Although other gay men who survived the Holocaust are still alive, they were not known to the Nazis as homosexuals and were not deported as pink triangle internees. At least two gay men who were interned as Jews, for instance, have spoken publicly of their experiences.
Brazda was born in Brossen (now part of Meuselwitz, Thuringia, Germany), the last of eight siblings, born to parents originating in Bohemia and who had emigrated to Saxony to earn a living (his father worked at the local brown coal mines). After World War I, he became a Czechoslovak citizen, owing to his parents' origins in that newly established country. His father, who was demobilised only in 1919, died in 1922 following a work accident.
Brazda grew up in Brossen, later in nearby Meuselwitz where he started training as a roofer, failing to get an apprenticeship as a sales assistant with a gentlemen's outfitter. In the early 1930s, prior to the Nazis' accession to power, he was able to live his sexuality openly, thanks to the climate of relative tolerance which prevailed in the last days of the Weimar Republic. In the summer of 1933, he met Werner, his first companion. Together they shared a sublease in the house of a Jehovah's Witness landlady, who was fully aware and tolerant of the bond existing between them. In the following two years, despite the Nazi accession to power and the subsequent reinforcement of Paragraph 175, they led a happy life, befriending other male and female homosexuals, and would often take trips locally, or further away, to visit gay meeting places, such as the "New York" Café in Leipzig.
Rudolf Brazda in a photo take at Mulhouse, late 1940, Private Collection
Rudolf Brazda was the last known concentration camp survivor deported by Nazi Germany on charges of homosexuality. Brazda spent nearly three years at the Buchenwald concentration camp. After the liberation Brazda settled in Alsace, in May 1945 and lived there for the rest of his life. In the early 1950s Brazda met Edouard "Edi" Mayer, who became his life companion. He tended to Edi for over 30 years after Edi was crippled by a severe work accident, until his death in 2003.
Édouard Mayer & Rudolf Brazda are buried together in the Cemetery of Mulhouse, France. After a remembrance service attended by approximately 40 people, Rudolf Brazda's body was cremated, and his ashes interred alongside those of his late partner Édouard Mayer.
In 1936, Werner was enlisted to do his military service and Brazda took up a position as bellhop at a hotel in Leipzig. As of 1935, the Nazis extension of legal provisions criminalizing homosexuality generated a dramatic increase of lawsuits against homosexuals. Thus, in 1937, following police investigations into the lives of his gay friends, Brazda was suspected and remanded in custody pending further enquiries. In Altenburg, he was eventually tried and sentenced to six months in prison for breaching the terms of Paragraph 175. Werner was tried and sentenced elsewhere and circumstances led to them losing sight of each other in the ensuing months. Werner is rumoured to have died in 1940 while on military duty on the French front, in the battles raging against Britain.
Having served his sentence, Brazda was soon to be expelled from Germany, shortly after his release from prison in October 1937. From a legal and technical point of view, he was considered a Czechoslovak citizen with a criminal record and, as such, treated as persona non grata in Nazi Germany, and made to leave the country. Because his parents had not taught him Czech, he left for what was technically his country, but opted to settle in the German-speaking region of Sudetenland, the western-most province of Czechoslovakia, bordering on Germany. There, he went to live in Karlsbad (today Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic).
Despite the province's annexation by Nazi Germany less than a year later, Brazda managed to find work as a roofer and settled in with a new friend by the name of Anton. Unfortunately, Brazda's name came up again in police enquiries led against distant gay acquaintances. In April 1941, he was imprisoned again on suspicion of homosexual activities, and later charged by a court in the town of Eger (today Cheb in the Czech Republic), following a new trial. In June 1942, instead of being released at the end of his second prison term, he was remanded in "Schutzhaft", or protective custody, the first measure leading to his deportation to a KL (Konzentrationslager).
Brazda was deported to the Buchenwald concentration camp on August 8, 1942, and remained there until its liberation, on April 11, 1945. He was prisoner number 7952 and started with forced labour at the stone quarry, prior to being posted to a lighter task in the quarry's infirmary. Several months later, he joined the roofers unit, part of the "Bauhof" kommando, in charge of maintaining the numerous buildings that constituted the camp (dormitories, barracks, administrative buildings, armament factories, etc.). On many occasions, Brazda was a witness of Nazi cruelty towards homosexuals as well as other detainees, aware of the fate awaiting a lot of them at the camp's revier: it was not uncommon for sick prisoners or cripples to be executed by lethal injection at the sick bay.
With the help of a kapo who hid him in the early days of April 1945, shortly before the camp's evacuation, Brazda was able to avoid being sent away with thousands of prisoners. These forced evacuation measures turned into death marches for nearly half of them, who were shot on the spot if they were too weak to sustain the pace.
Within the roofers' kommando, Brazda had been able to make friends with other deportees, mostly communists, and in particular with Fernand, a Frenchman from Mulhouse, in the Alsace province. After the camp's liberation, instead of returning to his place of birth and his family who had stayed in Germany, Brazda decided to follow the Frenchman to the latter's home country. Fernand had been deported on political grounds, having been involved in the International Brigades and fought between 1936 and 1938 in the Spanish Civil War. In May 1945, both eventually arrived in Mulhouse, shortly after VE Day. Brazda soon found employment again, still as a roofer.
Brazda decided to settle in southern Alsace and started visiting local gay cruising grounds, noticeably the Steinbach public garden where Pierre Seel, another homosexual deportee, had been identified by the French police shortly before the outbreak of World War II.
In the early 1950s, at a costume ball, Brazda met Edouard "Edi" Mayer, who became his life companion. In the early 1960s, they moved into a house they built in the suburbs of Mulhouse, where Brazda resided until not long before his death. He tended to Edi for over 30 years after Edi was crippled by a severe work accident, until his death in 2003.
In spite of old age, he remained a keen observer and follower of the news. Thus, in 2008, when he heard on German TV of the impending unveiling of a memorial to homosexual victims of Nazism in Berlin, he decided to make himself known. Although he was not present at the monument's inauguration on May 27, 2008, an invitation was extended to him to attend a ceremony a month later, on the morning of the Berlin CSD gay pride march. Brazda subsequently was invited to attend a number of gay events, including Europride Zurich in 2009 and some smaller scaled events in France, Switzerland and Germany.
In 2010, Rudolf Brazda took part in Mulhouse in the unveiling of a plaque in memory of Pierre Seel and others who were deported because of their homosexuality and was a guest of honour at a remembrance ceremony at Buchenwald.
On Saturday, September 25, 2010, Brazda was symbolically present on the site of the former Natzweiler-Struthof concentration camp on the occasion of a plaque unveiling ceremony. The plaque reads, "In Memory of the Victims of Nazi Barbarity, Deported Because of Their Homosexuality."
In 2010, Brazda also received the gold medals of the cities of Toulouse and Nancy in recognition of his commitment to bear witness locally and nationally in France. Brazda was determined to continue speaking out about his past, in the hope that younger generations remain vigilant in the face of present day behaviour and thought patterns similar to those which led to the persecutions endured by homosexuals during the Nazi era.
In recognition of his numerous contributions to public debates, media interviews and research articles, nationally and internationally, not least his involvement in a citizens group promoting awareness of homosexual deportation in France, Brazda was appointed Knight in the National order of the Legion of Honour, in the 2011 Easter honours list. He received his Knight insigna four days later from Marie-José Chombart de Lauwe, president of the French Foundation for the Remembrance of Deportation, in Puteaux (the city whose gold medal he also received on that occasion), in the presence, among others, of Raymond Aubrac, a well-known French Resistance figure.
Brazda supported research work by the French citizens group Les « Oublié(e)s » de la Mémoire who made him an honorary member on October 3, 2008.
His original biography, Itinéraire d'un Triangle rose (A Pink Triangle's life journey; currently available in French, Portuguese, Spanish and Czech) is the only book he personally verified and authorised. It is the testimony of the likely last survivor of those men who were marked by a pink triangle and shows how Nazi repression of homosexuality directly impacted his life path. For the first time a book discloses the details of minute police investigations led to convict him and other homosexuals who had come under scrutiny. It also deals with issues such a human sexuality in concentration camps.
A German-language biography of Brazda also has been published: "Das Glück kam immer zu mir": Rudolf Brazda—Das Überleben eines Homosexuellen im Dritten Reich by Alexander Zinn (Campus Verlag, 2011). The book is currently available only in the original language.
Brazda died on August 3, 2011, at the age of 98, at Les Molènes, an assisted living facility in the town of Bantzenheim in northeastern France. His death was first announced by Yagg.com, a French gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender news and online community site, quoting his French biographer and last will's executor. Brazda's funeral was held on August 8, 2011, in Mulhouse, France. After a remembrance service attended by approximately 40 people, his body was cremated, and his ashes interred alongside those of his late partner Edouard Mayer, in the Cemetery of Mulhouse.
Immediately following Rudolf Brazda's death, numerous organizations and officials in France paid tribute to his memory. Among those releasing statements were Marc Laffineur, secretary of state for the Ministry of Defense and Veterans Affairs; the Socialist Party (France); Ian Brossat, president of the French Communist Party/Left Party (France) caucus of the Paris City Council; Jean-Luc Romero, president of Elus Locaux Contre le Sida (Local Elected Officials Against AIDS); the AIDS activist organization ACT UP–Paris; Les Oubli-é-es de la Mémoire; and the Mémorial de la Déportation Homosexuelle, a national French association that commemorates the homosexual victims of Nazi persecution.
Obituaries of Rudolf Brazda appeared in publications and on websites worldwide. English-language obituaries based on original reporting and analysis were published by the Associated Press (United States); Czech Position (Prague); the Los Angeles Times; The New York Times; RFI (France); The Telegraph ; The Independent (London); UPI (United States); and numerous other media outlets.
On September 28, 2011, a national tribute ceremony to Rudolf was organised by Les « Oublié(e)s » de la Mémoire and patroned by Mr. Marc Laffineur, Secretary of State for Defence and Veterans. It was held at Saint-Roch's Church, Paris, which houses a memorial chapel to victims of Deportation. Officials, diplomacy representatives, as well as militants and association representatives were in attendance. It was yet another opportunity to recall that in the last three years of his life, Rudolf had become a unique witness, and that remembering homosexual deportation today remains essential in the struggle against discriminations.
Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time by Elisa Rolle
Paperback: 760 pages
Publisher: CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform; 1 edition (July 1, 2014)
Amazon: Days of Love: Celebrating LGBT History One Story at a Time
Days of Love chronicles more than 700 LGBT couples throughout history, spanning 2000 years from Alexander the Great to the most recent winner of a Lambda Literary Award. Many of the contemporary couples share their stories on how they met and fell in love, as well as photos from when they married or of their families. Included are professional portraits by Robert Giard and Stathis Orphanos, paintings by John Singer Sargent and Giovanni Boldini, and photographs by Frances Benjamin Johnson, Arnold Genthe, and Carl Van Vechten among others. “It's wonderful. Laying it out chronologically is inspired, offering a solid GLBT history. I kept learning things. I love the decision to include couples broken by death. It makes clear how important love is, as well as showing what people have been through. The layout and photos look terrific.” Christopher Bram “I couldn’t resist clicking through every page. I never realized the scope of the book would cover centuries! I know that it will be hugely validating to young, newly-emerging LGBT kids and be reassured that they really can have a secure, respected place in the world as their futures unfold.” Howard Cruse “This international history-and-photo book, featuring 100s of detailed bios of some of the most forward-moving gay persons in history, is sure to be one of those bestsellers that gay folk will enjoy for years to come as reference and research that is filled with facts and fun.” Jack Fritscher
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