Once the Nazis came to power in Germany in 1933, gay men and to a lesser extent lesbians were among the groups targeted for persecution. Lesbians were not regarded as a threat to Nazi racial policies. From the inception of the Nazi regime in 1933, gay organisations were banned, scholarly and other books about homosexuality were burned, and homosexuals were incarcerated in concentration camps.

Between 1933-1945 an estimated 5,000-15,000 homosexuals were incarcerated in concentration camps. As the Nazis viewed homosexuality as an illness that could be cured, they subjected homosexual prisoners to various forms of humiliation and hard labour. Gay prisoners were identified by pink triangles on their clothing. They suffered unusually cruel treatment in the concentration and labour camps. They faced persecution not only from SS guards, but also from fellow prisoners, and many gay men were beaten to death. They routinely received more gruelling and dangerous work assignments than other non-Jewish inmates, especially after 1942 as part of the policy of ‘annihilation through work’.

It is unclear how many of the 5,000-15,000 eventually perished in the camps. Some scholars have estimated the death rate of homosexuals as high as 60%