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< Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar

2021 Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar

LGBTQ+ Histories of the Holocaust

A scene from the nightclub “Eldorado,” Berlin, 1929. The nightclub was closed by a government decree in spring 1933.

A scene from the nightclub “Eldorado,” Berlin, 1929. The nightclub was closed by a government decree in spring 1933. —US Holocaust Memorial Museum, courtesy of bpk-Bildagentur

The 2021 Jack and Anita Hess Faculty Seminar focuses on the history of LGBTQ+ people during the Holocaust, as well as the continued relevance of this history to understanding the discrimination that queer and trans people face today. The Seminar will explore how the Nazi state persecuted, incarcerated, and interned men in concentration camps for violating § 175 of the German criminal code, which prohibited consensual sex between men, resulting in at least 5,000 perishing at the hands of the Nazi state agents. At the same time, the Seminar will highlight that there is so much more to the history of LGBTQ+ experiences during the Holocaust. Drawing on new research, the Seminar leaders will stimulate discussions about the many facets of queer and trans histories under Nazism, including: To what extent were queer women targets of state violence? How did racialization affect queer Jews and queer Poles? When did gender transgression and queerness not necessarily aggravate the Nazi state? And what lasting lessons can we learn from the under-researched history of trans people and gender non-conformity during the Holocaust? The seminar will further address how the German law against sodomy and the Austrian law concerning “crimes against nature” were similar to laws on the books in the U.S. and elsewhere at the time. 

The memory politics surrounding queerness and transness during the Holocaust has had a lasting legacy on the treatment of LGBTQ+ people—from the postwar era to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s, and even to our current moment. This Seminar offers the opportunity to approach broad questions about how LGBTQ+ histories of the Holocaust might inform understandings of homophobia, transphobia, racism, tolerance, and human rights, well beyond the Nazi state. In addition, it provides faculty with tools and resources to build a scholarly environment conducive to teaching the continued relevance of this topic today. The facilitators will introduce approaches to teaching the Holocaust through a framework that takes into consideration pedagogical interventions from the fields of queer and trans studies. Specific areas of emphasis will include setting a precedent for the use of inclusive language, thinking critically about identity categories, integrating an intersectional approach, and developing strategies for teaching this topic in the digital college classroom.

Seminar Leaders

  • Jennifer V. Evans is Professor of European History at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada. She writes about transnational histories of sexuality, social media and memory, and visual culture. Her first book, Life Among the Ruins: Cityscape and Sexuality in Cold War Berlin (2011), traces the rebirth of Berlin’s various subcultures in the aftermath of World War II. She has written book chapters and articles on same-sex sexuality in post-1945 Germany and co-edited a book with Matt Cook, entitled Queer Cities, Queer Cultures: Europe Since 1945 (2013). She is currently finishing a monograph on social media and post-Holocaust memory, researching a multi-year book project on erotic photography and the Sexual Revolution, and collaborating with artist Benny Nemerofsky Ramsay, who explores how museum audioguide storytelling and soundscapes create opportunities for new ways to narrate and experience the queer past. She is a member of the Royal Society of Canada.
  • Laurie Marhoefer is an Associate Professor of History at the University of Washington in Seattle. Her research focuses on queer and trans lives in modern Germany. She published Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis (2015), a history of the politics of sex prior to 1933. She is completing a book on Magnus Hirschfeld and Li Shiu Tong and racism, antisemitism and imperialism in early gay politics. She is also currently at work on a queer/trans history of the Nazi state and the Holocaust, which considers the situation of lesbians in Nazi Germany, among other things. She published an article on this topic in the American Historical Review in 2016. Her research has been supported by funding from the Holocaust Education Foundation/Northwestern University, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Simpson Center for the Humanities. She was the recipient of a teaching award in 2015.

Guest Lecturer

  • Anna Hájková, Associate Professor of Modern European Continental History, University of Warwick, UK

Seminar Format

This Seminar will occur entirely online through a combination of synchronous and asynchronous sessions over the course of five days. Each day participants will be expected to attend no more than four hours of sessions in the virtual classroom, plus an additional two to three hours devoted to independent readings and syllabus design work. Participants will have access to all assigned readings and course materials through the Seminar’s digital platform. All required sessions will take place from Monday, January 4, 2021, to Friday, January 8, 2021, between 12 PM and 4 PM ET. The breakdown of live and recorded sessions for each day includes the following:

  • Asynchronous sessions will include up to one hour of pre-recorded materials per day
  • Large synchronous sessions will include up to an hour and a half per day of discussions led by the program facilitators
  • Breakout sessions will include up to an hour per day devoted to Museum resources, syllabus design activities, and pedagogy workshops
  • Independent readings and syllabus design activities will take approx. three hours per day

Application Details

Seminar applicants can be at any career stage but must be teaching or anticipate teaching relevant courses at accredited institutions in North America. Applications must include (1) curriculum vitae; (2) a statement of the candidate’s specific interest in strengthening their background in LGBTQ+ Histories of the Holocaust for the purpose of teaching; (3) a letter of support from a dissertation advisor, departmental chair, or dean addressing the candidate’s qualifications and the institution’s commitment to Holocaust-related education; and 4) a draft syllabus with content relating to Holocaust studies and/or LGBTQ+ studies that the candidate has taught or anticipates teaching.

  • Participants must commit to attending the entire Seminar. After the conclusion of the seminar, participants are expected to submit a preliminary version of a revised syllabus. The Seminar will include designated working sessions for participants to revise and expand their syllabi content. Participants who complete all components of the Seminar will be provided with a $500 honorarium.
  • Applications must be received in electronic form no later than November 1, 2020. The application form is available here. Letters of support may be uploaded electronically or sent directly to Dr. Katharine White at

Apply Now

Admission will be determined without regard to race, color, religion, sex (sexual orientation or gender identity), national origin, age, disability, genetic information or reprisal. The Museum also prohibits any form of workplace discrimination or harassment.

This Seminar is endowed by Edward and David Hess in memory of their parents, Jack and Anita Hess, who believed passionately in the power of education to overcome racial and religious prejudice.