Monday, August 20, 2012

Rue Pierre Seel

Pierre Seel was born on August 16th, 1923.  In 2000 he was one of the principle interviewees for our documentary Paragraph 175, about the especially heinous persecution of gays by the Nazi's during the second World War.  In memory of his persecution and brave public service speaking out about it after, The Box Turtle Bulletin has honored Seel with an article about his life, paraphrased below.  The full article can be found on their website.

In France in 1923 local police added Seel's name to a list of gay men they were maintaining, and when the Germans invaded in 1940, that list fell into Gestapo hands. Seel was picked up in 1941, was beaten, had his fingernails pulled out, and raped with broken rulers. Two weeks later, he was sent to the Schirmeck-Vorbrück camp near Strasbourg, where the beatings, tortures and rapes continued.  After six months of starvation, torture and forced labor, Seel was set free without an explanation.

He took his family’s advice and went deeply underground about his sexuality, and married in 1950. The marriage was a difficult one, and it finally fell apart in 1978.  In 1979, Seel happened to attend a debate in a bookstore for the launch of the French edition of Heinz Heger’s book, The Men with the Pink Triangle, referring to the badge the Nazi's used to label homosexual prisoners.  Seel became an advocate for the recognition of gay victims of the Nazis and in 1994, Seel published his own memoir, I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual. In 2000, he appeared in our documentary Paragraph 175. When the documentary premiered at the Berlin Film Festival, Seel traveled to Germany for the first time since the war and received a five-minute standing ovation.

Seel received official recognition as a victim of the Holocaust in 2003, and in 2008, three years after his death in Toulouse, his adopted city, they renamed a street in his honor. The plaque reads, “Rue Pierre Seel – Déporté Français pour homosexualité – 1923-2005″.

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