Sunday, August 7, 2011

A man who was supposed not to exist, Rudolf Brazda, 1913-2011

for Franck

   Rudolf Brazda, a native of Germany of Czech descent, died this past Wednesday in Alsace, at present a part of France. The fact of his existing at all, came to light only by his self-identification to German officials in 1998, on the occasion of the dedication of a national monument in Berlin. At his death, confirmed this past week by numerous agencies of historical record-keeping, it is thought that the life of the last person who was interned in German custody under Section 175 of the Reichsgesetzblatt, an amendment to the national penal code adopted by the German parliament on the 28th of June, 1935, has passed into the reliable hands of historians.

  Having studied such hands, I am not content to accept this escheat. The parliament which was supposed to protect him, did not; the institutions set up to guard him, did their job miserably; the entities purporting to know of him were oblivious to his existence; and the profession charged now with his memory is, itself, testimony to society's chronic distaste for remembering anything of its actual self. 

   Why is it necessary today, to print in a blog Crèvecoeur's own witness to the barbaric murder of a slave in the American South, while not 15 minutes from this residence there stands a repulsive monument in front of the County courthouse urging the persistence of a "cause" built on captivity, torture, and frivolous execution; where capital punishment is practiced at the most rapid pace per capita in this union, humiliating even Texas in its carnage?

   Section 175 was adopted to codify as national policy, those ad hoc repressions which were considerably more widespread in Germany than fanciers of Weimar mythology have led us to suppose. It provided for the detention of gay men, not lesbians, to eliminate their ostensible threat to the institution of the family, and joined several amendments dating from 1933, which touched upon marriage and the rights of persons of Jewish descent. This Section was revoked entirely by the German parliament only in 1994, upon reunification with the more secular East.

   Taken together, these statutes in defense of marriage are simply broader in their reach and more elaborate in their constraint, than the policies promoted so actively today in the United States by Michelle Bachmann. These laws were instituted less to repress behaviour of persons - which their authors know to be irrepressible - than to assert the sovereignty of ideology over all of their liberties. In this respect, Ms Bachmann's program of governing domestic sexuality from Washington, DC is indistinguishable from the most infamous legislation in human history.

   In propounding that legislation, the German minority movement which finally achieved it after only 10 years of agitation, did so on the basis of restoring security to the people. With the right lie, the German minority found, you can get the co-operation of the Church, to furnish the necessary majority. In Michelle Bachmann's movement, too, terror is cultivated as an asset, and her appeal is fed by waving her ersatz Baby Jesus doll, with that exact zeal for intimidation which any assertion of falsehood requires. You want war, you want repression, you need a lie of ideological coherency. Hers is that humanity is a threat to her toy, and through it, the safety of all babies. Yet in her movement's persistent denial of the legitimacy of resistance and indeed, of any fact conducive to it, a restoration of the people's security is openly demanded and promised. Her credentials as a threat to the safety of babies are impeccable, and I urge readers to grant her the recognition she deserves.  

   From the point of view of this page, there is nothing about Mr Brazda's passing which marks the slightest change, so long as a minority movement can dominate the will and the acts of a republican people through their own representation, whether or not the hysteria they propagate relies on recitals of homophobia. Mr Brazda's ordeal under the protections of his nation has been documented, as has the resiliency and pride of his indomitable spirit. Those facts - themselves, virtues, reviled in the big lie of Michelle Bachmann - have honourably been preserved, and their implications recalled at the leading human rights page in our Context, Another Country. 

   With the United States being subjected now to the politics which undid the German republic in the 1930s, no wonder gay men stand again as the jugular of authoritarian opportunism. No wonder Christianity is being twisted again as the yoke of fascism. Yet if anyone believes Ms Bachmann will be satisfied merely to control sexuality of interest to a disposable few, let him consult her financial statement. I mourn the suffering and passing of Rudolf Brazda. But plainly, history is too remote a place for him.




Hector St John Crèvecoeur
Letters from an 
  American Farmer
op. cit.

Peter Longerich
  The Nazi Persecution ..
op. cit.


  1. Susan told me about this man. Yesterday. The obituary in The New York Times. I read it this morning. I had no idea. How unbelievable.

  2. Very believable, however, yes? Possibly, you mean his survival? Click on "another country" in the sidebar and read about his arrival at Oranienburg. Ms Bachmann boards her bus with Pawlenty and Santorum on Tuesday; possibly some one from the press will ask her what we should expect next from her, if she gets her amendments to the Minnesota and US Constitutions. You understand (I know you do) that when repression fails, it's always try, try again. It isn't enthusiasm alone that drives it, but frustration and the need to preserve control. Again, I know you know.

  3. Bruce: if you're not familiar with the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, you may want to take the time to read this:

    Laurent: thank you for the undeserved praise.

  4. As an extension of your discussion of mid-20th century Germany:

    I just discovered what an education in the German language would have taught me long ago- ersatzbrot was bread served by Nazis to American and British POWs as well as those in labor and death camps. It consisted of inferior grade flour, potato starch and extenders like sawdust.

    Your use of 'ersatz' to describe promises made by Ms Bachman is very appropriate, I think. It seems that just about any plank in her platform offends historians and economists in the same way that ersatzbrot would offend Daniel Boulud or any baker of bread.

  5. AC, I'm pretty sure Bruce is nicely up to speed on that information; I'm guessing the "didn't know" had to do with Brazda's long-term survival. Thank you for the reference, however, on behalf of all of us. Finally, I shouldn't worry too much about one's praise; there's no tax on it! :)

  6. JA, the care and feeding of the considerable populations at the facilities you reference was actually quite closely worked out in Berlin, down to the last permissible calorie, and naturally varied on a sliding scale, according to the exigencies of State policy and simultaneous needs of war - a kind of voucher set-up which any House Budget Committee Chairman might favour, assuming his name to be Ryan, for allocating the spoils of his Party's theft of the nation's wealth, to those to whom the State is bound by law to disperse it. But I stray. My use of the term, ersatz, had to do specifically with the lady's frame of reference, more than with her promises. She has fashioned a quite marvelously original voodoo doll and given it the name of our Saviour, for lack - who can doubt it - of any appellation of higher recognition. This doesn't make her creature any less genuine, just less legitimate. At least it marks her out as someone of so little dread of Judgment, that her revulsion with Mercy is self-explanatory.