Foreign Policy Blogs

Paragraph 175 (2000)

This documentary focuses on what is probably a mostly overlooked group of people persecuted by German Nazis between 1933 and 1945: male homosexuals.
The title of the film refers to the law, enacted in 1871, that was largely overlooked until the reign of Adolf Hitler. It claimed sex between two men was illegal; lesbians, however, were spared.
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The movie shows how accepted into mainstream society and tolerated gays were in interwar Berlin.
Directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein find several gay survivors of the concentration camps who recall their treatment and the fate of their lovers during World War II. The film is narrated by actor Rupert Everett.
In some ways, the story of the plight of gay men everywhere is the same: someone in authority believes homosexuality is an illness, a mental disease that can be cured medically. And the survivors talk about the medical experimentation done on gay men in the camps, who were regarded as the lowest group there.
It is also shown that, in the same way Jews were forced to wear yellow stars of David to be easily identified, gay men had to wear a pink triangle on their clothes.


Friedman and Epstein conducted these interviews just in the nick of time: all of the survivors on camera were advanced in years 10 years ago when the film was released. It’s hard to imagine they are still alive today.
This is a snapshot of a very narrow slice of life in the Third Reich and, like so many other stories coming from Nazi Germany, should serve as a cautionary tale.
Paragraph 175 is available to rent.
Murphy can be reached at: [email protected]



Sean Patrick Murphy

Sean Patrick Murphy is a graduate of Bennington College, where he majored in politics and Latin American literature. He has worked for Current History magazine, Physicians for Human Rights, and Citizens for Global Solutions (formerly the World Federalist Association). He lives outside Philadelphia.

Areas of Focus:
Cinematography; Independent Films; Documentary;