In March 1933 while Isherwood was still enjoying life with his teenage Heinz in the Schöneberg neighborhood of Berlin, the Nazis opened a concentration camp for political prisoners just across the street from the pretty houses of the Oranienburg suburb. What exactly do the words "political prisoners" conjure for you? Here's how it started around Oranienburg. In their first local election the Nazis won five of twenty-five seats. After the next election they had thirteen seats of twenty-five, and with their new majority they voted to imprison the other twelve councilmen who weren't Nazis. Those people were their lifelong neighbors, their classmates, their colleagues. Then they disappeared simply for being from another party.
Throughout Sachsenhausen the many displays written in German and English include statistics and profiles of gay people imprisoned and murdered at the camp. One feature discusses a ballet dancer named Fritz Heilscher who was jailed, released, and expelled from his union the Association of Artists for being gay. Unable to dance, he took a job in a shoe shop, was arrested again for being gay, jailed again, transferred to this camp, and murdered. Roughly 1,000 lgbt people were killed here, of approximately 50,000 lgbt people murdered in all the camps. That's almost the same number of Americans that were killed in Vietnam.
Walking the grounds, a woman pushing a wheelchair stopped to ask us directions in German. My sister spoke with her. The man in the wheelchair had been imprisoned at the camp by both the Nazis during the war and by the Russians after the war. This is the same fate that befell gay survivors of the camps. While others were liberated, gay prisoners had to finish out their sentences in jail, as decided by the British and American officials newly in charge.
Another telling post-War detail is below.