BERLIN — The man thought to be the last remaining gay survivor of the Nazi Holocaust has passed away at the age of 98. Rudolf Brazda had been imprisoned by the Nazi regime for homosexuality and was sent to the Nazis’ Buchenwald concentration camp in August 1942 and held there until its liberation by U.S. forces in 1945.
His death was announced by the Berlin chapter of the German LGBTQ equality rights organization, the Lesbian and Gay Association, or LSVD. The brief statement had no further details.
When the Nazi regime took power in the early 1930’s, authorities declared homosexuality an aberration that threatened the German race. According to the Nazi government’s archives captured by allied forces after its surrender, some 50,000 homosexuals were arrested as criminals and an estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps. A small number of survivors were liberated by the advancing allied armies.
Brazda was born in eastern Germany in 1913 and later lived as an openly gay man in the German capital city of Berlin working as a roofer. Berlin was the center of gay life in Germany during the 1920s and early 1930s during the Weimar Republic.
In 1937, Brazda was arrested during a Gestapo [secret police] round up of “known subversives” and jailed for nearly a half year before he was released. He later moved away from Berlin but was arrested in another Gestapo round-up for homosexuality offences, this time he was sent to the the Buchenwald concentration camp after conviction in 1942. He survived until the camp’s liberation by the American Army’s 89th Infantry Division on April 4, 1945.
After the war, Brazda left Germany and relocated to the Alsace region of eastern France where he met his life partner, who died in 2003.
Brazda has been recognized as the last survivor who was interned for homosexuality and has attended memorials for victims. He first came forward with his story in 2008.
When a memorial to the Nazis’ gay victims was unveiled in Berlin in 2008, the LSVD said the last ex-prisoner that it knew of had died three years earlier. But the group said it was then contacted by Brazda, who visited the memorial at its invitation and became an honorary member.
In spite of his age, he had continued to speak out about persecution and intolerance and urged younger people to remain vigilant.
Upon learning of Brazda’s death, Berlin’s openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, who first met with Brazda in 2008, said he learned with regret of his death.
“He is an example of how important the work of remembrance is for our future,” Wowereit said. “Fewer and fewer people can give information about repression under the Nazi dictatorship authentically and from their own experience.”