Hitler 1936: Foreign athletes at Berlin Olympics exempt from Nazi anti-gay law

I just stumbled on something rather remarkable. According to the United States Holocaust Museum, in 1936, Hitler promised not to apply the country’s ruthless anti-gay law, called “Paragraph 175,” to foreign athletes, guests and media attending the Berlin Olympics.

Yet, the International Olympic Committee can’t even get Russian President Putin to do the same during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia.

Yes, Adolf Hitler was better than Vladimir Putin in his treatment of gay Olympic athletes.  How disturbing is that?

From the US Holocaust Museum:

Also in preparation for the arrival of Olympic spectators, Nazi officials ordered that foreign visitors should not be subjected to the criminal strictures of the Nazi anti-homosexual laws.

The International Olympic Committee has also been working with the Russian government in attempt to get Vladimir Putin to also agree not to subject foreign visitors to Russia’s draconian anti-“gay propaganda” law during the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi Russia.

I’d reported earlier on a chilling NYT story from 1935 about Hitler promising the International Olympic Committee to take down his anti-semitic signs during the Olympics.  But I had no idea that parallels were this close.

NYT Nov. 6, 1935: Hitler to take down anti-semitic signs during Olympics, IOC blasts boycott movement as “lies”

NYT Nov. 6, 1935: Hitler to take down anti-semitic signs during Olympics, IOC blasts boycott movement as “lies”

Equally disturbing, the Nazis, like the Russians, promulgated new anti-gay laws right before their respective Olympics.  The laws had some remarkable similarities, including this from the Nazi anti-gay law, also via the Holocaust Museum:

Paragraph 175 was re-written to broaden the law’s scope of “indecencies between men” from a narrow interpretation of an intercourse-like act, to include virtually any contact between men deemed to have sexual intent, even “simple looking” or “simple touching.”

Under Russia’s extremely broad anti-gay law, anything that could be perceived as suggesting in public that “gay is okay” is now illegal.  We know it includes wearing rainbow suspenders.  It could also include simple looking or simple touching (e.g., holding hands).

More from the Holocaust Museum:

Paragraph 175 was the German statute prohibiting homosexuality between men. Enacted in 1871 following the unification of the German Empire, its enforcement was sporadic prior to 1933, particularly in urban areas. In 1935, Nazi jurists undertook an extensive overhaul of the German criminal code. Paragraph 175 was re-written to broaden the law’s scope of “indecencies between men” from a narrow interpretation of an intercourse-like act, to include virtually any contact between men deemed to have sexual intent, even “simple looking” or “simple touching.”

The revised law took effect on September 1, 1935. Heinrich Himmler appointed chief of German police the following year pursued it with vigor. Between 1936 and September 1, 1939, the outbreak of World War II, nearly 78,000 men were arrested for violating Paragraph 175.

Okay, I’m a bit more weirded out than I was five minutes ago.

Not that it’s enough to simply exempt Olympians from Russia’s anti-gay/anti-gay trans.  The situation has gone far beyond that now.  Putin has created, and inflamed, such a climate of hate and violence in Russia that it’s simply no longer safe for our gay and trans athletes, or anyone else, to visit Russia.


Follow me on Twitter: @aravosis | @americablog | @americabloggay | Facebook | Instagram | Google+ | LinkedIn. John Aravosis is the Executive Editor of AMERICAblog, which he founded in 2004. He has a joint law degree (JD) and masters in Foreign Service from Georgetown; and has worked in the US Senate, World Bank, Children's Defense Fund, the United Nations Development Programme, and as a stringer for the Economist. He is a frequent TV pundit, having appeared on the O'Reilly Factor, Hardball, World News Tonight, Nightline, AM Joy & Reliable Sources, among others. John lives in Washington, DC. .

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