November 6, 2002
UNITED STATES HOLOCAUST MEMORIAL MUSEUM OPENS EXHIBITION ON THE NAZI PERSECUTION OF HOMOSEXUALS
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Thousands of homosexuals, primarily gay men, perished at the hands of the Nazis in concentration camps by the Nazis along with millions of Jews and other victims including, Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the handicapped during World War II and the Holocaust.
The story of what happened to homosexuals in Nazi Germany is the subject of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s new exhibition, Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945. The exhibition opens on Friday, November 15, 2002, and will be at the Museum through Sunday, March 16, 2003. The exhibition will then circulate to cities across the country. More than two years in development, it is the first major exhibition on the subject for English-speaking audiences and draws on materials from more than 40 archives and other repositories in eight countries.
“This exhibition reflects the Museum’s commitment to recognizing all the victims of Nazism,” says Fred S. Zeidman, Chairman of the United States Holocaust Memorial Council, the Museum’s governing body. “Poles, Gypsies, Soviet prisoners of war, the handicapped, and Jehovah’s Witnesses all were targeted by the regime, and 5 million of them were murdered along with the 6 million Jews between 1933 and 1945. We created this as a traveling exhibition to tell this important story in communities throughout the U.S.”
In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler assumed power, an estimated 1 million homosexual men lived in Germany. Nazi policy asserted that homosexual men carried a “degeneracy” that threatened the “disciplined masculinity” of Germany. As homosexuals were believed to form self-serving groups, the emergence of a state-within-the state that could disrupt social harmony was also feared. Additionally, the Nazis charged that homosexuals’ failure to father children was a factor in Germany’s declining birth rate, thus robbing the nation of future sons and daughters who could fight for and work toward a greater Reich.
“The exhibition explores why homosexual behavior was identified as a danger to Nazi society and how the Nazi regime attempted to eliminate it,” says exhibition curator Edward Phillips. “The Nazis believed it was possible to ‘cure’ homosexual behavior through labor and ‘re-education.’” As their efforts to eradicate homosexuality grew more draconian, gay men became subject to castration, institutionalization, and deportation to concentration camps.
Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality, and of these, approximately 50,000 were sentenced for the crime. Most of these men spent time in regular prisons. An estimated 5,000 – 15,000 were sent to concentration camps where an unknown number of them perished.
Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933–1945 is at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum from Friday, November 15 - through Sunday, March 16, in the Gonda Education Center. No passes are necessary for entering the Museum and exploring its wide range of resources and special exhibitions. Passes are only required for viewing the Permanent Exhibition and may be obtained at the Museum or in advance by calling tickets.com at (800) 400-9373. The Museum is open 10:00 a.m.-5:30 p.m. daily and is closed Christmas Day and Yom Kippur.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum is America’s national institution for the documentation, study and interpretation of Holocaust history, and serves as this country’s memorial to the millions of people murdered during the Holocaust. Since opening in April 1993, the Museum has welcomed more than 18.5 million visitors. The Museum’s primary mission is to advance and disseminate knowledge about this unprecedented tragedy; to preserve the memory of those who suffered; and to encourage its visitors to reflect upon the moral questions raised by the events of the Holocaust as well as their own responsibilities as citizens of a democracy.