German doctors physically castrated at least 12 gay men in a series of operations that went on until the late 1960s.
That’s the shocking discovery made by one historian. Jens Kolata unearthed reports of gay men and sex offenders having castrations.
It was a continuation of the Nazi persecution of gay men. And like the Nazis the German doctors in the 1960s were still using the same term for the barbaric castrations.
They called it ‘voluntary unmanning’. In reality they bullied gay and bi men into agreeing by promising to reduce their prison sentences.
Kolata told the Stuttgarter Zeitung he stumbled across notes by a psychologist proving the operations took place. He was originally researching crimes committed decades earlier under the Nazi regime.
Who was castrated and why?
Doctors carried out the operations between April 1963 and August 1978.
All of them happened in the Hohenasperg fortress. The fortress remains the central hospital of the prison service in the south German state of Baden-Württemberg to this day.
Jens Kolata discovered a list of 51 men in total were castrated between those dates.
His evidence comes from the notes of one psychologist. Nikolaus Heim followed up the men who had been castrated until the 1980s.
Heim clearly notes that 12 of the 51 men were gay or bi. They were marked in his notes as ‘offender type homosexual’. The others were other types of male sex offenders.
Castration and its Nazi past
The first mention of castration as a punishment or so-called ‘treatment’ for gay men in Germany was under Nazi rule.
Hitler backed castrations to clean the ‘master race’ and they were used against groups including Gypsies, Jews and so-called ‘asocials’. He hoped to stop them having children.
The Nazis also castrated gay and bi men as a ‘cure’ for homosexuality and to carry out cruel medical experiments. They sometimes offered gay men castration surgery as an alternative to being sent to a concentration camp.
The Nazis are thought to have forced thousands to undergo the surgery.
Even after the Nazis fell, doctors continued to castrate sex offenders. And because politicians didn’t decriminalize homosexuality in 1969, gay and bi men were still included in that category.
How castration ruined the men’s lives
Heim’s notes also tell of the terrible physical effects castrations had on the men’s bodies. Many of them experienced hot flushes, became easily fatigued and gained weight.
And the Stuttgarter Zeitung, who broke the story of Kolata’s findings, unearthed a personal story of the psychological toll the castrations took.
In 1996, a gay man called into a popular late-night radio show. He called himself Gustav and he had been a victim of forced castration.
And he talked to host Domian – Germany’s most popular agony aunt and psychological advisor – about his experiences.
Gustav revealed he had been arrested repeatedly under paragraph 175, Germany’s anti-gay law. This was the Nazi law which made gay sex illegal and which wasn’t scrapped until 1969.
Prosecutors in his last trial declared Gustav a ‘demographic political nonstarter’.
Authorities also recommended Gustav undergo castration. He agreed, because ‘his freedom was worth it’.
‘I was threatened with only being released if I let myself be castrated,’ the paper quotes him as saying.
Shortly after he walked free, homosexuality was decriminalized.
Gustav’s story fits with the evidence. He said the procedure happened ‘near Stuttgart’ and Hohenasperg fortress is only 20 kilometers away. His age at the time he phoned in, 71-years-old, also matches.
Tip of the iceberg
Experts are now saying that the new evidence makes it likely that doctors castrated gay men from 1945 until 1969.
Historians already knew that Nazis had castrated gay and bi men until 1945.
Previously it was widely believed the practice against gay men had died with Nazi rule.
Now Germany may need to re-write its history.
Baden-Württemberg’s Ministry of Justice indicated they would feel regret and shame if the claims are substantiated.
Steffen Tanneberger, spokesperson for the ministry, said they ‘unconditionally’ want to clarify the claims.
And Kolata might also have just influenced a major political decision in Germany.
Last year, the Federal Ministry of Justice announced it would compensate gay men who were prosecuted under Germany’s historic anti-gay law.
But it seems nobody there knew about gay men being castrated.
Now, the research team wants to go through all judicial and prison files, for all of Baden-Württemberg.
Part of their research will focus on gay men who were castrated in the prison system.
Kolata’s findings have been released to the public as part of Der Liebe Wegen (Because of Love). The research project looks into the lives of ‘people in the south west of Germany who were excluded and persecuted because of their love and sexuality’.