August 7, 2015
As a teenager, I used to ponder over the question of whether the Nazis would have picked me up before they came for my family; if I was born in their generation. My father and grandfather were sent to Dachau for being Jewish in November 1938, but I was afraid I would have been picked up for being gay after 1933. That is why I have always had a special bond to the generation of homosexuals who lived in Germany during the Nazi era. The Nazis killed most of my father's family, and I never got to know them personally either. Both groups became part of my imaginary family of the past.
In 1990, I started the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors, where we not only dealt with our feelings and issues, but we also took on the role of speaking out for the previous generation. We supported research and exhibits and put on several programs on the topic. We also fought to have the NYC Holocaust Memorial Park in Sheepshead Bay inscribe a stone marker to memorialize what happened to them. I was also invited to speak at a conference at the University of London in 1996 where many researchers and authors spoke on what they were uncovering about this subject.
That is why I was so pleased when the NYC Museum of Jewish Heritage decided to finally house the exhibit from the United State Holocaust Memorial Museum about the Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945. It is an excellent exhibit explaining how Paragraph 175 of the Penal Law was expanded and used to terrorize the community and arrest over 100,000 men on the charge of sodomy.
CBST (Congregation Beith Simchat Torah) was invited to have a special night where other lesbian and gay children of Holocaust Survivors came to the exhibit to discuss how being both LGBT and a child of Holocaust Survivors influenced their lives. It was interesting to note that some felt a strong connection to the notion of being a hidden Jew and a closeted LGBT person, while others didn't. Fear of being exposed or persecuted was stronger among those who came out in the 1960's, as compared to those who came out in the 1980's.
The exhibit will be running until October 2, 2015. So if you have the time, I highly recommend that you go and see it while it is still in NYC.