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14 June 2018

A Memoir of Nazi Terror

I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual is the poignant account of surviving Nazi torture, humiliation and one man's quest for freedom and liberation.

If you have not heard of the Schirmeck-Vorbrück concentration camp you are likely not alone. The camp, located in the Alsace region of France, bordering Germany,  was operated by the Nazi regime from 1940 to 1944. This region was annexed to Nazi Germany and the camp was initially established primarily for victims of Nazi persecution from the Alsace and Mosel regions.

Like many camps in the Nazi concentration camp network however, it served multiple functions. At various times it functioned as a transit camp for prisoners before being deported onward to concentration or death camps, an interrogation centre for men and women in resistance movements, and as well as a prison camp.  Among its inmates were Jews, Poles, homosexuals, and German political dissidents.

Pierre Seel was one prisoner sent to the Schirmeck-Vorbrück concentration camp. He is pictured in a 1996 photograph by Felix Görner on the left, courtesy of HOSI-Zentrum in Austria. At the age of 17, Seel was arrested under Paragraph 175, imprisoned and sent to the concentration camp. He wrote about his experiences in a deeply personal and at times melancholy memoir I Pierre Seel, Deporterd Homosexual. It first appeared in the French language in 1995, and the English translation followed a year later. It broke new ground as one of the first memoirs that recounted the personal experiences of a someone being imprisoned under Paragraph 175 and living to write about it.

Seel’s memoir is slight, less than 200 pages. His rich and detailed descriptions invite the reader to discover a part of the Nazi concentration camp system that remains unfamiliar to so many. Seel was also one of the first gay men to come forward and break the silence that surrounded the Nazi persecution of homosexuals. As Pierre Seel says, ” If I do not speak, I will become the accomplice of my torturers.” Seel died in 2005 in Toulouse, France.  For more information on his life and activities, the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust in the UK has developed a detailed profile page  that pays tribute to him. Reading this memoir and sharing his experiences is another way to ensure that he, and that all homosexuals persecuted during the Nazi regime, are not forgotten.

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Carson Phillips, Ph.D.

Written byCarson Phillips, Ph.D.

Carson Phillips holds a Ph.D. in Humanities from York University, Toronto, Canada and is Managing Director of the Neuberger Holocaust Education Centre. He served as a Canadian delegate to the International Holocaust Remembrance Alliance from 2009-2014 and currently continues as an advisor to the Funding Review Committee. In addition, he is an adjunct faculty member in Holocaust and Genocide Studies at Gratz College, USA.

He is the recipient of numerous scholarly awards including the 2013 BMW Canada Award for Excellence from the Canadian Centre for German and European Studies. His research interests focus on post-Holocaust conceptualisations of gender, Väterliteratur and cultural representations of the Holocaust in screen and visual culture.