Former Mayor Laura Miller wants you to become a member of the Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas

GLFD’s Dick Peeples, from left, Enrique MacGregor, and Mark Niermann at the opening of the Holocaust Museum’s “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals” exhibit at the Dallas Holocaust Museum, which they helped sponsor.

The Gay and Lesbian Fund for Dallas is becoming a membership organization. Former Mayor Laura Miller will be on hand for the kickoff event in September.

Until now, the organization’s money was raised through events, but the group is now soliciting memberships. A basic “Friend” annual membership fee is $50. For $200, the “Advocate” level also includes two invitations to an annual member appreciation event. The $500 “Philanthropic Partner” level also includes optional website recognition.

Former Mayor Miller will be the special guest at the membership event on Tuesday, Sept. 13 in the Fifth Floor Owners’ Lounge at The House at Victory Park, 2200 Victory Park Ave. at 6 p.m. Valet parking will be available. Everyone is invited, but an R.S.V.P. is requested at GLFD.org or by emailing Keith Nix.

—  David Taffet

Telling the stories of persecution

Curator calls the exhibit in Dallas the most personal of all the Holocaust stories he’s told

DAVID TAFFET | Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Of all the exhibits Ted Phillips has worked on in his 17 years as director of exhibitions and resources at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C., Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 is “nearest and dearest to my heart,” he said in a a recent interview.

The traveling show is currently on display at the Dallas Holocaust Museum. On a visit to Dallas for the opening of the exhibit, the curator said he spent two years of his life researching the topic.

“My friends thought I was doing it 24/7,” he said. “It was all I talked about.”

Phillips said that at times he had to stop looking at the pictures of men who were so similar to him — gay and around his age — who were tortured to death by the Nazis. Sometimes he had to put the pictures aside to write the script, he said.

Phillips was an unlikely candidate for his current position. With no museum experience, he said that if he applied for the job today, he would never be considered for it.

“I fell into it,” Phillips said.

With a Ph.D. in Russian history, he had been teaching at the University of Maryland. In 1994, the museum was still looking for staff and a colleague suggested, “How about a nice historian.”

Phillips, who has been with the museum for 17 years, has been part of every exhibit the museum has created since then. That includes the one currently on display at the Dallas Holocaust Museum.

“When the museum [in Washington] was putting itself together in the late ’80s, early ’90s, they wanted to tell more than the core story of the persecution and murder of six million Jews,” he said.

He said that after the museum was up and running, ideas that were originally brochures, such as the treatment of gay men, were developed into full-blown exhibits.

The museum opened to the public the same weekend that the 1993 National March on Washington for Lesbian and Gay Rights took place. Many people who were in town for the LGBT rights demonstration visited the museum.

“So we knew we had strong audience interest in the subject from the beginning,” Phillips said.

But work on the show now in Dallas didn’t begin until about 10 years later.

While assembling the exhibit, Phillips made two trips to Germany to work with the Schwule (Gay) Museum in Berlin. A contract researcher in the city also sent information back.

“So much of what we were working with were police files,” Phillips said.

He said that drawers of files and documents in German back up the story as told in the exhibit. However, little personal testimony exists.

Phillips speculates that since Nazi-era laws regarding homosexuality remained on the books until 1969 in West Germany, few gay people came forward to talk about the persecution they suffered. Some who sought reparations in the 1970s were rebuffed and told that gays were not persecuted and not entitled to compensation, Phillips said.

In East Germany, the Nazi version of Paragraph 175, the anti-homosexuality law, reverted to that of the Weimar Republic, he said. That law had fewer generalities under which so many men were arrested.

But discrimination continued and East German gays had other reasons to not tell their stories.

Phillips said that he worries about the first section of his exhibit. That portion details how it was possible to go from acceptance of gays in Berlin to thousands of people put in concentration camps.

But while most people who visit the Holocaust Museum are horrified by the inhumanity, Phillips said he wonders what some people have gotten from the exhibits.

“Obama is Hitler,” he said, is one comment that he sees visitors enter in the guest book, and he calls that utter ignorance of history. But that is why he worries about the introductory panels in Nazi Treatment of Homosexuals.

“Is the beginning a how-to?” he asked.

During his study of the subject, Phillips learned about the difference between the Nazis’ ultimate goal with Jews and with gays.

The objective was to rid society of Jews so Jews from every place under Nazi control were sent to concentration camps and death camps.

But the goal with gays was to change their behavior so they would help build the Aryan population. Gays — other than those who were also Jewish — were still considered Aryans. With hard work, they could be changed to produce more Aryan children.

So only German gays were arrested.

“Being forced to work hard would correct their behavior,” Phillips said of the Nazi mentality about gays.

Except for about 2 percent who were considered incorrigible, Nazis considered gays’ behavior something that could be unlearned. Generally the sentences given were relatively short — about 18 months. But gays were often assigned to punishment battalions.

“They got the hardest work, longest hours, least food and quickest death,” Phillips said. “The mortality rate was extraordinary, but they weren’t sent to the gas chambers.”

Lesbians were generally not arrested because they could still produce children. Those who were detained were often taken for political reasons or for being “asocial.”

Phillips said there was, oddly, no record of gay Jews. The pink triangle with an overlaid yellow triangle (pink indicating gay and yellow Jewish) was listed in a Nazi chart of prisoner markings. But the usually meticulous record keepers did not chronicle any examples of its use that Phillips could find.

“So it was established, but there’s no evidence that it was put into use,” he said.

Phillips said he used the term “homosexual” in the title of the exhibit because it reflected the connection and importance of sex and reproduction to the reason for the arrests.

He said that “gay” as known it today is something quite different.

The exhibit remains in Dallas through Sept. 5.

Dallas Holocaust Museum, 211 Record Street at West End Station. Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun. 11 a.m.-5 p.m. $8. 214-741-7500.

—  John Wright

Gay exhibit installed at Dallas Holocaust Museum

From one of the crates

Last night, the exhibit Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945 arrived from the U.S. Holocaust Museum in 13 crates each weighing 300 pounds. The exhibit opens at the Dallas Holocaust Museum on Friday — in time for LGBT Pride Month.

A group of about 10 volunteers from exhibit sponsors Texas Instruments and Congregation Beth El Binah unloaded the exhibit along with museum staff and moved it from the loading area into the museum’s temporary exhibition area.

The exhibit documents the approximately 100,000 gay men and several thousand lesbians who were arrested in Nazi Germany under Paragraph 175. That was the law dating from the 1880s making homosexuality illegal. The punishment was two years in prison.

But under the Nazi regime, those in prison were transferred to concentration camps. Thousands more were arrested and sent to brutal work camps to die. Few survived.

After the war, when others were released from concentration camps, those gays who did survive were sent to prison to complete their sentences. Homosexuality was still considered a crime. Time served in a concentration camp was not considered toward prison time.

Paragraph 175 wasn’t rescinded until 1994 and those who served sentences under the law were not pardoned until 2002.

Dallas Voice is the media sponsor of the exhibit.

The exhibit opens Friday, June 3 at Dallas Holocaust Museum, 211 N. Record St. at West End Station in Downtown Dallas. Mon.-Fri. 9:30 a.m.-5 p.m. Sat.-Sun, 11 a.m.-5 p.m. through Sept. 5. Admission $8 includes audio guide to the permanent exhibit.

—  David Taffet

LGBT synagogue helps bring exhibit on Nazi persecution of gays to Dallas Holocaust Museum

Prisoners at forced labor in the Mauthausen concentration camp. Beginning in 1943, homosexuals were among those in concentration camps who were killed in an SS-sponsored “extermination through work” program. (Courtesy of Nederlands Instituut voor Oorlogsdocumentatie, courtesy U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum)

“Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals, 1933 – 1945,” a traveling exhibit from the U.S. Holocaust Museum in Washington, D.C., will be at the Dallas Holocaust Museum June 3-Sept. 5, museum president and CEO Alice Murray announced today.

Congregation Beth El Binah, an LGBT Reform Jewish congregation, is working with the museum to secure funding to bring the exhibit to Dallas and develop programming around the exhibition.

Museum spokeswoman Nanette Fodell said, “We’re thrilled and looking forward to welcoming the LGBT community to the museum.”

When Hitler came to power in 1933, he banned all gay and lesbian organizations and the 1871 law known as Paragraph 175 was enforced:

A male who commits lewd and lascivious acts with another male or permits himself to be so abused for lewd and lascivious acts, shall be punished by imprisonment. In a case of a participant under 21 years of age at the time of the commission of the act, the court may, in especially slight cases, refrain from punishment.

In 1935, it was amended to include this “Confinement in a penitentiary not to exceed ten years.”

After World War II, gays who survived concentration camps were imprisoned to finish their sentences. Time served in a concentration camp did not count toward their sentences.

Paragraph 175 was repealed in 1993.

The partnership between Beth El Binah and the museum began last summer when Westboro Baptist Church picketed both the synagogue and the museum. That day, a fundraising record was hit for a Phelps protest when $11,000 was raised for Resource Center Dallas.

Congregation President Diane Litke said, “Our friendship with the museum and bringing this exhibit to Dallas is just more good that came from Fred Phelps visit.”

The Dallas Holocaust Museum Center for Education and Tolerance, 211 N. Record St. is located in Downtown Dallas at West End Station. Mon.–Fri. 9:30 a.m.–5 p.m., Sat.–Sun. 11 a.m.–5 p.m.

—  David Taffet