Holocaust survivor and ‘proud gay man’ shares inspirational coming out story: ‘It was beyond liberating’

A Jewish man who lived through the horrors of the Holocaust has shared his heart-warming story of finally feeling able to come out as gay in his 50s.

Sacha Kester recalled how living through the atrocity, in which an estimated 5-15,000 men were sent to concentration camps for the ‘crime’ of being homosexual, left him fearful of coming out when he realised he was gay.

Writing for Metro.co.uk, Kester said: “It was during my teenage years that I realised I was attracted to men. I found myself falling for guys, but always in secret – so, of course, it was unrequited love.

“Back in those days, it didn’t seem to be a possibility to be openly gay. To have a gay relationship was illegal and frowned upon – and it was hard for me knowing that gay men were persecuted for their sexuality during the Holocaust. 

“For this reason, it just never occurred to me that I could explore any sort of gay lifestyle.”

Kester was born in 1936 in Paris, three years before the start of the Second World War. His parents had moved to France from Poland to escape the increasingly dire situation for Jewish people in the country.

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Life in Paris gradually worsened for Kester and his family after the Nazis occupied France in 1940 and the family was forced into hiding.

While he was still a young child, Kester’s parents were arrested and ultimately murdered in Auschwitz.

He moved to London aged 12 to live with extended family, staying in the UK to study engineering. In his 20s, still feeling unable to live authentically as a gay man and feeling “societal pressure”, Kester got married and had two children.

“It wasn’t until after we got divorced in my early 50s that I felt like I didn’t have to suppress my same-sex attractions,” Kester wrote.

Despite a devastating beginning, the now 86-year-old’s story ultimately has a happy ending, as he found a community group for gay people in Harrow – a group where he learnt to be his “true self”.

“Gradually, I thought life was too short to stay in the closet so I went in search of a gay community. Up until that point, I didn’t know anyone who was gay so I felt quite awkward.

“The first time I walked in, I felt very weird being there. I immediately fancied a couple of the guys there but I was just too anxious to talk to them. It took a full year of going to this social group every week before I worked up the courage to do anything with a man there.

“It was beyond liberating to finally feel like my true self. At the time, we didn’t have the internet like we do now, so it was not that easy to meet people.”

Kester found the courage to come out to his children and his former wife at the age of 55, in 1991, and he has since had several long-term relationships with men.

Now, he’s retired and has taken up singing alongside the capital’s iconic London Gay Men’s Chorus – a group he considers family.

While Kester doesn’t currently have a partner, he is just thankful to have escaped the horrors that engulfed the world in the 1940s and to now be living his best, authentic life.

“When I look back on my life, I feel lucky to have been spared the horrible fate of millions of oppressed people, including Jews, but also gay men,” Kester writes.

“If I was just a little bit older and openly gay during the Second World War, I may not be alive today to tell my story.

“I was lucky to have had the opportunity of making a new life in a country that respected human rights, tolerance, and diversity.”

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