RUDOLF BRAZDA, believed to be the last surviving man to wear the pink triangle — the emblem sewn onto the striped uniforms of the thousands of homosexuals sent to Nazi concentration camps, most of them to their deaths — was born on this date. Mr. Brazda, who was born in Germany, had lived in France since the Buchenwald camp, near Weimar, Germany, was liberated by American forces in April 1945. He had been imprisoned there for three years.
It was only after May 27, 2008, when the German National Monument to the Victims of the Nazi Regime was unveiled in Berlin’s Tiergarten park — opposite the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe — that Mr. Brazda became known as probably the last gay survivor of the camps. Until he notified German officials after the unveiling, the Lesbian and Gay Federation believed there were no other pink-triangle survivors. Mémorial de la Déportation Homosexuelle, a French organization that commemorates the Nazi persecution of gay people, said that Mr. Brazda “was very likely the last victim and the last witness” to the persecution.
“It will now be the task of historians to keep this memory alive,” the statement said, “a task that they are just beginning to undertake.” One of those historians is Gerard Koskovich, curator of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender History Museum in San Francisco and an author with Roberto Malini and Steed Gamero of “A Different Holocaust” (2006). Pointing out that only men were interned, Mr. Koskovich said, “The Nazi persecution represented the apogee of anti-Gay persecution, the most extreme instance of state-sponsored homophobia in the 20th century.
During the 12-year Nazi regime, he said, up to 100,000 men were identified in police records as homosexuals, with about 50,000 convicted of violating Paragraph 175, a section of the German criminal code that outlawed male homosexual acts. There was no law outlawing female homosexual acts, he said. Citing research by Rüdiger Lautmann, a German sociologist, Mr. Koskovich said that 5,000 to 15,000 gay men were interned in the camps and that about 60 percent of them died there, most within a year.
“The experience of homosexual men under the Nazi regime was one of extreme persecution, but not genocide,” Mr. Koskovich said, when compared with the “relentless effort to identify all Jewish people and ultimately exterminate them.” Still, the conditions in the camps were murderous, said Edward J. Phillips, the director of exhibitions at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum.
“Men sent to the camps under Section 175 were usually put to forced labor under the cruelest conditions — underfed, long hours, exposure to the elements and brutal treatment by labor brigade leaders,” Mr. Phillips said. “We know of instances where gay prisoners and their pink triangles were used for guards’ target practices.” Two books have been written about Mr. Brazda. In one, “Itinerary of a Pink Triangle” (2010), by Jean-Luc Schwab, Mr. Brazda recalled how dehumanizing the incarceration was. “Seeing people die became such an everyday thing, it left you feeling practically indifferent,” he is quoted as saying. “Now, every time I think back on those terrible times, I cry. But back then, just like everyone in the camps, I had hardened myself so I could survive.”
Rudolf Brazda was born on June 26, 1913, in the eastern German town of Meuselwitz to a family of Czech origin. His parents, Emil and Anna Erneker Brazda, both worked in the coal-mining industry. Rudolf became a roofer. Before he was sent to the camp, he was arrested twice for violations of Paragraph 175. After the war, Mr. Brazda moved to Alsace. There he met Edouard Mayer, his partner until Mr. Mayer’s death in 2003.
He had no immediate survivors. “Having emerged from anonymity,” the book “Itinerary of a Pink Triangle” says of Mr. Brazda, “he looks at the social evolution for homosexuals over his nearly 100 years of life: ‘I have known it all, from the basest repression to the grand emancipation of today.’ ” He died on August 3, 2011 in Bantzenheim, in Alsace, France. He was 98.