Daily Archives: 8 August 2014

August 8, 1942 (a Saturday)

Rudolf Brazda, photo taken at Mulhouse, late 1940 (Private Collection)

On this date, following two convictions for violating section 175 of the former German Criminal Code, Rudolf Brazda was sent to the Nazi concentration camp of Buchenwald. The bureaucracy of the horror of the degradation is listed matter-of-factly in the original documents from the Buchenwald concentration camp:

Registered on 8 August 1942, Paragraph 175 homosexual, prisoner number 7952, pink triangle.

Brazda was probably the last surviving “Pink Triangle”, men who were rounded up by the Nazis and detained in concentration camps for being gay. The Nazis outlawed homosexuality in 1936 and it is estimated that they sent between 5,000 and 15,000 gays to concentration camps. After the end of World War II, Brazda setted in Alsace in northeastern France. He started visiting local gay cruising grounds, notably the Steinbach public garden where ironically Pierre Seel, another homosexual deportee who later came out, had been identified by the French police shortly before the outbreak of World War II. Brazda, like Seel and thousands of others, had to remain silent for decades after World War II ended because homosexuality remained a crime (it was decriminalized in France only in 1982). He spoke out in this interview:
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Rudolf Brazda died on August 3, 2011.

Suggested reading/watching:

  • Bent, the 1997 movie made from Martin Sherman’s 1979 play of the same name
  • Epstein and Friedman, Paragraph 175
  • Richard Plant, The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals (Holt, 1988)
  • Pierre Seel, Moi, Pierre Seel, déporté homosexuel [I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual] (Paris: Calmann-Levy, 1994)
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August 8, 1856 (a Friday)

The skullcap of type specimen, Neandertal 1.

On or about this date, quarry workmen in search of lime blasted out the entrance of the Feldhofer Cave in the Neander Valley near Düsseldorf, Germany. They found a skeleton, and guessed they had found the remains of a cave bear. Although they discarded many of the bones, they also set some of them aside, including the skullcap, for examination by a local schoolteacher and amateur naturalist, Johann Fuhlrott. When Fuhlrott looked at the long, narrow skullcap with prominent brow ridges, he realized its significance. Two weeks after the initial discovery, he returned to the quarry in hopes of finding the rest of the skeleton, but it was too late to retrieve any more bones. Fortunately, Fuhlrott had enough to identify the remains as those of an ancient human population, different from contemporary humans. This was the find that gave the species its name. It marked the beginning of paleoanthropology and initiated the longest-standing debate in the discipline: the role of Neandertals in human evolutionary history.

However, Fuhlrott’s view was not immediately accepted as it contradicted literal interpretations of the Bible and came before Charles Darwin’s On the Origin of Species was published. It took some years before the Neandertal man gained acceptance as a species of the genus Homo that inhabited Europe and parts of western Asia.

Because the area where these Neandertal bones were found was landscaped after the limestone quarry closed without a scientific geological analysis, and there were no associated finds, the site has been considered undatable. It is now the location of a museum of Neandertal life. The museum has also recreated the man’s appearance in a full-body model holding a spear.

However, the bones of over 400 Neandertals that have been found in different parts of Europe and the Middle East since (and even a few before) this discovery have permitted accurate dating. As a result, it is now known that the first proto-Neandertal traits appeared in Europe as early as 350,000 years ago, by 130,000 years ago full blown Neandertal characteristics had appeared, and by 50,000 years ago Neandertals had disappeared from Europe, although they continued in Asia until 30,000 years ago.