98-year-old Rudolf Brazda died peacefully in his sleep on Wednesday. Brazda was considered to be the very last known gay survivor of the Holocaust.
Gay holocaust survivors were known as Pink Triangles due to the identifying patch (akin to the gold star of David marking Jews) they were forced to wear in Nazi concentration camps during World War II.
The intense trauma and shame of persecution by the Nazis kept many survivors from identifying themselves in the aftermath of the war. Brazda didn’t “come out” until the mid 1980’s, when the gay rights movement began sharing the stories and contributions of the Pink Triangle, both surviving and those lost too soon.
Rudolf Brazda had been part of some 10,000 deportees under Hitler because of their sexual orientation, the Nazis considering homosexuality as a threat to the perpetuation of the race.
He was deported to Buchenwald concentration camp where he wore the pink triangle, before choosing to live in France.
Born in 1913 in Saxony (Germany) in a Czech family germanophone, Rudolf became aware of his homosexuality as “a natural disposition to accept as such, aware that he was lucky to have always had a companion at his side” , he told.
In 1937, he was sentenced to six months in prison for “debauchery of men”, then deported to Czechoslovakia. There, after the annexation of the Sudetenland by Hitler, he was again tried and convicted for similar facts, this time to 14 months in prison.
This time served, Rudolf, considered a repeat offender, was interned in the concentration camp of Buchenwald in central Germany. He survived 32 months of hell in this camp, thanks to his friendship with a kapo communist and “a little luckier than others.”
Brazda’s cremated remains will be placed alongside those of his partner of more than 50 years, Edward Mayer, who passed away in 2003.
Rudolf Brazda’s passing marks the end of one of the most important chapters in not only gay history, but in the history of the entire world. Our lives today are surely made better by the incredible and seemingly impossible life Brazda lived. He will be missed.