Clarification and Commemoration as a Task
On his journey leading him to places where he can investigate the fate of homosexuals deported from France, Jean-Luc Schwab made a stop at the International Tracing Service (ITS) in Bad Arolsen. He wanted to inform himself about the type of documents kept here and leafed through the files of various victims. “It is good to have this archive available for use, as it is an important source of information”, said the French.
Schwab is the Alsatian delegate of the association "Les Oublié(e)s de la Memoire" ("Forgotten by the memory" of the Association Civile Homosexuelle du Devoir de Mémoire) that keeps alive the memory of the persecution of gays through the Nazis in France. “A taboo subject for a long time“, said Schwab. The researcher devotes his main attention to the better knowledge and recognition of the homosexuels that were deported because of Paragraph 175 of the Reich Penal Code.
"To achieve this goal we must have a better understanding of the fate of the victims", said Schwab. Such as that of Pierre Seel, a survivor of NS persecution from Alsace. While imprisoned, Seel had to help erect Concentration Camp Natzweiler-Struthof and to witness how the SS made German shepherd dogs tear to pieces his 18-year-old friend. For a long time he had not been able to speak about his experiences. It was not until 1982 that the Alsatian came out about his being both homosexual and a victim of Nazi persecution, and it was not until 1994 that he had won his fight for recognition and compensation in France.
Thus Seel paved the way for other homosexuals who, since then, have come to be considered persecutees next to the concentration camp inmates detained for political reasons and the resistance fighters. They can now take part as their equals in commemorative events. “Mentalities need time to change”, explained Schwab. At the moment, his association is trying the receive the authorisation for a memorial plaque at Mulhouse in commemoration of Seel and other victims.
The researcher is also writing a biography about Rudolf Brazda, another NS victim, with whom he visited ITS. Schwab wants to further raise the general public’s awareness of the persecution of homosexuals re-calling to people’s minds this group of persecutees. He is sure that “there is the need for a lot of clarification still”.