THE STRAIGHT DOPE:
Paragraph 175, named for the anti-sodomy law used by the Nazis, takes the personal approach to this subject, interviewing a half dozen of the survivors (only about ten were known to exist at the time of the film) and really emphasizing the diverse nature of the subjects. One man recalls risking his life to save his lover from forced removal, a brave maneuver, only to see his lover make a selfless sacrifice of his own moments later. Another man takes the filmmakers through his introduction to the gay Berlin nightclub life of the Weimar era in a transporting narrative.
The film doesn't shy away from other experiences as well. The sole lesbian interviewed was shuttled away from Germany early in the Nazi rule and spent the rest of the war in London. In one of the most startling moments in a film full of them, one survivor, a man who narrowly escaped extermination, expresses sympathetic feelings towards the Nazis. If it weren't for his being gay, he says, everything would have been fine. The rest of the horror doesn't seem to phase him.
These men are old and the film has to express a certain degree of patience. They aren't always thrilled to bring up these ghosts and sometimes it takes them a while to get their point out. They smile as they remember the good times. But their eyes still betray the hurt and the pain. Near the film's end one of the gentlemen just about breaks down on camera in what has to be one of the hardest moments I've ever seen in a film. The bald emotion on display, even over half a century later, is undeniably strong.
The filmmakers, Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein, are the same team that made the acclaimed films The Celluloid Closet and The Life and Times of Harvey Milk, both powerful films about the gay experience. Paragraph 175, which runs a short 81 minutes, is a perfect continuation of that mission as well as an excellent addition to the canon of fine non-fiction films on World War II.
The disc also includes two interviews taken from Steven Spielberg's Shoah project which documents the stories of Holocaust survivors. These two interviews are given by Jewish survivors recalling instances when they crossed paths with homosexual victims of Nazi persecution and they're quite moving and horrifying.