jeudi, juin 10, 2004

Down in the park

Today, our prime minister Raffarin is visiting Oradour-sur-Glane, with a delegation of Alsatians, 60 years after the massacre of 642 civils by the SS division "das Reich" (10th june 1944). 14 young Alsatians belonged to this division. Due to a 1942 german law, every Alsatian born between 1920 and 1924 was enlisted; the 130 000 Alsatians who were forced to enter the Wehrmacht were called after the war, "Malgre-Nous". Many of them died on the russian front, or in the russian camp of Tambov. 10 000 of them escaped.

I have met and interviewed one "Malgre-Nous", Pierre Seel, in march 2001. He was an old gay man, a sexual habit which wasn't a nazi ideal. Seel was the son of a famous baker in the city of Mulhouse. In the same park where I first kissed my girlfriend, square Steinbach, he had his watch stolen, a few months before WWII. He went to the police station and was immediately suspected of being gay. He was 16 years old.

This park was at this time, the meeting place for the gay crowd, indeed. The zealous french officer was doing a list of every suspected gay man in Mulhouse. This list was a free gift for the nazis, when they started to command the city in 1939.

The young Pierre Seel was arrested and questioned for hours, repeatedly, and then tortured during 13 days and 13 nights. The nazis sent him to the alsatian camp of Shirmeck. In this camp, he witnessed the assassination of his boyfriend, Jo. He was put a bucket on his head, and the SS released their trained dogs, who teared him up to death.

Pierre Seel wrote a book about his life. About the difficulties of being recognized as a victim of the nazi persecutions against the gay people, after the war. A book about his private difficulties. He tried to become straight after the war, getting married, having children... Then getting divorced and going back to his real self. I will listen again to the interview I did with him on a tape recorder, 3 years ago, and put it here.

- Were you more feminine than the other boys at school?

- When I was studying at "L'Ecole des Freres" in Mulhouse, there was sort of a distrust towards me. As I say in my book, my classmates put dead birds in my stand, so that my screams drew punishments towards me. I couldn't adopt the boyish "football" mentality, that was impossible.
Hopefully, I had a young friend who was like me.

- Do you think that the nazis wanted to make a "real man" of you by sending you to the war?

- When they sent me to the Shirmeck camp, it was a punishment. They wanted to cure my homosexuality. Hitler wrote that his best wish was to create "a man for the war". But war doesn't make a man of you. I was in Russia and Poland: war showed me things that I shouldn't have seen, ever. I am still having nightmares. War puts men in front of corpses and unbearable distresses. When you're coming back, you're mentally broken and physically sick.

These sufferings had a sexual consequence: the proximity of death killed all desire. I experienced it during my war years: I didn't have sex at all, I didn't want to. I was feeling no attraction towards my companions. I had no hard-on on the front. Nevertheless, I was surrounded by beautiful young soldiers. I have never been surrounded by so many beautiful boys since the war. I have to add that it was impossible to get rid of the group. My catholic faith was my only help during these years. Faith changed me, more than war did.