Pierre Seel. Unless you listen faithfully to NPR, you’ve probably never heard the name. I had no idea who he is until I heard that he died the last week of November (2005). He was, so NPR reported, the last survivor of Nazi concentration camps who was imprisoned as a suspected homosexual. Nazi enforcement of an exisiting German law known as Paragraph 175 allowed many thousands of homosexual men and women to be rounded up, imprisoned, and subjected to the litany of Nazi atrocities we are all too familiar with.
The NPR piece interviewed filmmaker Rob Epstein who recorded the story of Seel and others like him in a documentary named for the infamous law, Paragraph 175. In the interview, we hear an excerpt from the film in which Seel becomes upset at having to recall not only what was done to him (e.g. being brutally raped with a wooden board), but also to his friends (one of whom was attacked by Nazi guard dogs and essentially eaten alive).
I have always been moved and motivated in my life and work by the fundamental notion of Genesis that every human person is created “in the image and likeness of God.” The human dignity that comes from this belief is behind many, if not most, of the life choices I’ve made.
Hearing the story of Pierre Seel reminded me once again how often that dignity is assaulted. Perhaps the thoughts and ideas recorded here can speak an occasional word that enhances that dignity, echoing in our own day the ideas of that ancient text and the reality they espoused. Hence the blog… and the name of the blog.