Let us remember, today, Holocaust Memorial Day, which in 2015 marks the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the largest and most notorious Nazi death camp. The BBC will mark this with a memorial program, and there will be many memorial events around the United Kingdom.
Most of the attention, quite appropriately, will be focussed on the Jewish Holocaust, but without wishing to detract from that tragedy, we must not forget that there were other victims, too – for example, with particular relevance to lgbt peopIe, gay men and lesbians. I offer for your consideration, a posts on this theme that I have published previously, and another by Kittredge Cherry, at Jesus in Love.
The Priest With the Pink Triangle.
For the first post in my “queer modern heroes” series, I begin with someone most people have never heard of. (I’m not sure anyone even knows his name.) I begin with him because he represents a double martyrdom, martyred for his orientation, and also martyred for his faith. I choose him also precisely because he is anonymous, reminding us that in our own way, we are all called to our own heroism in the face of persecution, all called to be “martyrs” in the true, original sense – as witnesses to truth. I read this story in John McNeill’s “Taking a Chance on God“: McNeill got the story from Heinz Heger. These are McNeill’s words:
“I would like to end this reflection on the mature life of faith with the eyewitness account of a gay priest who was beaten to death in a German concentration camp during World War II because he refused to stop praying or to express contempt for himself. The story is recounted by Heinz Heger in his book “The Men With the Pink Triangle“, in which he he recalls what took place in the special concentration camp for gay men in Sachsenhausen (Sachsenhausen was a “level 3″ camp where prisoners were deliberately worked to death):
(also at Queering the Church, on a related theme: Lest We Forget: Remember the Ashes of Our Martyrs)
This day is commemorated on different dates in the UK, and the USA. From the other side of the Atlantic, for the American remembrance day in April, Kittredge Cherry reminded us at Jesus in Love:
Holocaust Remembrance: We All Wear the Triangle
Holy Priest Anonymous one of Sachsenhausen
By William Hart McNichols ©
On Holocaust Remembrance Day we recall the genocide of 6 million Jews in state-sponsored extermination by Nazi Germany during World War II. The Nazis also murdered millions of people in other groups, including thousands of gay men and lesbians. Holocaust Remembrance Day, also known as Yom HaShoah, is April 11 this year.
One of those killed was an anonymous 60-year-old gay priest who died at the concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, Germany in 1940. Heinz Heger gives an eyewitness account in his book, “The Men with the Pink Triangle.” The priest was brutally beaten and tortured, and yet there was a moment of grace when a narrow beam of sunlight shone on the priest’s face. For a detailed account, visit:
The gay priest is honored in the icon above, “Holy Priest Anonymous one of Sachsenhausen” by Father William Hart McNichols, a renowned iconographer and Roman Catholic priest based in New Mexico.
It is in recognition of the significance of this gay holocaust in our collective memory, that the pink triangle has become such a potent symbol of our continuing struggle for full equality and inclusion in society – and why I developed, as my own symbol of the struggle for inclusion and equality in church, this adaptation: