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Lost Intimacies

Rethinking Homosexuality under National Socialism


William J. Spurlin

Lost Intimacies: Rethinking Homosexuality under National Socialism uses queer theory as a hermeneutic tool with which to read against the grain of heterotextual narratives of the Holocaust and as a way of locating alternative pathways of meaning in dominant Holocaust research. Specifically addressing the racialization of sexuality, the book asks how the politics of sexuality can be more explicitly and systematically theorized, along with state-sanctioned homophobia under Nazism, with a clear recognition that homophobia seldom operated alone, but worked in conjunction with other axes of power, including race, gender, eugenics, and population politics. In theorizing gender and sexuality as entangled axes of analysis, the book allows the specificity of lesbian difference to emerge and challenges the received wisdom that lesbians were not as systematically persecuted under National Socialism. William J. Spurlin questions the wisdom of received scholarship that reduces Nazi fascism to latent homosexuality, and examines the possible implications of Nazi homophobia, and its imbrication with other deployments of power, for the study of contemporary culture where the homophobic impulse continues to reverberate, thereby challenging understandings of history steeped in notions of progressive modernity.


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CHAPTER 3 The Politics of Gender Difference: Lesbian Existence under the Third Reich


The Politics of Gender Difference: Lesbian Existence under the Third Reich The racialization of (homo)sexuality under nazism left little room for erotic autonomy to the extent that the nazis were keenly obsessed with the production of genetically fit Aryans. It would be amiss, however, to presume that all forms of non-marital or non-procreative (hetero)sexuality were characterized as illicit; such was not the case if these sexual relations occurred among and between those deemed to be racially pure Aryans. But homosexuality, along with bestiality (Paragraph 175B under the revised penal code) and other forms of sexual “decadence,” given nazi population and racial politics, was largely represented and codified as a Semitic invention under tropes of sexual waywardness and excess. Nazi propaganda linked homosexuality to the weakening of the German state; its juridical code targeted same-sex relations between men as susceptible to criminal prosecution, and many thousands of gay men under National Socialism were incarcerated in prisons and in concentration camps, assigned labor, used for medical experimentation, and even exterminated. Lesbians, on the other hand, while not always persecuted for their sexuality alone, as was the case for many gay men, could be susceptible to persecution through the axis of gender, that is, through non-conformity to the norms of gender, including marriage and the institution of heterosexuality, as well as for their political beliefs, insofar as they challenged the gender/sexual politics of the nazi state or nazi ideology in general. Conventional wisdom in Holocaust research has stipulated quite consistently that...

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