HISTORY: JCC exhibit explores Nazi persecution of gay men

The JCC exhibit is also online at http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/hsx/ PROVIDED IMAGE

BY JEREMY MOULE

Germany’s Nazi regime arrested 100,000 men for homosexuality between 1933 and 1945. Half were sentenced to jail, and an estimated 5,000 to 15,000 were sent to concentration camps; the pink triangle was their designated camp badge.

Many of the men sent to the camps died from starvation, beatings, disease, or some combination. Others were murdered.

Those stories are part of an exhibit that opened last week at the Jewish Community Center. The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibition “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945” runs through July 22.

The exhibit uses photos and art to show how the Nazis persecuted homosexuals: gay men in particular. They weren’t just imprisoned or sent to concentration camps: some were castrated, and others sent to mental hospitals, says the exhibit’s Web site.

The regime’s official policy was that gay men carried a “degeneracy” that threatened the “disciplined masculinity” of Germany, says Leslie Berkowitz, executive director of the JCC of Greater Rochester. The Nazis also blamed gay men for the country’s declining birth rate.

“Our hope is what this exhibit does is to remind all of us how quickly intolerance and hate can lead to violence and persecution of any kind of minority group,” Berkowitz says.

The JCC and its partners, including the Gay Alliance of the Genesee Valley, have also organized two months of programming to coincide with the exhibit. It includes films, plays, and discussions. A full listing: jccrochester.org/events/special-events/featured-events/ushmm-traveling-exhibit-nazi-persecution-of-homosexuals.

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