Train to Sachsenhausen

Entrance Gate at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (DHM)
Entrance Gate at Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp (©DHM)

Paragraph 175 of the German penal code, enacted in 1871, stated that “a male who indulges in criminally indecent activities with another male …will be punished with jail.” But as early as 1897, Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld was petitioning the Reichstag, the German parliament, to repeal the law. He was close to succeeding when the Nazis came to power in Germany.

This programme was produced in June 2000 during a two-part exhibition entitled “The Persecution of Homosexual Men in Berlin: 1933-1945” at Berlin’s Schwules (or Gay) Museum and the Sachsenhausen Memorial, the site of the former concentration camp just north of the city. Never before had the life of gay men under the Nazi regime been shown in such detail, especially their horrific treatment in Sachsenhausen where over 600 died.

While in Berlin for a radio conference, David Swatling took “A Train to Sachsenhausen” to attend a special memorial service and recorded his thoughts for a personal radio essay on Radio Netherlands weekly culture and arts program Aural Tapestry.

The documentary won the Seigenthaler Excellence in Audio Award from National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association in 2001.

Original broadcast: June 2000

Producer: David Swatling