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November 26, 2005

PIERRE SEEL, Last Living "Pink Triangle" in France, Dies

Pierre_seel Pierre Seel, the last known surviving French homosexual victim of the Nazi concentration camps, has died at the age of 82, it was announced in Paris yesterday. Anyone who has seen the remarkable documentary "Paragraph 175," by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman -- about the Pink Triangles, the homosexual victims of Nazi repression -- will remember the unforgettable sequence in the film in which Pierre Seel (above left) recounted his arrest and torture for being gay -- this included his multiple rapes, and being sodomized with a wooden stake, which left his ass bleeding all his life long --and how the Nazis fed his lover to be eaten by dogs before his eyes.

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, a task the French carried out with enthusiasm. One of their targets was Seel, an Alsatien, who was arrested at the age of 17 -- by VichyPierre_seel_bookjacket  France's police -- for being homosexual (Vichy France had re-criminalized homosexuality, which had not been illegal since the Code Napoleon; most Vichy legislation was repealed after the war -- but the anti-gay Vichy law remained on the books for four decades until it was finally repealed in 1982.) Seel was turned over to the Nazis, and subsequently sent to the concentration camp of Struthof, the only German concentration camp on French soil during World War II. While in the camp, he discovered that his 18-year-old lover had also been arrested. Seel related that discovery, and the horror that followed it, in his 1994 autobiography, "Moi, Pierre Seel, déporté homosexuel" (cover above right) published by Editions Calmann Levy -- an English editon was published the following year by Basic Books.).Seel wrote:

"All the inmates were summoned to stand at attention in the camp's assembly ground. The camp commandant and all his troops were Struthof_camp_sign 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...." (My translation from the French edition-- D.I.) Upper left, the sign over the Struthof camp entrance, as it appears today.

Pink_triangle_2 After the war, gay concentration camp victims like Seel  -- the Pink Triangles, named after the special badge homosexuals in the camps were forced to wear by the Nazis -- were shunned, and refused recognition or compensation from the state like other deportees received. 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. Then, for the rest of his life, Seel fought for official recognition of the Vichy-Nazi deportation of homosexuals by the French authorities. Seel not only brought his witness before the public on many occasions, but he also fought for the inclusion of the representatives of gay Pierre_seel_ii organizations in the annual French ceremonies commemorating Nazi deportations of Jews, resistants, political prisoners, and others. In 2003, Seel (right) finally received official recognition as a victim of the Holocaust by the International Organization for Migration's program for aiding Nazi victims. But Seel said that, for as long as he would not be recognized by the French state as having been "deported for homosexuality," he considered himself a stateless person. That official recognition of Seel by the French government never came.

After his memoir was published, and following a TV appearance with other deportees, Seel -- a small, frail man then in his 70s --was assaulted and beaten in the streets by a group of young people shouting "dirty faggot." What shocked Seel the most, he said afterwards, was that those who attacked him were not skinheads, but jeunes bourgeois in coats and ties.

Seel will be buried November 28 in the cemetery of Brames, in the Lot-et-Garonne department of France.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. has an exhibit dedicated to the homosexual victims of the Nazis -- you can visit an online version of this exhibit by clicking here.

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