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Paragraph 175 (Rob Epstein Jeffrey Friedman 1999)

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We have to see this romantically,
because in such drastic times one tends to be romantic.
When bombs fall...
...and explode nearby... looks to others for closeness...
...and one forgets the bombs, the war and the stalled train.
One is just close to others.
One does what everyone does when they are close.
That's what one does.
You're not going to tell me that while the bombs were faillng... made love on the train?
But of course I did!
But of course!
You didn't get that? You are slow, darling.
You are slow.
Hello! Karl, greetings, it's Klaus!
Today is not convenient?
Should I just stop by so we can see each other again?
Then I'll be there around three.
If you want to get rid of me, just kick me out, that's fine.
I'm excited! Till later!
Oh, I've already talked so much about the concentration camps.
You know, it's more than fifty years ago.
There have been so many other, better impressions...
...than such shitty shameful deeds.
Look, with time they've all been torn out.
Why do you tear them out?
I throw them away.
Those are uncomfortable memories.
I've spoken about it before,
I don't want to anymore.
That's in the past for me.
I don't have much time for this movie.
More than half a day, I refuse.
I'm here but let's make it short.
Very short.
Otherwise, I can't.
Okay, Let me, let me.
I'm not dead yet!
I swore never to shake hands with a German again.
And here you are.
It's terribie.
You can't understand this,
because you're not from the same generation.
This is the difficulty between us today.
You're trying hard to understand me.
And I'm trying not to hurt you.
Because it's difficult to talk about that time.
This is the Schwanenburg.
It was a dance ciub.
A normal bar...
...but on certain days it was rented by homosexuals.
Then there was much joy,
and even more screaming.
There was homosexual dancing,
and once in a while, just to get the queens going,
someone wouid shout, "The poilce are coming!"
Everyone wouid hike up their skirts and run.
But the poilce never really came.
Today, it's hard to imagine... wild it was in Beriln...
...after the 1914 to 1918 war.
Everything went topsy-turvy.
Men danced together and so did women.
in Beriln, those were the golden years.
i think in all of Beriln you were free,
you could do what you wanted.
We had three very well known clubs.
One was in the north...
...where proletarian girls came.
Usually in their Sunday best costume...
...their smoking costume.
I was a bit scared, I must say.
if you have never seen...
...boyish and mascuilne lesbians...
...and such a heap of them.
I was surprised, I had to get used to it.
And funnily enough,
I saw one woman...
...which looked a little bit like Marlene Dietrich.
Anyway, I wanted to get to know her.
But she didn't care for me, of course.
I was a silly little girl.
But she is the one...
...I saw occasionally later on...
...who saved my life,
because she was the one who sent me this permit.
She went to Engiand before.
Sports became the center of my life.
I had an athietlcs teacher...
...a blond Jewish teacher.
Oh, my!
So slim and strong and beautiful.
One day we were showering together...
...and I jumped on him.
Exactly the opposite of the pederastic teacher...
...I jumped on him!
I ran home to my mother and said,
"Mother, today I had my first man!"
You were born here?
Born here.
But not in this apartment?
No. One floor below.
Have you forgotten the boys, Heinz?
- I haven't forgotten. - You haven't forgotten.
Back in here, off to the side,
was the couch.
Now it's hidden under the boxes.
- This was your room, right? - Yes.
The boys' room.
It was all done up with boy scout souvenirs and photos,
with the guitar hanging on the wall.
I was the regional leader... the end.
My group and I couid only exist...
...for another six months.
Then the Hitler Youth moved in on us,
with brass knuckles...
...and other weapons.
There was a lot of resistance.
But they were stronger...
...and in numbers...
...they were superior.
My mother came from a Christian family,
my father is Jewish.
My mother converted.
When Hitler came, things began to change.
German boys in the Hitler Youth had to have uniforms.
Their parents had to rush off and buy them.
Within four months the entire ciass turned brown.
With little biack shorts and brown shirts.
After four months of Hitler...
...someone would raise their hand:
"Can I sit somewhere else?"
"But why?"
"it smells iike garlic here!"
I didn't even know what garlic was.
We never ate it at home.
Now that I am older, I know the advantages of garlic.
That was the first insinuation about the Jews.
Jews are garlic-eaters.
"Can I sit in the back?
"It stinks of sweaty Jewish feet here!"
That was pretty obvious.
And within two months,
I was sitting alone in the first row.
They had all withdrawn from me.
In the truest sense of the word.
We call it the Yom Kippur Jews.
They were not very religious, my family.
But we did hold the holy holidays.
That's why we call ourselves...
the Yom Kippur Jews.
The time was very bad...
...people couldn't get work.
And the inflation was a horrible thing.
At first we didn't believe it.
We laughed about him.
That such a person like Hitler...
...that the people would stay behind him.
Promises, promises.
They believed it.
We began to talk about Hitler in Alsace.
But only in whispers...
...we knew that preparations were being made.
My older brothers were drafted into the French army.
We lived in fear of war.
I remember one speech I heard...
...on the radio:
"Do you want butter or guns?"
And the people cried, "GUNS!"
And at that, my father became afraid.
Turn a little.
No, turn the camera this way.
But then I can't see you.
That's not necessary, I want a photo of you.
Someone took me to a gay bar.
He wanted to show me how it was for Christian gays.
So he dragged me to a bar.
There was an incredible atmosphere of fear.
They kept looking to see who's coming in now.
Some of them had told me...
...things used to be happy and carefree,
but now they were being persecuted.
it didn't seem like persecution to me,
since the bar was still open.
But they said this bar is only open to round us up.
They did this again later with the Jews...
...they'd let them keep their meeting places... they could snatch them up.
In this picture, you can see my father.
This is my grandfather's house.
We lived on the first floor,
and my grandparents lived on the second floor.
I didn't fully understand the situation... didn't register.
But I aiso didn't take it seriously.
And then there were my parents,
I couldn't abandon them.
This is me.
Always adorable, with a sweet smile.
What's interesting in this picture is...
...there is absolutely nothing Jewish about this face.
He's a little Christian.
No? Absolutely Christian.
My mother's family was Prussian. Devout Christians. Evangelicals.
For my aunts and for my family it was terrible...
...they said, "Oh my God, he's Jewish and he's gay!"
"Either way, he'll be persecuted!"
"This cannot end well."
We once had a plan to go to Shanghai.
It cost $1,000 each.
Where would we have gotten $4,000?
The family was sure they could take care of us.
No one knew what was coming.
I have a very good intuition.
And I had a feeiing...
...something horrible was going to happen.
I made a decision, I go off in the country.
And I did.
When I was on the farm, what did we do?
We were singing.
Hebrew. Hebrew songs.
We were invaded by the Nazis...
...and brought to prison.
But not all Germans were...
...aggressive and nasty.
The wife of the policeman...
...left the doors open on purpose.
And we all escaped.
The farm was partly burned down.
I went in and, a miracle,
I found my passport... this muddle and glass...
...without hurting myself.
I went on the bicycle...
...and off I tried to go to Berlin.
And this is where it happens...
...that the postman came on the bicycle from the other side...
...and said, "Frauiein, I have a love letter for you."
I opened it, and there was the...
...English papers which let me come over to England.
I could hardly believe it.
Had I ever missed this letter,
then I would have gone...
...with my parents to Auschwitz.
One morning the police called.
What could this have to do with me?
I told them I couldn't come,
I was too busy working.
Ten minutes later, the police called again.
I repeated that I'd come by soon.
But they said it was very urgent.
I thought, "What could they want?"
So I went to the police...
...and they showed me a letter.
"Here, read this," they said.
"Bavarian Political Police."
What did that have to do with me?
"You are suspected of being homosexual."
"You are hereby under arrest."
What could I do?
Off I went to Dachau...
...without a trial...
...directly to Dachau.
I spent a year and a half in Dachau...
...without really knowing why.
The Germans came to Alsace in 1940.
I don't say the Nazis, the Germans!
And the Germans found the police files.
They saw our names on these lists...
...lists of homosexuals.
They were probably watching us... we live, where we go, what we do.
And one day I had to go to the Gestapo,
with 12 friends.
I ended up at the camp in Schirmeck.
At the time, it was the Schirmeck Internment Camp,
a "protective custody" camp.
If, for example, someone got drunk,
and sang the French national anthem in the street...
...this is during the German occupation...
...he'd be sent to Schirmeck.
There were also communists, resistance fighters,
and my 12 friends...
...who were arrested in a round-up... May 1941.
After I was released from Dachau,
I went on a trip.
I think I was being watched...
...this woman was always behind me.
I left my hotel to go eat...
...and a hustler came up to me.
I reaiized I was being followed.
He pulled me into some bushes.
I said, "Someone is following us."
"No," he said. "No one is there."
And that's when it happened.
"You are under arrest."
I was taken somewhere, to some prison, for trial.
I didn't understand anything.
While I was there...
...almost all the homosexuals...
...were transported to Mauthausen...
...and nearly all of them...
...were killed.
Again, I came to a concentration camp.
This time it was Buchenwald.
At first it was "homo"...
...or rather "Paragraph 175"...
...written in big letters...
...on the back of the Jacket.
As I remember.
Later, it was...
...a pink triangle.
At that time, the transports began.
Every day we said goodbye to someone.
That's when I encountered...
...the Jewish Zionist underground,
that existed in this great capital, Beriin.
Those who remained, joined together...
...they understood, soon it would be their turn.
I found them shelter.
I even let them stay in my attic.
I met this beautiful blond Jew.
He invited me to spend the night.
He said, "Let's play chess."
We sat on his bed...
...and we played chess.
We did the other thing too, of course. We had to.
Then we slept for a few hours.
In the morning, the Gestapo came.
They checked...
...he and his mother were on the list.
I showed my ID...
...not on the list.
They could have taken me.
They took him and his mother... the train station...
...and sent them to Auschwitz.
It had a different value then,
a night of love.
There was a hierarchy...
...from strongest to weakest.
There was no doubt...
...that the weakest in the camps...
...were the homosexuals.
All the way on the bottom.
I wasn't even eighteen.
Arrested, tortured, beaten.
Without any defense,
without a trial.
Nothing. I was all alone.
I don't even mention being sodomized, being raped.
It happened in front of me...
...and 300 prisoners, 300.
The death of Jo. My friend.
He was condemned to die, eaten by dogs,
German dogs, German shepherds.
- Where? - In Schirmeck.
And that, i can never forget.
I was just glad that I landed in a regular prison.
That was a gift, so to speak.
It prolonged my life.
Had I been taken to a concentration camp,
I'd no longer be alive.
I wanted to be with men!
I took photos of everyone,
and right away I had lots of friends.
Military was honor, dignity and justice.
What the Nazis would change it into,
you didn't know before.
You were always a little proud...
...of this militarism,
even if you were a homosexual.
This is my father's Jewish family in Vienna.
Which of them survived?
This one survived, and this one.
All the others were killed.
During that time I found my first big love...
It was like a dramatic love.
Then one time, I went to spend the night at his house.
His brother was there.
"Where is Manfred?"
He said, "Our whole family was arrested today."
So I went to Manfred's boss.
I say, "They've picked up Manfred.
"His whole family is being held...
" my old school building!"
"Do you have courage?" he says,
this great big German guy.
"Yes, I have courage."
He says, "My son is your size,
"he has a Hitler Youth uniform.
"Put it on and get Manfred out."
I went in and said, "Hail Hitler!
"I must see the officer in charge."
So this Gestapo guy says, "You'll bring him back, right?"
I say, "What else? He's a Jew!"
And I walk with Manfred, out of my school building.
After 20 or 30 meters...
...I still remember the exact spot...
I give him 20 marks. "Go to my uncle's place.
"I'll call him and meet you there later."
He stops...
and he says, very calmly,
"I can't come with you, Gad.
if I leave my sick famiiy now,
I'll never be free again.
I have to go with them.
I'm the only strong one."
Without saying goodbye,
he turns around,
and walks back, into my school building.
I walked in the other direction.
I wasn't able to think,
but I knew that something was...
...forever broken.
The singing forest.
That gave us all...
What was the singing forest?
In the ground, there were holes.
Concrete holes.
...who was sentenced...
...wouid be lifted up...
...onto the hook.
In the Jewish barracks... was similar.
But they were twisted... addition to the hanging.
That's what was prepared for the Jews.
The howling and screaming...
...were inhuman.
The singing forest.
Beyond human comprehension.
And much remains untold.
"On this site was the first Nazi camp in occupied Alsace."
Here where I now live was barrack number thirteen.
During the war.
All this was the camp.
Right here.
What sorts of prisoners were there?
It was mostly political prisoners.
You had homosexuals, unemployed...
...I don't know who all was in there.
These days, do people talk about the camp?
Oh, the young people don't even know.
They didn't see it.
By the time they arrived,
there was nothing, it was all torn down.
Only us old folks saw things, when we were kids.
Was it known then that homosexuals went to the camps?
It was known, but how... I don't know.
Maybe through the newspapers.
Anything can be talked around.
Was it known that Jews were exterminated there?
The big concentration camps in Austria.
Wasn't that frightening?
Yes and no.
I think peopie become indifferent very fast.
When things go on for years...
in the beginning they were Just camps.
That these camps became death camps...
...wasn't known in the beginning.
So now you see...
...why I did not speak for 40 years?
My ass still bleeds. Even today.
The Nazis stuck 25 centimeters of wood up my ass.
Do you think I can talk about that?
That it is good for me?
This is too much for my nerves, Klaus!
I can't do this anymore.
I am ashamed for humanity.
How long were you in concentration camps?
I added it up once.
I think eight and a quarter years.
What did you do when you got back?
When I came home?
I worked in the family store...
...that my brother was running.
My father had already died.
Did you tell your brother or mother...
...what happened in the camps?
I never spoke with my mother about it.
I could have talked to my father, but...
Why not?
My mother never said anything.
It's all about...
...patiently carrying one's burden.
Shame, about what?
You mean my mother?
Maybe it was from compassion,
so she wouldn't offend me,
or make it even harder on me.
Not even one word from her.
Today, it is hard to imagine,
that you survived these horribie years,
and came back and...
Couldn't talk to anybody about it?
Yes, I never spoke to anyone about it.
Would you have liked to talk to someone?
Maybe, maybe with my father.
And later, could you speak with others?
Nobody wanted to hear about it.
If you would just mention one of those words...
"Leave me alone with this stuff.
it's over now and done with."
Now for me too...'s all over.
In September, I'll be 93.
Thick skin, no?
P S 2004
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