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Reductio Ad Hitlerum: Christians, Nazis, and Gays

  • Michael Wagner
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The Nazi phenomenon in Germany in the 1930s and 1940s is still in the forefront of many people's minds today. The extent of brutality exhibited by the Nazi regime ensures that it will be one historical event that is not soon forgotten. In some Reformed churches in Canada today there are still people who experienced the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands and can recount stories of that black period.

Because of the depth of disgust that is generated in most people by anything associated with Nazism, left-wing political activists sometimes accuse their opponents on the right of Nazi sympathies or at least Nazi-like tendencies. This tactic attempts to completely discredit the views of conservatives in the mind of the public. Even though the accusations are usually completely baseless, the damage is done. This sort of political cheap shot is related to a relatively recent debating technique identified by political scientist Leo Strauss as the "reductio ad Hitlerum." The "reductio ad Hitlerum" is a form of an older technique called the "reductio ad absurdum" whereby an opponent's position is "reduced to absurdity" by showing that the premises underlying his position lead to impossible or contradictory conclusions. If the ultimate consequences of his premises are absurd, then obviously his position is in error and is therefore refuted. In his book Natural Right and History (University of Chicago Press, 1953), Strauss states that the "reductio ad Hitlerum" "has frequently been used as a substitute for the reductio ad absurdum" (p. 42). The "reductio ad Hitlerum" is the idea that a view is "refuted by the fact that it happens to have been shared by Hitler" (p. 43). Strauss points out that this is a fallacy, i.e., a view is not refuted simply because Hitler held to it. Nevertheless, in many people's minds anything that can be identified with Hitler is discredited.

The homosexual rights movement has used this kind of tactic to some degree by promoting the idea that the Nazi German regime persecuted homosexuals. Indeed, some homosexuals were persecuted, and even ended up in concentration camps. Thus opponents of the homosexual rights movement, such as conservative Christians, can be lumped together with Nazis due to their shared opposition to homosexuality. Right? Just as the homosexuals were persecuted by the Nazis in Germany during the 1930s and 1940s, so also they are being attacked by conservative Christians in Canada, the US, and other countries today. The Christians are following in the footsteps of the Nazis. Thus Christians can be made to feel awkward by being identified with a position held by the Nazis.

While this may be an effective tactic for homosexual activists, it is not entirely honest, to put it mildly. Although some homosexuals did suffer under the Nazis, homosexuality was not a consistent target of the Nazis. In fact, the influence of homosexuals in the Nazi Party and Nazi regime was quite strong, especially in the formative years of the party. A careful look at the situation reveals that homosexuals were responsible for many acts of Nazi brutality. Many Nazi leaders were themselves homosexuals.

This information is documented in a book by Scott Lively and Kevin Abrams entitled The Pink Swastika: Homosexuality in the Nazi Party (Founders Publishing Corp., 1995). They discuss a large number of ways in which homosexuality and homosexuals were involved in the Nazi Party, and even just a few examples can undermine the view that Nazism was anti-homosexual.

The National Socialist German Worker's Party, commonly known as the Nazi Party, was formed in 1921. (It is conveniently forgotten by modern leftists that the Nazi Party was a socialist party, as the official name makes clear, but that is another issue.) The party grew rapidly during the 1920s, and it was widely known that many Nazis were homosexual. In fact, this became a political liability. "In the 1920's the political enemies of the Nazis used their homosexuality against them with consistent success, preventing the party from gaining legitimacy. Stories were printed in the newspapers containing 'inside' information about homosexual activities among the Nazi leaders. The most noteworthy example of this tactic was in 1925 when documentation of Ernst Roehm's proclivity for young boys, in the form of handwritten letters from Roehm himself, was leaked to the Social Democrat newspapers. The Nazis fared badly in the next election and Roehm soon moved to Bolivia where he would stay until Hitler called him back in 1929" (p. 26).

The Ernst Roehm mentioned above was the leader of a Nazi terrorist paramilitary organization commonly known by its German acronym, the "SA." Also known as the "brownshirts," because of the brown uniforms worn by its members, the SA justly earned a reputation of being a cesspool of thugs, deviants, and criminals. The SA was under the tight control of Roehm, and was a crucial force in the rise of Nazism and Adolf Hitler. According to Lively and Abrams, "Next to Adolf Hitler, Ernst Roehm was the man in Germany most responsible for the rise of Nazism, indeed of Hitler himself" (p. 39).

The favorite meeting place of the SA was a gay bar in Munich called the Bratwurstglockl. The earliest formative meetings of the Nazi Party were also held there. At this bar, "Roehm and associates — Edmund Heines, Karl Ernst, Ernst's partner Captain Rohrbein, Captain Petersdorf, Count Ernst Helldorf and the rest — would meet to plan and strategize. These were the men who orchestrated the Nazi campaign of intimidation and terror. All of them were homosexual" (pp. 42-43).

As mentioned previously, the significant role of homosexuals in the Nazi Party hurt the party's ability to gain support and votes. In order to counteract this negative publicity, Hitler himself made public statements against homosexuality. However, Lively and Abrams argue that this was largely a public relations tactic, and did not reflect Hitler's true position. "Despite suggestions to the contrary, Hitler was not anti-homosexual. In fact, like Roehm, Hitler seemed to prefer homosexual companions and co-workers. In addition to [the homosexuals] Roehm and Hess, two of his closest friends, Hitler apparently chose homosexuals and other sexual deviants to fill key positions nearest to himself" (p. 79).

After coming to power, Hitler officially banned homosexuality in 1933. This is clear-cut evidence that the Nazis opposed homosexuality. Well, not quite. This law simply became another tool for the Nazis to use against their opponents. It was certainly not used to root out all homosexuality. "The masculine homosexuals in the Nazi leadership selectively enforced this policy only against their enemies and not against all homosexuals" (p. 95). The Nazis falsely accused many of their opponents of homosexuality in order to justify arresting and imprisoning them. But the law was used selectively, and "many effeminate homosexuals, especially those in the arts community, were given protection by certain Nazi leaders" (p. 96).

In 1933 the Nazis also destroyed the Sex Research Institute, a major organization of the German homosexual movement. However, the reason for this was not because the Nazis were anti-homosexual. On the contrary, the Institute had extensive documentation about the rampant sexual deviance of numerous Nazi leaders, and this could prove damaging to them. Ludwig Lenz, the assistant director of the Institute, stated that the Nazis destroyed the Institute in order to cover up the extent of sexual perversion in the party. Lively and Abrams quote him as saying, "We knew too much. It would be against medical principles to provide a list of the Nazi leaders and their perversions [but] . . . not ten percent of the men who, in 1933, took the fate of Germany into their hands, were sexually normal . . . Our knowledge of such intimate secrets regarding members of the Nazi Party and other documentary material — we possessed about forty thousand confessions and biographical letters — was the cause of the complete and utter destruction of the Institute" (p. 101).

A more significant factor in the view that the Nazis opposed homosexuality is the "Roehm purge" of 1934 when Ernst Roehm and other SA leaders were assassinated at Hitler's command. Publicly, it was declared that this massacre was necessary to cleanse the Nazi Party of homosexuals. But this claim was a facade. The purge was the result of an internal power struggle, but it was much easier to justify publicly with the claim about eliminating homosexuals. Lively and Abrams state that, "[T]he Roehm Purge was not motivated by the homosexuality of its victims. The great majority of victims were not homosexuals at all" (p. 105). Indeed, "not only did the majority of the SA homosexuals survive the purge, but . . . the massacre was largely implemented by homosexuals" (p. 107). It's simply wrong to see the purge as a deliberate attack on homosexuality. "Adolf Hitler did not purge his regime of homosexuals in this incident or at any subsequent time. On the contrary, a simple review of the historic record reveals that Hitler continued not only to surround himself with homosexuals, but to place them in key positions in the Third Reich" (p. 110).

Some homosexuals did end up in concentration camps, but homosexuals as a class of people were not "targeted for extermination" like the Jews and others were. The homosexuals were not sent to the gas chambers. According to Lively and Abrams, "the actual number of homosexuals in the camps was a tiny fraction of both the estimated number of homosexuals in Germany and the estimate of the camp population" (p. 124). And one final fact they mention is that "many of the guards and administrators responsible for the infamous concentration camp atrocities were homosexuals themselves, which negates the idea that homosexuals in general were being persecuted and interned" (p. 124).

The point of all this is not to suggest that homosexuals are all Nazis, or that homosexuals as a group are responsible for the Nazi phenomenon in Germany. The point is that when homosexuals claim they were the victims of Nazi atrocities they are being so selective in relating historical evidence that they end up deceiving the public. If they want to discuss the place of homosexuals in Nazi Germany, then let's have all of the relevant information on the table, rather than an Orwellian version where certain inconvenient facts are ignored. Conservative Christians are not being like Nazis in opposing the homosexual rights movement. That is just another false assertion of the homosexual rights movement.


  • Michael Wagner

Michael Wagner is a home schooling father, an independent researcher and writer, and the author of Christian Citizenship Guide: Christianity and Canadian Political Life. He has a PhD in Political Science from the University of Alberta and lives in Edmonton with his wife and eleven children.

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