Bigots don’t read books. They burn them

Here we go again. In the latest bout of anti-trans madness, washed-up comedy writers are comparing trans people to Nazis to the delight of their many thousands of followers. In the aftermath, Scots MSP and newspaper columnist Joan McAlpine approvingly retweets an anti-trans group – a group that had been invited to the Scots Parliament to discuss gender recognition reform – saying much the same thing. The same group is currently putting anti-trans posters in toilets in Scottish bars.

According to the group, “there’s transactivists who are going to claim they were the victims of Nazis. We need to be clear, the LGBT victims were lesbians & gay men, not people who identify as trans.”

Nope. Trans people were sent to the concentration camps too, usually because the Nazis considered them to be gay. They weren’t big on nuance.

Cisgender, straight white women were okay though. Some of them got to be the camp guards.

The women here are Helferinnen, women auxiliaries. The photo is from Solahuette, a kind of holiday resort for the staff of Auschwitz.


Let’s have some history, shall we?

Before the Nazis came to power, Germany was a centre of excellence for trans knowledge. One of the most notable people in the field was Magnus Hirschfield, whose institute for sexual science carried out extensive research into the psychology and biology of trans people. Hirschfield was the first person to systematically describe and work with people he termed transvestites and transsexuals; what we’d call trans people today.

By the early 1930s, people came from around the world to undergo reassignment surgery in Berlin. Then Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany in January 1931. Two years later, his brownshirts broke into Hirschfeld’s institute and burned his journals and research. When Hirschfeld was out of Germany on tour, the Nazi student group marched on the Institute. Over 20,000 books were set aflame, as well as medical diagrams and photographs crucial to understanding sex reassignment surgery. Hirschfeld and his colleagues were Jewish, but it wasn’t just that. Hitler also publicly raged against the “vice” of homosexuality and the “degenerate” lives of transsexuals. They weakened the Aryan cause.

Mia Mulder is a scholar of this particular part of history, and she sets out the detail on Twitter.

It is true that trans people were not categorized specifically as trans by the nazis (with few exceptions), because *they* saw trans people as Gay or lesbian due to a common misunderstanding in medicinal history to link gender and sexual orientation.

… This institute and Magnus himself advocated for LGBT rights in Weimar Germany, provided safe haven for many lgbt people and developed early methods of trans transitioning healthcare, many developed versions of which still exist today.

The Nazis targeted this place and saw no practical difference between LGBT people. They saw us all as sexual degenerates. They were nazis, they’re kind of dicks that way.

Were trans people targeted as a separate category? Mostly, no: they were considered gay or lesbian and given the same pink triangles. But there were exceptions. Sometimes trans people were targeted.

In November 11, 1933 the head of the Hamburg police was told to pay special attention to transvestites (a term which then means trans people as well as cross dressers) and bring them to concentration camps.

in 1938, a german medical journal recommended that the “phenomena of transvestism” be exterminated from public life and said that the current measures (concentration camps) were good enough for this task.

…during the bookburning of the entire library of the institute, the one thing they made sure to not burn was the member roster, which contained names and addresses which they used to round up as many people as they could and shuffle into concentration camps.

That roster, incidentally, is one reason trans people really, really don’t like the idea of any kind of register of trans people being created.

To say trans people weren’t targeted by the Nazis is patently untrue. In fact, it’s Holocaust denial: as soon as you ignore the evidence of what the Nazis did because you hate one of the groups they targeted, you open up the door to others: the homophobes, the racists, the anti-semites.

As a feminist woman I know put it (no name or link because I don’t want to send extremists her way):

This is not difference of opinion, or “debate” or “discussion” or “concern for women.” It is Nazi revisionism and it is fuelled by hatred and it should concern anyone opposed to far right rhetoric creeping into our democracy.

The Holocaust is not, and should never be, something to “debate”.