of hate speech stretches tolerance beyond its limit.

I wonder just how willing this piece of scum would be to display a swastika if he had faced even a tenth as much as Seel had faced in his life?