Friday, January 6, 2012
I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual by Pierre Seel Review
Pierre Seel was the only openly French man who spoke about his deportation by the Nazis for being homosexual. He died in 2005 of cancer, having lived the last of his life fighting for the recognition of homosexuals as victims of the Nazis.
I've been waiting a long time to read this book after countless study time of the Nazi deportation of homosexuals and seeing Seel in Paragraph 175. I bought this on iTunes for $10, and the ebook barely disappointed (however there were some typos and I couldn't read Seel's file at the end because of it being on my iPod Touch).
In the beginning we get to know Seel's views on homosexuality (he was pro-gay), his life before deportation, about himself and his family. I slowly learned things that many people feel doesn't truly matter about Seel (his love for chocolate eclairs, for example). We don't get to know as much about his friends or family, mainly because he isn't his friends or family. He suppressed his memory, so we will never get to know everything about him from this book. But even with a lack of information, we learn to understand Seel and feel his suffering.
Seel brings you into the society he lived in, extremely homophobic and misogynistic (when he looks back at how the women were treated, you understand the puritan thinking of sex and how the Nazis "valued" women, which he wrote very interestingly. He is just as bitter to be at a Lesbenborn as the walking Norwegian wombs.). Some French words are never explained and you'll have to know a bit of history, but it was very alive in my head. We learn what happened when the Nazis came to Alsace, when he was arrested. Seel had trouble reconciling with his rape, done by a ruler. In Paragraph 175 he said, "My ass still bleeds to this day!" When he was arrested and sent to the Alsace camps, I saw how Seel tried to stay alive. Life became meaningless to him, he just wanted food. He described himself multiple times as a "ghost", both during his time in the camps and after he left. We learn about the camps he stayed in and the awful people like Karl Buck who worked in them. Though he didn't remember everything, Seel got out as much as he could. Like many homosexual Holocaust survivors, he was an outsider to the other prisoners. At multiple times I was almost crying, especially when Jo was recounted.
Jo. That is the name of the only man Pierre Seel ever truly loved in the M/M way. Jo wanted a true relationship back when being gay mainly consisted of anonymous sex on cruising grounds or hiring rent boys. They both developed a thinly described relationship, showing us how Seel truly lost many memories of Jo. Seel recounts being in other relationships, but he felt like he was cheating on Jo, or that he'd never have what he had with Jo. Jo was the ghost that hung in Seel's life, a ghost he never had to be reminded of. Seel missed Jo throughout his life and I could feel his pain, a pain I believe never truly left him. He and Jo may have been enjoying themselves behind fabric in a textile factory, somewhere many people wouldn't want to be making out/doing it (though it is never elaborated what exactly they did back there, I have no idea whether it was sex or just kissing). Yet Seel would have given anything to have been behind that fabric again with Jo, showing how deep Jo really was to him.
Seel's relationship with his mother is just as heartbreaking and close. Many people would have called him a "Mama's Boy" or "Sissy" (not to mention something along the lines of "Faggot"). But Seel had such a close bond it makes me want to slap anyone who calls another boy a "Mama's Boy". Seel told his mother all that happened to him, and she was the first person he truly trusted with his secrets. He'd been outed in such a horrible way that he'd feared telling her. Yet his mother accepted him, unlike many other people he knew. When his mother died I knew another part of Seel's soul was lost.
That being said, Seel began another downwards spiral into depression. He tried marrying and having a family, but the patriarchal norm (obviously) did not help him. He still wished to be with men, but with prejudice and what happened to Jo, it was hopeless. He had trouble connecting with others, bringing his entire family down his spiral with them. Thus when they tried to get up again, he went down even more. His masculinity was threatened and he always feared people knowing he was gay. Seel tried staying with his wife, tried to be the provider of bread, but failed. You watch as the strings sewed between he and his wife by marriage slowly unravel, leaving only pain. Seel tried loving his children, but he had trouble connecting with his daughter and feared showing love to his sons would be seen the wrong way. Seel was a shell of a man for so long, a walking ghost. At one time he nearly went insane, at other times he learned drugs couldn't help him.
It was very hard for Seel to receive recognition of him and the many others who suffered from Nazi and the worlds homophobia. It took him years to be recognized, and years for people to slowly realize homosexuals were victims of the Nazis. I truly understood his passion, the new meaning to his life. He fought hard, and I wish he were still alive today. Goodbye Pierre Seel, I will try to further your mission. You fought hard, even though you never truly recovered from what happened. You introduced me to your world and your life, which included so many things I can't put them all in this review. Unlike many autobiographies, yours is not what I'd immediately call "life-changing" or "inspirational" (though it is life-changing and inspirational). The writing is very cold, and we get to know how you, Pierre Seel, were. There's no changing the past, so I can never stop what happened to you and Jo. Though this wasn't the emotional, "go change the world" autobiography, I know you want to do something great. When you got this published and continued on helping the Nazi victims because of their homosexuality, you lifted a great pain off your chest. You have changed the world forever and you have inspired you. But I also see this was written for you to reconcile with what happened to you, not only for all the readers. I wish you to rest in peace with Jo. You, Pierre Seel, are a hero. I will help make sure you are remembered.
I could not recommend this book more. There are many things I believe you should read for yourself and share. This will make you rethink life and what happens in it. It makes you realize we need eradicate the homophobic, patriarchal thinking of groups like the Nazis, in modern terms Westboro Baptist Church. I recommend this for anyone wishing to study more in depth about the Holocaust, the times when Seel was alive, LGBT history, everyone with an open mind. This is obviously five stars.
Thank you for changing my life forever, Pierre Seel. I won't forget you.