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TO MARCH 16, 2003

As we all know, immediately following their rise to power, Hitler and the Nazis launched a fervent campaign to rid the German territories of those deemed unfit to participate in what they envisioned as a master Aryan race. Among the victims of Nazi persecution were those who took part in such “abberant social behavior” as homosexuality, which was, incidentally, already outlawed: According to German criminal law #175, same-sex relationships were illegal. Under the Nazis, #175 was rewritten and enforcement reached a fever pitch—between 1933 and 1945, about 100,000 men were arrested, about 50,000 were convicted, and between 5,000 and 15,000 suffered in concentration camps. Once glossed over by historians, the stories of those victims are currently on display at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum as part of an exhibition titled “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals: 1933-1945.” Detailing the history of #175, the exhibit offers a look into the experiences of German homosexuals such as Friedrich-Paul von Groszheim, who was arrested, detained, and imprisoned in 1937 with 230 other men for a period of 10 months. Arrested again a year later, von Groszheim was tortured and given the choice between castration and a concentration camp—eventually, he decided to have the operation. Soldiers in the German army faced a similar dilemma: Those found in violation of #175 were given the choice between prison and service in “penalty battalions,” used by commanders for suicide missions. Although thousands of homosexuals were freed along with the millions of other German prisoners following the Allied victory in 1945, #175 wasn’t abolished until after German reunification, and those convicted under its auspices weren’t pardoned by the German parliament until this past May. The exhibition is on view from 10 a.m. to 5:20 p.m. daily, to Sunday, March 16, 2003, at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, 100 Raoul Wallenberg Place SW. Free. (202) 488-0400. (P.J. Martinez)