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March 7th

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Josef Kohout

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Name Josef Kohout - (see also Heinz F.)
Date of Birth 1917 Place of Birth Vienna, Austria
1939 - 1945: Josef Kohout, prisoner No. 1896, Block 6, at the Flossenburg concentration camp in Bavaria, near the Czech border. At the age of 22, he was arrested in Vienna as a homosexual outlaw after the Gestapo obtained a photograph he had inscribed to another young man pledging "eternal love." A letter dated December 28, 1943 from the Commandant of Flossenburg confirms that Kohout is imprisoned in Block 6, Nr 1869; on April 24, 1945, Kohout was ordered on a death march to Dachau. The march ended in Cham, where Kohout was liberated by American troops.

Together with Mr. Kohout's journal and the letters his parents wrote to the camp commander in a fruitless effort to visit him, the badge has been given to the museum by Mr. Kohout's companion.

One of the first men to break his silence was the anonymous "Prisoner X. Y.," who furnished a vividly detailed account of life as a homosexual inmate in the 1972 book, "The Men With the Pink Triangle," by Heinz Heger, which was reissued last year by Alyson Publications.

By a coincidence that still astonishes him, Dr. Muller said, Prisoner X. Y.--"the best documented homosexual inmate of a camp"--turned out to be Mr. Kohout.

After his arrest in 1939, Mr. Kohout was taken to the Sachsenhausen camp and served at the Klinker brickworks, which he called "the 'Auschwitz' for homosexuals." Prisoners who were not beaten to death could easily be killed by heavy carts barreling down the steep incline of the clay pits.

In 1940, he was transferred to Flossenbug. On Christmas Eve 1941 inmates were made to sing carols in front at a 30-foot-high Christmas tree on the parade ground. Flanking it were gallows from which eight Russian prisoners had been hanging since morning. "Whenever I hear a carol sung--no matter how beautifully-- I remember the Christmas tree at Flossenburg with its grisly 'decorations,' " he wrote.

Mr. Kohout died in March 1994. A month later, in an apartment in Vienna, his surviving companion submitted to an interview by Dr. Muller, who had tracked him down through a gay group in Austria and pressed him for more and more information.

As Dr. Muller recalled it, the companion finally said: "If you're so interested in all these details, I have some material in two boxes and, honestly, I didn't have the strength to go through it because I'm still struggling with his death. But if you want to, we could look at these."

The first thing the companion unpacked was Mr. Kohout's pink triangle badge. The first thing Dr. Muller thought was, "This is impossible."

"We had searched for a pink triangle for years," he said, "one that would not only document the Nazi marking system but also could be reconstructed as a part of one individual story."

The triangle itself is still in storage, but part of Mr. Kohout's journal is now on display at the museum. It is the page on which he wrote simply of his liberators' arrival on April 24, 1945: "Amerikaner gekommen."

Notes Excerpts from: Personalizing Nazis' Homosexual Victims, By David W. Dunlap
(from the New York Times, June 26, 1995)

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