Mar 032005
 
Authors: Cari Merrill

When thinking of the Holocaust, most likely the first thing that comes to mind is Jews and concentration camps.

But there is another group out there whose story is rarely heard. The persecution of gays and lesbians during the Holocaust is not a widely publicized issue.

Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender Student Services co-sponsored David Shneer and his presentation Pink Triangles, Signs of a Hidden Holocaust.

Shneer, a University of Denver professor, led an interactive presentation Thursday afternoon traveling though the history of German law that made homosexuality illegal to how the gay and lesbian community was persecuted differently than Jews during the Holocaust.

Approximately 20 people gathered to hear Shneer's presentation, which focused primarily on the treatment gay men endured during the 1930s.

Just like the Jewish star was used to identify Jews in concentration camps, pink triangles were another one of those distinguishing symbols.

"The pink triangle is the sign the Nazi's used to identify gay men when they were put in concentration camps," said Shneer.

Homosexuality hade been made illegal due to the German Criminal Code and drastic measures were taken to control homosexuality.

Homosexuality, at the time, was believed to be caused by genetics or a social problem. The Nazi's solution to the "problem" was to kill or sterilize gay men.

Students and other observers had only positive comments on Shneer's speech.

 

"I thought this was a really unique presentation," said Rachel Singer, senior psychology major and GLBT volunteer. "It was interesting to hear what some of the logic was behind Nazi thought and why they were doing things even though it doesn't actually make any sense. It's interesting to see where they're coming from."

Randy McCrillis, director of GLBT, hopes that presentations like this will shed light on a part of history that is not well known.

"To raise awareness that there were both gay and lesbian individuals who were part of the Holocaust and I think it's not something we talk about very often," McCrillis said.

One woman in attendance was part of the Holocaust herself. Maria Thaddeus was 13 when Hitler came into power. She sees gay people as fellow sufferers.

"I feel very strongly about the persecution of gay and lesbian people," said Thaddeus, 85, and a member of Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays (PFLAG).

This event during Holocaust Awareness Week was the only one that did not deal directly with Jews and their suffering.

"I think this is the only event that is not dealing with Jews which is common and it's actually the way most Holocaust Awareness Weeks take shape," Shneer said. "They tend to be driven by Jewish institutions and to talk about the murder of Jews, which is appropriate. That is the primary group that has memorialized this event and so one of the things to compliment CSU on what they did with this is that they're starting to open up different stories."

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