lunes, 20 de octubre de 2014

The Pink Triangle and the BA connection

The British Cemetery at the Chacarita cemetery in Buenos Aires holds the tombstone of a man named Carl Peter Vaernet. The name alone does not catch the attention of visitors, but truth is Vaernet was a notorious SS doctor of Danish origin who, in 1942, joined the Nazi ranks as a scientists conducting experiments leading to a long-sought Nazi dream: eternal youth.

But Vaernet’s biological experiments soon led to hormone treatment for the “cure” of another “illness” threatening the very existence of a pure German race: the existence of homosexual men who would not hold the heterosexual pattern of reproduction. This is where Vaernet extreme theories, never proved but tried on homosexual prisoners at Nazi concentration camps and who bore the infamous Pink Triangle mark as a sign of their “deviant” sexual orientation, began to take shape in the form of monstruous procedures — biological and surgical — to “cure” homosexuality and reorient the patients toward “normal” heterosexual behaviour.
Although the history of the Nazi holocaust perpetrated against Jews until their annihilation to attain a “pure” Arian race is well documented and rightly brought to the present through memorials and history books, articles and movies, very little is actually known about the fate of homosexual victims of the Nazi holocaust, imprisoned and segregated from the rest of prisoners just on account of their “abnormal” sexual orientation, drive and behaviour.
When commenting on Nazi biological experiments with purification and the supposed eventual triumph and predominance of the superior Arian race, the name of the infamous Dr. Joseph Mengele, who, like many other Nazis, fled to secure, protective havens in South America, immediately comes to mind. With the protection of a network of former SS members, Mengele sailed to Argentine in 1949, living in and around Buenos Aires and eventually fleeing to Paraguay in 1959 and Brazil in 1960. Sought by West German, Israeli and Nazi hunters such as Simon Wiesenthal, Mengele eluded justice until his accidental death while swimming off the Brazilian coast in 1979.
Less known but equally prominent in the SS quest for a perfect arian race is Vaernet, a physicist of Danish origin who claimed to be able to bring a “solution” to the Nazi preoccupation with the “high percentage” of male homosexuals in the German population. The solution to the homosexual was not extermination but rather finding a cure for this “illness” so that reproduction and the triumph of the perfect race could be achieved.
In the Nuremberg trials conducted between 1945 and 1949 prosecuting the perpetrators of the Nazi horrors, including high-ranking military officers, doctors, lawyers, and industrialists indicted on charges of crimes against peace and against humanity, no mention was made of crimes against homosexuals. According to Nuremberg records, many of the known SS doctors, who had performed biological and surgical procedures on homosexual prisoners, were never brought to account for their heinous actions. Moreover, homosexuals, clearly victims of human rights violations, continued to be incarcerated for their sexual conduct, which was considered illegal and liable to criminal prosecution, and were not mentioned as “Pink Triangle” inmates at the Buchenwald and Neuengamme camps. Vaernet, one of the most notorious physicians to blame for masterminding and performing such experiments, was never tried for his crimes and escaped to South America thanks to a political safeconduct.
Continuing his “homosexual cure” for homosexual conversion to heterosexuality in the posh BA neighbourhood of Palermo, Vaernet practiced for some 20 years before his death as a free man in 1965.
Already shown in the city of Rosario and other venues, El Triángulo Rosa — Y la cura Nazi para la Homosexualidad was formatted as the story of an investigator who unearths the Health Ministry’s contract to conduct research, the results of which remain unsolved to this day. The film unveils the PI’s search for traces of Vaernet’s life and work in Buenos Aires, making an effort to understand his personality and all the while exploring the public opinion and diverse political moves restricting or handling homosexuality over the last 100 years, based on the expose revealed in the book Carl Vaernet: Der Dänische SS-Artz Im Kz Buchenwald, by H Davidsen-Nielsen; N Hoiby; N Danielsen; J Rubin; et al.
As the PI investigates the real-case stories of Argentine patients taken to Vaernet’s office for cure through his hormone injection method, the documentary unexpectedly wraps up with a direct reference to the historic approval of the same-sex marriage bill in Argentina, which set a precedent for other countries where the LGBT community seeks egalitarian treament of their rights.
“You don’t always go searching around for stories, sometimes they come to you,” says co-director Nacho Steinberg. “In this case, I was always interested in the subject of WWII. I was never able to understand nor accept such a disaster, so much human imbecility at the service of weapons, conquest and hegemonic madness. The dead, the genocide, the lack of sense (of it all) hurt. After dealing with Holocaust in a stage plays, a historian friend, moved by the piece, suggested that I write a story about Carl Vaernet, the Danish doctor who sought refuge in Argentina,” Steinberg continues. “It was a revelatory story, unknown, concealed and that eventually did not come to prominence because, until very recently, the world shared this notion that homosexuality is an illness.