During World War II the Nazis conducted a series of medical experiments on concentration camp prisoners, primarily Jews but also LGBT people, Romani, Poles, Russians, and disabled Germans.
They were conducted without anesthesia and often resulted in death, trauma, disfigurement, disability, or death. In one particularly gruesome procedure, prepubescent boys were “surgically emasculated which meant that their penises, testicles, and scrotums had all been removed and the skin closed over the wounds.”
Nazi doctors performed this procedure “to see if they could surgically sterilize the males of the Jewish race so it would die off." The benefit would be that the Nazis would not have to bury or burn the bodies. Indeed, they could be released, and their families would bear the cost and burden.
In "Die Fotografie," the perpetrator of this horror is Dr. Horst Schumann (a historical character) who after the war managed to escape the war crimes tribunal. He left behind three boys, Albert, Gabriel, and Lukas, whose agony was preserved for posterity in the photograph that gives this book its title. Author Phillip M. Johnson was inspired to write his first novel when he visited the Houston Holocaust Museum in 1996. It is a teaching reminder that the Third Reich did not really die in 1945; that it survived in the fugitives who escaped justice and who, like Dr. Schumann, lived out their lives in exile. However, Schumann reckoned without Dr. Freda Dudek, a psychologist who is determined to bring the fiend to justice. First, however, she must reunite the boys.
"Die Fotografie" is a fascinating chronicle of injustice and revenge that doesn’t disappoint. Readers of LGBT literature should note that "Die Fotografie" features several trans women who play important roles in the narrative. I won’t tell you who they are; you will have to read the book to find out. But you don’t have to be an expert on trans women or the Holocaust to appreciate "Die Fotografie." Phillip Johnson recreated a horrible period in history; one that left behind scars that remain unresolved.
Johnson dedicates this book “to the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transsexual, intersex, and queer people in Nazi Europe whose lives were destroyed by the Holocaust. I sincerely hope that this fictional account raises awareness of these underreported souls so their deaths might not be in vain.”
A note about the author(s): Phillip Martin Johnson enjoyed a rewarding career in design for much of his life. Now retired, Johnson is pursuing a new passion as a writer. In "Die Fotografie," Johnson is aided and abetted by William Thomas Loesch III, whom he calls “my ghost, my sparring partner, my dear friend.” The two are aided and abetted by their alter ego, Reada Book-Stein, who will be present at all press events promoting "Die Fotografie" and all future writings by Phillip M. Johnson.
For more information and copies of Die Fotografie, visit diefotografie.com.
“Die Fotografie: A Novel” by Phillip M. Johnson, with William Thomas Loesch III; self-published; 360 pages; $21.95.
Jesse Monteagudo is a freelance writer and journalist. He has been an active member of South Florida's LGBT community for more than four decades and has served in various community organizations.