Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals and People with Disabilities During WWII: Background information when reading The Quiet Twin

Summary |  Excerpt |  Reading Guide |  Reviews |  Beyond the Book |  Readalikes |  Genres & Themes |  Author Bio

The Quiet Twin

A Novel

by Dan Vyleta

The Quiet Twin by Dan Vyleta
  • Critics' Opinion:

    Readers' Opinion:

     Not Yet Rated
  • Paperback:
    Feb 2012, 384 pages

  • Rate this book

Book Reviewed by:
Mark James

Buy This Book

About this Book

Beyond the Book:
Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals and People with Disabilities During WWII

Print Review

In 1938, the Nazis annexed Austria in what is known as the Anschluss, the "link-up" or "union". In their pursuit of a "pure" Aryan master race, they immediately began arresting anyone of difference or who might oppose them, especially Jews. According to the Vienna City Administration website, Nazi-incited pogroms in November 1938 essentially obliterated Jewish culture in Vienna.

When Dan Vyleta's The Quiet Twin begins, most of Vienna's Jews had already been deported or had fled. In one scene, he leads the reader through an abandoned house; the Jewish owners had "left... gone since winter." The edifice is an apocalyptic urbanscape with "broken windows and shattered light bulbs, angry slogans scrawled across the floor." The main character, Dr. Beer, remembers that the neighbors were the "same people who had witnessed the windows being smashed and the symbols being daubed, and done nothing about it. People like him." The vandalism and fire leave their mark on the vacant building, and the epiphany of his complicity leaves its mark on his psyche.

Schönbrunn Psychiatric Hospital, 1934 In the story, Vyleta explores the lesser-known persecution of people with disabilities and homosexuals during WWII and populates his story with a variety of characters who do not fit the Nazi definition of purity. In accordance with Hitler's "Final Solution" plan, people with disabilities were targeted as part of a public health policy that sought to exclude "hereditarily unfit" people from society. The Law for the Prevention of Progeny with Hereditary Diseases in 1933 stated that medical personnel were required to report on infants less than 3 years old who exhibited "signs of severe mental or physical disability." Methods of ethnic cleansing ranged from forced sterilization to a euthanasia program code-named "T-4" for the address of the program's headquarters in Berlin, Tiergartenstrasse 4.

Nazi prisoner identification chart Homosexuals were also targeted and, as described in The Quiet Twin, went to great lengths to hide their "impure" lifestyle for fear of reprisal. Oppression of homosexuals in Germany was nothing new. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum website, "Under Paragraph 175 of the criminal code, male homosexuality was illegal in Germany. The Nazis arrested an estimated 100,000 homosexual men, 50,000 of whom were imprisoned." The homophobic Führer believed that homosexuals "carried a 'degeneracy' that threatened the 'disciplined masculinity' of Germany." They were denounced as "antisocial parasites" and as "enemies of the state." Many were institutionalized in mental hospitals or were castrated, and that's if they managed to avoid being sent to concentration camps. Prisoners were forced to wear pink triangle badges and "according to many survivor accounts, were among the most abused groups in the camps."

Lesbians did not suffer quite the same fate. "Although homosexual acts among men had traditionally been a criminal offense throughout much of Germany, lesbianism... was not criminalized. This was true in large part because of the subordinate role of women in German state and society. Unlike male homosexuals, lesbians were not generally regarded as a social or political threat... the Nazis dismissed lesbianism as a state and social problem because they believed lesbians could still carry out a German woman's primary role: to be a mother of as many 'Aryan' babies as possible."

For more information about the many groups of people who were persecuted by Nazis during WWII, please visit the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum website.

Top image: Schönbrunn Psychiatric Hospital, 1934. Photo by SS photographer Franz Bauer
Bottom image: a chart, circa 1938 - 1942, of prisoner markings used in German concentration camps. The 5th column from the left was for homosexuals.

Article by Mark James

This article is from the March 14, 2012 issue of BookBrowse Recommends. Click here to go to this issue.

This article is available to non-members for a limited time. You can also read these articles for free. For full access become a member today.

Membership Advantages
  • Reviews
  • "Beyond the Book" backstories
  • Free books to read and review (US only)
  • Find books by time period, setting & theme
  • Read-alike suggestions by book and author
  • Book club discussions
  • and much more!
  • Just $10 for 3 months or $35 for a year
  • More about membership!

One-Month Free Membership

Discover your next great read here

Join Today!

Editor's Choice

  • Book Jacket: The Rules of Magic
    The Rules of Magic
    by Alice Hoffman
    Alice Hoffman's Rules of Magic is the long-awaited prequel to one of her most cherished novels,...
  • Book Jacket: Good Me Bad Me
    Good Me Bad Me
    by Ali Land
    Is a psychopath born or made? This is the terrifying question that author Ali Land explores in her ...
  • Book Jacket: Five-Carat Soul
    Five-Carat Soul
    by James McBride
    In the short story "Sonny's Blues," from the 1965 collection Going to Meet the Man, African-...

Book Discussion
Book Jacket
Being Mortal by Atul Gawande

An eye-opening and riveting look at how how medicine can not only improve life but also the process of its ending.

About the book
Join the discussion!

First Impressions

  • Book Jacket

    Seven Days of Us
    by Francesca Hornak

    A warm, wry debut novel about a family forced to spend a week together over the holidays.
    Reader Reviews

Win this book!
Win The Wisdom of Sundays

The Wisdom of Sundays
by Oprah Winfrey

Life-changing insights from super soul conversations.


Word Play

Solve this clue:

A Good M I H T F

and be entered to win..

Books that     

 & enlighten

Visitors can view some of BookBrowse for free. Full access is for members only.

Join Today!

Your guide toexceptional          books

BookBrowse seeks out and recommends books that we believe to be best in class. Books that will whisk you to faraway places and times, that will expand your mind and challenge you -- the kinds of books you just can't wait to tell your friends about.