Monday, May 9, 2011

Remembering, hearing, speaking out...

Rudolf Brazda
Meet Rudolf Brazda. He will be 98 years old this June. He has worked most of his life as a roofer, and has lived the past 30 some odd years in Alsace, France.

But he was born originally, in 1913, in Brossen, Germany.

And he is a survivor of the Nazi Germany concentration camps. In fact, he was imprisoned in Buchenwald, one of the more infamous of the "work camps" the Germans created.  Between April 1938 and April 1945, some 238,380 people of various nationalities including 350 Western Allied POWs were incarcerated in Buchenwald. One estimate places the number of deaths in Buchenwald at 56,000.

Rudolf Brazda survived it.

He is not a Jew, or a Gypsy, or one of the Allies...
He is a 175er.
In fact, Rudolf Brazda is the last living "Pink Triangle" prisoner to have been incarcerated in the Death and Work camps for being homosexual.
Here, in his own words, is a little of his story:

He was living in Germany in the last days of the old Wiemar Republic, with its easy tolerance and safety for homosexuals, when the rise of Nazi Germany changed everything...after being arrested twice under the 175 law prohibiting Homosexuality, instead of being deported as he expected, he was taken to Buchenwald in 1942. And the prisoners uniform they gave him had the Pink Triangle patch on it - not the symbol of Gay Pride as it is today, but a public mark of shame and singling him out as homosexual.

He spent 3 years in Buchenwald in unimaginable conditions, and finally, after being hidden by a friend, in the area where they worked, Brazda, managed to avoid being taken on the infamous death marches, and was rescued by the Americans.
He emigrated to France, to Alsace and in the early 1950s, Rudolf met Edi at a costume ball, who became his life companion. In the early 1960s they moved into a house they built in the suburbs of Mulhouse, where Rudolf still resides. Rudolf tended to Edi for over 30 years after he was crippled by a severe work accident, until Edi's death in 2003.

In spite of old age, he is a keen observer and follower of the news. So in 2008, when he heard on German TV of the impending unveiling of a memorial to homosexual victims of Nazism in Berlin, he decided to make himself known. Although he was not present at the monument's inauguration on May 27, 2008, an invitation was extended to him to attend a ceremony a month later, on the morning of the Berlin CSD gay pride march. Since then, Rudolf has been invited to attend a number of gay events, including Europride Zurich in 2009 and some smaller scaled events in France, Switzerland and Germany. In 2010, Rudolf also received the gold medals of the cities of Toulouse and Nancy in recognition of his commitment to bear witness locally and nationally in France.

Age, and health permitting, Rudolf Brazda is determined to continue speaking out about his past.  Because he knows that the generations to come must know his story.  And we must listen to him while his voice is still with us.

 Because only in remembering, in hearing the stories, in speaking out and taking a stand, can we stop the barbed wire and the hate from rising again.

Rudolf Brazda as a young man. 

And then we too must speak...


  1. What a beautiful man and what an amazing life. Thank you, love, for sharing.

    May we never forget.

  2. Good for him for telling his story. So many of the gay prisoners who survived were so traumatized by the experience that they did not feel safe to openly identify themselves as gay ever again.

  3. Thanks for posting this lovely tribute. May I link to this blog post on my facebook page? Jay

  4. Thank you so much Cam. This is amazing story and a wonderful tribute. Beautiful. :)

  5. Hey, I just was lucky to find it!!! Jay, by all means please link this - I think the more people who see it, the better!