INTERVIEW WITH HAJO ORTIL
Hajo Ortil (1905-83) was a German teacher, photographer and author prominent in the naturist movement. The following interview with him was held in the office of Pan: a magazine about boy-love in Amsterdam in March 1981, and published in the next, ninth issue of the magazine, pp. 18-26. Despite making such public revelations, Ortil continued to be visited and cared for by the old boys of his “Hanseatic Pirates” for the remaining two years of his life and was admiringly recalled in a public speech by the Mayor of Bremen as late as 2005.
The illustrations presented here are of or by Ortil, not the irrelevant ones that accompanied the Pan article.
Hajo Ortil, grand old man of youth nature photography, stopped by our office in March and we made a recorded interview with him. Harm. Ortil graciously consented to speak with us in English, which is only his second language but which he uses with great force and colour. We have resisted the temptation to "edit" his expression and have left, as best we could, this remarkable testament of a remarkable man in his own words.
ORTIL In Germany you spend two years learning the practice of a high-school teacher, then you get the title of Studies Counselor. For me that was during the Nazi years. I was always an adversary and I printed on my typewriter and made circulars against the Hitler regime and in 1933 they caught me. That first time I went to prison, but afterwards they said, oh, he's a young man and he'll become a good National Socialist, so they accepted me as a teacher. But then I did it again, at the beginning of the war in 1939 when Hitler was fighting Poland. They gave me three years of imprisonment.
PAN Not for homosexuality.
ORTIL No, no, they didn't know about that. I was very cautious, because they executed people sometimes, especially where there was something to do with young boys. A friend of mine got ten years in prison only for caressing a boy.
PAN Just on a shoulder?
ORTIL Well . . . In that time the Hitler boys had very short shorts, and so it was a wonderful aspect for people loving boys to see always the thighs, the knees. And he only caressed him here (indicating the thighs) and there was another boy seeing that who told the Hitler Jugend leader. My friend was liberated in East Prussia by the Russians. So although I continued my boy-love during the Hitler time it was only with some few boys whom I trusted and who trusted me.
So the prison was a disaster at the time but later on this disaster became good luck to me, because after I was dismissed they didn't dare take me to make a soldier of me, so they said, how can we use this man, and they sent me to Vienna and made me an air-raid warden. I always had to go by bicycle where bombings were made and write reports where buildings of the administration, the government, were destroyed. And I was a member of the Vienese Nudist Association. And I taught evening school, too.
When the Russians came they came very quickly, for the German command didn't tell us at the time that the Russians were at the frontier: they always told us, our troops went back but quite in order, so there was no panic in Vienna. The day after I escaped -- and I took with me a group of boys and girls -- everywhere the houses were in flames.
PAN These were children you had met in Vienna throuigh your teaching? All Vienese kids?
ORTIL Most of them, yes.
PAN They were how old?
ORTIL Sixteen to twenty.
PAN What you did was a rather unusual thing. Most Austrians and Germans didn't take up a group of ten or fifteen teenagers and go off into the mountains
ORTIL Ah, but you must think of the end of the war. The girls always thought, "The Russians will take us and rape us so it is better to leave." Some told their parents and some didn't; they just came with me. They told their parents, "We shall go with our teacher skiing in the mountains," and when we stepped off the train the Russians were already there. We were in the Schnee Mountains, quite near Vienna. The people said, "Oh, the Russians are approaching very quickly, It's better that you go to the next hut, more into the interior of the Alps."
PAN This was on foot? These were huts the people used in the summer when they took their sheep to higher ground? Mostly the families lived in the little villages down below? You were going from little but to little hut?
ORTIL Yes, from but to hut, like a bird dances from twig to twig. Oh, it was a wonderful time, only the thundering of the cannons, that was, of course, no nice music to us.
PAN This was winter, spring?
ORTIL It was March. I know because we lived for the month of April in these huts and, later on, on the 8th of May, the war was over.
PAN I suppose you sent girls into the villages to say, "Oh, I have a poor grandmother living up in the mountains . . ."
ORTIL Yes, and one woman from the village climbed up and she was full of tears and said, "Oh, we forgot our blankets. Would you be so kind as to fetch our blankets for us? Our house has that and that number. Go in and you may take what you like, things to eat."
And what we took were bags full of artificial sugar, because sugar was very rare and we could change it into victuals with the peasants. And so we fetched the blankets, and it was the last moment because two hours later the Russians were there, and the German soldiers said, "What are you doing? The Russians will come and take you."
And we said, "Well, you know there are these mothers with their children up in the mountains and we want to take them all their blankets."
So the soldiers said, "All right, it's your risk." The next morning we put on our skis and we went on into the mountains to find the next hut.
I remember that on one slope there was suddenly an attack by the Russians, but nobody was wounded, and then we came again into a valley and there were German soldiers, mostly SS men, and they said, "Where are you going?"
And we said, "We want to go home to Germany."
They said, "No. All your girls and boys will remain here. The girls can do nurse service and the boys can get a gun and defend the Fatherland."
I said, "No, no, I'm a teacher. Look here, these are my pupils and I am responsible for them, not you. First they must write their parents." And so on and on.
Well, the Lieutenant said, "You do a thing which is not legal," but he told us to go on to the next soup kitchen.
One day Russian paratroopers came on us in one of the mountain huts and they wanted to shoot us. But my boys and girls, some of them, had been studying Russian and they had Russian books, and this the soldiers were very interested in. They asked, "Who is Marx? Who is Lenin?" And we could answer them, so the Russians went down into the valley and let us alone. But the SS had been watching them with binoculars and they were all shot. Then the SS came after us and one of our boys was shot through the two buttocks. The SS thought we were on the side of the Russians. But now the boys had their Hitler Youth cards -- they had wanted to destroy them but I'd told them to keep them and hide them -- and they showed these to the SS. So the SS sent us on a peasant wagon to the nearest hospital, but then the Russians approached again and we had to go with all the wounded people into cars.
The roads were terrible. You know how painful it is if you are wounded to be knocked about so the boys and girls held their hands under the wounded soldiers to try to ease their pain. Then we reached the Danube and went on a ship where the cook hid my girls. That was because he wanted to make love with them in his bedroom, but the girls didn't want to do something with him so he chucked us out in the middle of the night in a little village in Germany.
PAN This, of course, was a mixed group of boys and girls. There must have been quite a bit of sexual activity.
ORTIL Oh, of course. The girls said, "if you don't do it the Russians will!" And, then, we were comrades, you see. And at that time I developed my principle to allow everything but to be a good guard and teacher and always telling them what they should do and what they couldn't do and so on. The chief thing was . . .
PAN You couldn't afford a pregnancy.
ORTIL This was the only thing that was of any weight. If the boys did it with the boys or did it with me . . . (Shrugs)
PAN Were most of the boys willing to have sex with you, or with other boys, or did most of them want to go with one of the girls?
ORTIL The boys among themselves not so much. They prefered the girls, of course. But they knew what I liked -- you must see me as a man of thirty years; I was a sports teacher and I looked quite well.
PAN So with these Austrian boys you were establishing intimate relations?
PAN They had no difficulties with this, even though they were in adolescence?
ORTIL No. I saw that a good comradeship can tolerate this and it's good for the boys. And in this case we had so many dangers. Being in danger everywhere brought us together.
PAN I would think that would be so, that a frightened young boy would like to be held and caressed.
ORTIL Well, they liked it. I can only tell you. Now I'm accustomed to it that boys
accept this. Since then I've had sexual encounters with maybe 800 boys -- only boys -- and only 5, 6 or 7 boys said no.
PAN Really? You must have a sixth sense . . .
ORTIL And with those I always remained friends. They said, "No, I am not acustomed to it; I prefer girls," but they never left me. They even came again to my home, later with their women and children - none of them became mad and said, "You are a dirty old man," or anything of that kind.
PAN What did you do after you were thrown off the boat?
ORTIL Now we got a lot of food, because the Americans were there and I became an interpreter to the American troops. I could rescue a lot of watches -- and beer, because the Americans wanted beer and the people had the beer but they hid it. Then we took our bicycles and went to Hannover. My mother was living at the time near Hannover, in the Hartz Mountains.
PAN How did you get your bicycles?
ORTIL By attacking people who had stolen these bicycles. In those days there were all these foreign people who had had to work for the Nazis and they wanted to go home, so they took away the bikes of children and younger people and where they found a bike they stole it, and we did the same. We were behind the bushes and now we were ten people and we shouted and attacked and kicked against their bones and they fell down and we took the bikes and before they could rise and run we were away. That was a terrible time. There was no right, no wrong, no rules, no laws.
PAN Have you kept in touch with the boys and girls you escorted out of Austria?
ORTIL Only with a few of them, because after the war it was difficult even to write letters to Vienna. The bri dges had all been destroyed by order of Hitler. Half of my group tried immediately to go back to Vienna. They said, "Oh, my poor parents, they don't know where I am." They often found an American or an English guard and the soldier said, "Step in; we shall go to Vienna," and they were very nice and they didn't do anything to the girls. The other half said, "No, we go on with you," so they went with me all the way to my mother's home, and there they lived with me a week. But then the newspapers announced a train taking Austrians back to Vienna, so the rest of them left.
PAN That must have been a very sad parting for you.
ORTIL Yes, because at that time I really had no male friends. But I found new companions. The youth at that time was very excited. The war was over. The Americans would bomb Hiroshima. And so we discussed and discussed. And all these girls and boys, all these post-war youths, wanted to dance. To dance, dance. I found there a lot of highschool students whom I liked and who liked me; and then a small group of us, a very small group of three or four young boys would go into the woods and, of course, loved each other.
And then suddenly there was a great need of teachers in Germany, because, as you can imagine, most teachers were Nazis.
PAN During the Hitler years you couldn't be a teacher if you weren't a Nazi?
ORTIL No, so now I was an important man, because I had resisted and been in prison, and everyone said, "Oh, God, what you did suffer," and so on. So I moved to the city where I now live and taught first girls, then boys.
PAN What did you teach?
ORTIL English, German, Philosophy and sports -- gymnastics, football and so on. I had a diploma.
PAN You also founded the Pirates and began to take those wonderful photographs.
ORTIL In 1947 I founded the Association for Canoeing. At first I had ten girls and only three or four boys. That changed in the course of time, and today we have three girls and twenty boys.
PAN Is this because the kids feel that you are more interested in boys than girls?
ORTIL Well, now, look here, I learned that in order to get boys you have to have some girls. It's very difficult in Germany to found a boys only group. Because male associations were always suspect in Germany. Many parents didn't send their sons to the Scouts because they thought there might be homosexuals there. But what many people don't understand is that the Pirates has always been a mixed group. Now, many people knew me and saw what I was doing and tried to do the same. But they always made mistakes. There was a group in Munich but all they were interested in was playing games, so it was only half a year and they were caught by the police. Then a friend of mine in Stuttgart said, "Oh, I shall do the same as you, but I know nothing about canoeing, so I will bring together young men interested in motorcycling." Well, good, but his flat was in the middle of an apartment building, and these men they drank and they were singing songs very loud and they had their stereo, all too loud. So the neighbours got angry and called the police, and when the police came they were naked lying in bed making love. The boys were very, very good. They said, "No, we won't say anything." But the police had the proof by their eyes and so the men got two years of imprisonment. All these attempts to do the same as I did exploded because they always made mistakes. And for me I had three protections. First, the naked living, because, of course, we were organized as a nudist association. Second, I was a sports teacher. Third, I always had boys and girls, a mixed group. These three things protected me.
PAN So people thought, well, you are interested in nudism, and sports, and healthy living -- and, since you have girls with you, obviously you aren't doing anything with the boys.
ORTIL Now the parents, and the Board of Education, all said, this man is very good. First, he is an official of the state -- in Germany all teachers are officials of the state -- and he was persecuted by the Nazis. He's one of ours. He's a man of socialist ideas, because the city where I live is ruled by the Social Democratic Party. So I am an estimated man. Perhaps there are some who can look behind the wall, but only those who are my friends. Some of my boys, too, are now men of high profession; one is the highest man in customs -- he was a lovely boy. And one is a senator.
PAN Can you tell us something about your sexual liberality in the Pirates?
ORTIL Well, in Germany there are three pools of people based on their age: the pool of children, up to puberty; the pool of adolescents; the pool of adults. Within one of these pools people can do what they like without any punishment. But when you try to transgress the dikes between these pools, then there is trouble, if, say, a youth of 15 goes with a much younger boy. But not if a youth of 15 goes with a boy of 13 -- it is possible, of course, but our judges in Germany are not as severe as in England or the United States. And this is because there are three parties in Germany -- four with the communists -- and the Liberal Party just standing in the middle and being very mighty because it can go either to the left or the right. And now the Liberal Party is demanding that we do away with Paragraph 175, or maybe an age of consent of 14, but I think I have heard some people say they want to do away with it altogether, because there are so many other paragraphs -- strangling, beating, when a man gets into the anus of a very small boy and tears all those things -- there are many paragraphs against raping a person.
PAN Is the liberal party very big?
ORTIL It is third biggest, after the Social Democrats, then the Christian Democratic Union.
PAN And the communists are fourth?
ORTIL But the communists are not in favour of this.
PAN Of course not. Neither are the Christians.
ORTIL Because, you know in the Soviet Union they don't even tolerate adults doing that. When I was a young student I thought the Communist Party would be progressive and they would found a new era of mankind and so on. And, you see, it's a pity I fought for them. Especially in my field of boy-love they are against it in the same way as Adolf Hitler.
PAN The Pirates were mainly a canoeing association?
ORTIL Every summer, when it started to get warm, we took six weeks of the German vacation and went on a long trip. One year it was the Arctic in Scandinavia, the next the Mediterranean. Mostly they were troops of 10 or 12 -- that is the best size, because you can supervise them and look after them.
PAN They were always mixed groups?
ORTIL Always mixed groups. And we usually used the railroad, which was cheapest. Fold-boats you can roll together. Every boat comes in two bags. We always took the bags into our compartments. Putting them between the seats we built a roof above us, so we could sleep as in a sleeping car.
PAN And make love?
ORTIL Yes, of course, always being careful of the conductor controlling the tickets.
PAN What were the ages of the girls and boys?
ORTIL Twelve to twenty.
PAN That's quite an age span. Didn't the youngest and the oldest sometimes have problems with each other?
ORTIL Well, first, they were all able to swim. When a German boy is 12 or 13 he is instructed in swimming. This is a duty. They must do it. Families are proud of that sort of thing. And then before starting on the voyage they all knew each other by coming together every weekend in my home. They were good friends. It's very important that a 12-year-old girl or boy has a comrad among the older ones, and this doesn't mean that they have sex with one another or want to have sex. If they did I didn't care -- only if there were difficulties. One day a girl came to me in the evening and said, "Winnie and Rollo are always touching me."
And I said, "You don't like it?"
"No, I don't like it. I want to sleep."
I went into the tent of Winnie and Rollo and said, "Now, look here, the girl will come into my tent." And they were satisfied that I wasn't angry. In my tent she felt secure. I would have liked to caress her -- not sexually, of course -- because she was one nice girl. She was in all my brochures. Today she is a doctor, a brain surgeon, but she never married!
PAN I think all of us who are working in the field of man-boy intimacy are interested in the so-called continuing relationship. One of the things which our enemies keep saying -- well they say many things -- is that we don't love the individual, we love the age of the individual, and when the boy changes into an older boy or a man our love stops and we throw him over and he is heartbroken. We are interested in your experience. Does this happen? Have you kept in touch with retired pirates, so to speak?
ORTIL Let's say 80% of them. Others are far away, let's say in America or England, so I have lost about 20% of my pirates and had no contact later on. But 80% is quite a lot, you see. Suddenly they come knocking at my door: "Here is my wife and my two children." Then, "Come in, come in!" And I take the telephone and, "Please, cakes," and so on and so on.
There is a boy who married an Italian girl he found while on a trip with me in Sardinia when he was 14 or 15. Later he came back home because he could earn more money in Germany than in Italy. Then there is a millionaire in England who is the representative of a big chemical company. And Winnie visits me every year - he is manager of a German school in South America. And, oh God, I cannot tell you: I never know who will visit me next. Even when I underwent an operation and I was in my bed there came four boys and they had just been in Turkey and they had made very difficult trips on the white waters and they brought with them their film and projector and I saw the film on the hospital wall. One day a Dutch friend came to visit, but I was away in the Himalayas, so I gave my keys to the Pirates and they let him in with his friend from Austria, and they lived together and I wasn't even at home. And, of course, with the pirates they made love. And the older ones with their families they visit me. Well, they cannot visit me every year, that is impossible. There were 800 pirates in the course of time!
PAN In your experience, when a boy is becoming too old, what usually happens?
ORTIL Oh, he just says to me, "Look here, it's now passé. I cannot any more and I won't any more." And there are others who try to go on up to thirty years.
PAN Have you ever felt that you broke the heart of a boy because he loved you and he became too old?
ORTIL No. It's not the same as with girls. You can break the hearts of girls, because a girl puts her hands into your heart and she weeps and, oh God, the lost lover, you know -- there are so many songs in the world about this. But not with boys. Because all these boys are heterosexual. I am only their helper while they are twelve to seventeen, in adolescence, and they need help.
PAN Travelling with a mixed group, sometimes a boy had the chance to make sex with a girl but would chose you, or another boy.
ORTIL Not so often with another boy, but sometimes. About midnight I always went around all the tents to check that everything was all right. In the Mediterrenian it was hot in the tents and there were insects, so very often they slept under the free sky and sometimes you would come across a boy and girl and they were naked and in embrace. I found that quite natural. And the boys were sometimes with me. The boy, for instance, would say, "I'll sleep beside you this night." And then he laid his mattress beside my mattress. Well, we were friendly to each other. All these questions you put to me show you coming from another world. You don't know that we have this free way of living and loving together. That we had in the course of 30 years -- and no one major problem, only minor problems, like the girl I mentioned.
PAN We are trying to anticipate. Most PAN readers do live in a different world. You have had many, many years of quite free experiences -- and, perhaps, a certain amount of luck. Most people in the world are very sincerely convinced that if a boy has a sexual relationship with a man he is very severely damaged. We know, for example, of two instances in the United States where boys have been driven to suicide. In one case the boy was 18. The police -- this was in a small town in Michigan -- gave him such a hard time he shot himself with a rifle. Everyone, of course, blamed his older friend. In these countries the horror of sex is so strongly driven into everyone's minds that they just cannot think in any other way. So they come up with all these objections: one, if a boy has sex with a man he is turned into a homosexual; two, of course he is sinning; three, he doesn't enjoy it; four, if he does enjoy it there is still damage done to him but it won't show up until later; five, the boy is always cast out of the man's heart when he grows pubic hair or a beard. All psychiatrists are utterly convinced of this; if they listen to our experiences at all they regard them as symptoms of an illness.
ORTIL Now I understand your questions. Well, I have the same point of view as Dr. Brongersma. We both agree that nothing better can come to a boy than for some time during his adolescence to be the friend, the intimate friend, of a nice, cultivated man. There is nothing better. And if I had sons they all might have male friends, older ones, up to thirty and more, for age isn't important. I'm 77 and I have three intimate friends, from 14 to 17, and the parents allow it.
PAN The parents know that these are intimate relationships?
ORTIL They don't know but they suppose it. Clever parents don't ask their boys. When boys are willing to visit a man, and then they like it and say, "Papa, Mama can I go visit my friend Hajo?" they always say "Yes". Because even young parents like to be alone Sundays. And then they are convinced that no harm will come to their boys. And I even say, "Have you done your school work? First school work."
Then they say, "Yes, I don't know . . . This essay . . ."
And I say, "Don't know? Let us now have a discussion. What is the theme?" Then we go over everything, and after one or two hours they are very safe for school, because boys are always a bit nervous when they aren't prepared. And the parents are happy. It was my experience, and the experience of others in the youth movement, that it was on a fine erotic basis which was not only sexual, didn't have to be sexual but often was sexual, but we didn't speak of it, and perhaps that was a mistake. One should make all these problems clear to the understanding so that one stands over them.
Some people like still love in rooms or in foreign countries and that is their way. My way was to have a human surrounding about me, and that is good for me. Soon I will be 80 and shall lie in bed and be, well . . . Now I'm a senior in the Pirates and a good friend of mine, who is a teacher, married, follows my path, but not because he likes boys. He is heterosexual but he is liberal in sexual things, so the Pirates can still do what they like. And today it's not so difficult as 30 years ago. In former times, 1900 to 1930 or so, there was such a mysterious dark taboo that boys had to suffer very much, and their lovers, the older ones, too. Today, there will be ten boys and girls visiting me every day. Even last winter they came when the show was deep, and they said, "Oh God, Hajo is now all snow around him and he cannot go out and go shopping. They came and they dug and dug. And even the parents, they are grateful, and I make coffee and cakes. And I show them slides and films of the boys. And my old boys come with their family now and say, "Oh, have you the film of 1967, when we were in Sicily?"
And I say, "I'll look for it." And, oh, to see them again, when they were young, 14, 15 years!
And then they say, "Look here, that was I when I was a boy!" And the children see their father when he was young, quite naked. Oh, why not?
PAN That's wonderful.
ORTIL Yes, we are a great group. And that we can have this is only because our communications in the course of time were honest. We had no secrets and I can tell you we had festivals, 20, 30 girls and boys, living as if we were in Old Greece, Dyonisian, went naked in the woods singing and loving and drinking . . .
PAN Do you think the sexual contact you had with your boys turned them toward homosexuality?
ORTIL I have been intimate with some 800 boys and only 5 or 6 turned out to be homosexual as far as I know.
PAN Experts estimate that between 5% and 20% of the males in our society are more homosexual than heterosexual. That means at least 40, and maybe 100, of your 800 Pirates should, everything being equal, be homosexual. But perhaps your program attracted more heterosexual than homosexual boys. Another question. Have you ever been intimate with a boy who later grew up, produced a son with whom you were also intimate?
ORTIL. No. Well, almost. One of my Pirates, a boy I had been intimate with for eight years, married and had a wonderful boy. When the boy was 14 I asked his father, "Does he need any help in school? Would he like to become part of our group?"
"No, no," the answer was. "He has no difficulty at all, and he is so very busy . . ." Then I backed off very quickly.
PAN So what was good for the father wasn't for the son. And you don't know how his wife felt.
ORTIL She wasn't a Pirate.
PAN You had, it seems, compared with most boy-lovers we have come across, a particularly good preparation when you were a young man which made you very realistic and very tough. Most boy-lovers have always lived as good citizens, said good morning to the policeman, and so are absolutely terrified of being taken down to the police station and booked on a sex charge.
ORTIL Oh, that's a heavy blow for those people.
PAN But you went through the hell of the Nazi years. You were in prison two times -- not for sexual offenses, of course -- but you know what a prison is, what police and the military are, what the Nazis were. You also know what it is to have to scheme for food and fight for bicycles . . .
ORTIL I was a robber at that time.
PAN So you probably thought nothing quite so terrible could happen to you again, and you were not frightened.
ORTIL Oh, yes, it's been a happy life up until now. I admit I am one of the happy few of paedophiles.
PAN That joy comes through so strongly in your photos. All of us can remember when those first big books came out, The Boy and Boys Will Be Boys.
ORTIL I was chief contributor That was with Mr. Swithinbank in New York. These two books, that's the merit of him. But he never paid, and then the police searched his home and took away everything.
PAN Including your negatives?
ORTIL It's too bad. In a way it's a pity, but, look here, in the past years I was very angry, but now I only have some five years to live. I can take nothing into my grave. But I shan't get a grave. As a man living in a sea town I would like . . . first burned, and then on the sea, on the North Sea, the captain will prey and the ashes scattered on the waters. That's the best thing, and it's cheap. Because my pirates will have to pay. I'm lying in the sea.