Albert Christel – Gay Anti-Nazi

Born in 1907 in Metz, near the German border with France, Albert’s family were always anti-Nazi (His parents even hid French POWs during the Second World War). Albert himself belonged to a left wing youth organisation, which the Hitler Youth despised. In 1933, he was detained by the Gestapo to warn him off further dissent.

An Out Gay Anti-Nazi Undeterred, upon his release he went to Leipzig to assist the Communists, whom he believed to be the most credible anti-Fascist grouping. There he was arrested again for fly posting, after which he left for Prague. When he re-entered Germany, still not yet 30 years of age, he was denounced as a homosexual and tried under the newly amended Paragraph 175, which made suspected homosexuality a criminal offence.

Prisons  In 1939, when Germany invaded Poland, Albert was placed with other political prisoners in the notorious Dresden Prison. Many politicals and most homosexuals were not sent to camps, but were instead exposed to inhuman treatment in such police prisons. There they could be subjected to very hard labour and torture, or be executed or experimented upon. Gay men were often given the letter A to wear, as part of the abuse.

Concentration Camps Then, without trial, he was transferred to Sachsenhausen where he was initially assigned a red triangle. When they discovered he was gay, the Camp Authorities assigned Albert a pink triangle and placed him in the section of the camp designated for homosexual prisoners. In this section, gay prisoners were subjected to particular abuses and tortures by the camp guards, so that their mortality rate was very high. A

fter time in Flossenburg and  Neuengamme camps, Albert was transferred back to Sachsenhausen in 1943. Because of the respect the politicals had for him, they lobbied to have his category altered. Thus it was that the red triangle pictured was given to him. It was extremely rare for political prisoners, who were the best organised in the camps, to intervene in this way for a pink triangle prisoner.

Death March In April 1945, the Nazis attempted to transfer the prisoners on foot as the Allies approached. It was during this ‘Death March’, when many sick, young and old people died, that the Americans liberated the prisoners.

After the War But for Albert it never felt like full liberation. After the War, the Allies did not remove the Nazi-amended Paragraph 175, which had been the basis for anti-gay persecution. Neither they nor the new West German State then recognised homosexuals as a class of victim. At the time homosexuality was still against the law throughout much of Europe and North America.

People who had been persecuted for being gay had a hard choice: either to bury their experience and pretend it never happened, with all the personal consequences of such an action, or to try to campaign for recognition in an environment where the same law and same judges prevailed.

Albert chose to fight this, one of the few who did. But after many years he failed to receive any recognition whatsoever and was the target of a great deal of hate crime. Nor could he find a publisher for his memoirs.

In 1967 the Nazi Paragraph 175 was finally amended and homosexuality decriminalised in Germany (at about the same time as in Britain).

But this proved too late for Albert; crushed by this post-war discrimination, he committed suicide in 1970 aged 63.