Henny Schermann was born on February 19, 1912 in Frankfurt am Main, Germany. She worked as a shop assistant in her home town. When Hitler came to power in the late 1930s, undesirable” groups, including Jews, Roma (Gypsies), homosexuals, the handicapped, and left-wing politicians were targeted for extermination. Henny would perish in Revensbruck Women’s Concentration camp in 1942.
To begin the process of extermination, Himmler started the construction of a women’s concentration camp in 1938, a year before World War II began. it was located about 90 km (56 miles) north of Berlin in a small village of Revensbruck. It is estimated that between the beginning of the war in 1939 and its end in 1945 over 130,000 female prisoners passed through the Ravensbruck camp system; around 40,000 were Polish and 26,000 were Jewish. It is hard to determine how many women survived, but figures are estimated to be between 15,000 and 32,000. If 32,000 survived, then nearly 100,000 women perished, and some of these were children.The first children arrived with their Gypsy or Jewish mothers. Hugh numbers of Polish mothers arrived with their children after the Warsaw Uprising in 1944. With a few exceptions, all these children died of starvation. The largest group of women executed were Polish patriots who were members of the Home Army.
Arrests of Homosexuals:
Henny was twenty-six years of age in 1938, when the Nazis outlawed and closed all lesbian bars, groups and publications. Police were encouraged to raid known lesbian meeting places creating a climate of fear. Citizens were encouraged to reveal the existence of homosexuals as a duty to the State or Fatherland. Many lesbians broke off relationships or met each other in secret. Many gays and lesbians married one another as a shield of safety.
After 1938, as one way of identifying Jews, a Nazi ordinance decreed that “Sara” was to be added in official papers to the first name of all Jewish women. Twenty-four-year-old Henny was working as a shop assistant, and was living with her family in Frankfurt. She refused to add Sara to her other name.
Non-Jewish lesbians did their best to hide or help their Jewish sisters to escape. One lesbian survivor, Annette Eick, was able to escape to England on false papers given to her by a lesbian in a lesbian bar. As a Jew she would have faced certain death in Berlin. Her parents were executed in Auschwitz
The Gestapo took advantage of arresting non-Jewish lesbians by often labelling them as “prostitutes” and then having them work as prostitutes to service German officers running concentration camps. It was thought that heterosexual sex would ‘cure’ them.
Back to Henny Schermann. She was arrested in 1940 in her home town and labeled “licientious lesbian” on her police arrest photo. She was deported to Ravenstock concentration camp, where two years later she was selected for extermination and gassed at the Bemburg psychiatric hospital in 1942. Rest in Peace, Henny.
And History Repeats Itself: The violence goes on…..
I am leaving you with a raped and stabbed South African lesbian. I am symbolically placing her beside her sister, Henny. In between the dash (-)that separates their birth and death, Henny and Eudy lived as proud lesbians. Henny was gassed in 1942, and Eudy was stabbed to death in 2008. That is 66 years later! We will not forget you, our beloved sisters of the Rainbow.