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

Stonewall protests Ramos, whom Richie says is ‘in desperate need of mental health services’

Members of Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio protested Thursday outside a fundraiser that Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos was scheduled to attend. Ramos didn’t show up, but other Democrats who did condemned Ramos for his recent remarks comparing Stonewall Democrats to termites and Nazis. At a press conference earlier Thursday, Ramos refused the many calls for his resignation and repeated some of his previous anti-gay statements:

Singling out the Stonewall Democrats, Ramos said “they have infiltrated the Bexar County party, much like termites infiltrate your house. They’re trying to destroy what has been around for a long time,” he said. …

Ramos said he supports gay rights — including marriage — but said “I don’t regret anything” about assailing the Stonewall Democrats. Ramos apologized to anyone offended by his remarks, but he rehashed several of controversial statements involving gays.

“I don’t care if they marry each other. That’s not my private business. I do care when they adopt kids that are already traumatized and are coming from orphanages and stuff. And then they wake up in the morning and say, ‘What? My mama is my daddy also?’ That’s my heartburn,” Ramos said.

Also Thursday, Texas Democratic Party Chairman Boyd Richie, one of the many who’ve called for Ramos’ resignation, said he believes the party’s Bexar County chair is “in desperate need of mental health services.”

“I don’t know Mr. Ramos all that well personally,” Richie told Sirius OutQ’s Steve Newman. “If this had only happened one time and he had made a sincere apology, then I might feel differently. But after having had the opportunity to do that, he’s only exacerbated the situaion and made it worse. In my humble opinion, Mr. Ramos is in desperate need of mental health services.”

Listen to the full interview here, and watch a video report about the protest here.

—  John Wright

Bexar County Dem party chair insults LGBTs

Omar Narvaez

Ramos resists calls to resign after calling Stonewall Democrats  ‘Nazis’ and ‘termites’

DAVID TAFFET  |  Staff Writer
taffet@dallasvoice.com

Democratic Party officials across Texas are calling for the resignation of Bexar County Democratic Party Chairman Dan Ramos after he called Stonewall Democrats “Nazis” and “termites.”

On Thursday, March 17, Ramos held a press conference where he was expected to resign. Instead, according to Sam Sanchez of QSanAntonio.com who attended the press conference, Ramos hurled new epithets.

Ramos said gays are like “white termites who have infiltrated the party much like termites infiltrate your house.”

He called Texas Democratic Party Chair Boyd Richie a “racist bastard” and an idiot who is advised by gay people.

Currently there are no rules in place for removing someone from a party position for incompetence, according to Dallas County Democratic Party Executive Director Steve Tillery.

“If he had publicly supported a Republican, he could be thrown out of office,” Tillery said. “But not for just being a dumbass.”

“He’s just ignoring calls for resignation,” said Dan Graney, president of Stonewall Democrats of Texas. Graney is from San Antonio.

The Bexar County Democratic Party has been in turmoil for several years according to Graney. The former treasurer was indicted recently for siphoning more than $200,000 in party funds.

That money came from the state to run the 2008 primary election.

The county chair stepped down in Dec. 2009, Graney said, but not because of the missing money. He said she left to run for higher office and was not implicated in the scandal despite her signature appearing on checks.

Graney’s husband Roberto Flores replaced her and served as interim county chair from Dec. 2009 through the May 2010 election that Ramos won.

Flores did not run for a full term against Ramos. He died in September 2010.

Graney said that Stonewall endorsed Ramos’ opponent in the election for county chair last year, but that Ramos sought the group’s endorsement.

Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio is among the largest Democratic clubs in that city and the second-largest Stonewall group in Texas after Dallas.

“He [Ramos] came to our meeting and answered our questions,” Graney said. “He made statements that he doesn’t condone discrimination.”

But Graney said that Ramos has a long history of divisiveness.

“He [Ramos] was an ACLU board member and was divisive there,” he said.

Graney said that the good that’s coming out of this is all the support Stonewall is getting from around the state.

Stonewall Democrats of Dallas president Omar Narvaez said response to the incident shows how far the LGBT community has come in Texas.

“We didn’t have to ask for anything,” he said. “It was already done.”

Narvaez said that before Stonewall even asked for the party’s support, Richie had already called for Ramos’ resignation.

Narvaez said the state party was just following its platform of inclusion.

The 2010 platform states, “We believe in and support repeal of discriminatory laws and policies against members of the gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender community.”

“It’s part of who we are,” Narvaez said.

At their monthly meeting, members of Stonewall Democrats of Dallas added their official voice to the chorus of organizations condemning Ramos and unanimously passed a resolution calling for him to step down.

Ramos made his original comments in reaction to legislation filed by San Antonio Democrat Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer that would enable a state party executive committee to remove a county chair for misconduct or incompetence.

Stonewall of San Antonio had criticized Ramos’ fundraising efforts and his attempts to change precinct level leadership, ignoring party rules and committees. Among other things, Ramos called Stonewall “90 percent white, blue-eyed and Anglo.” Narvaez, who is Hispanic, took offense. He said leadership in six Stonewall groups in Texas, including San Antonio Stonewall co-chair Eduardo Juarez, are also Hispanic.

The Dallas County Democratic Party called on Ramos to resign. In a statement they said, “His hateful, bigoted comments have no place in the Democratic Party. We are a party of inclusiveness that supports and promotes equality, diversity, and tolerance.” Dallas County chair Darlene Ewing and members of the State Democratic Executive Committee signed the letter.

In building his case against Ramos, Richie accused him of a series of violations in addition to his “bigoted attitudes.” He said that Ramos “consistently refused to follow the Bexar County Democratic Party Rules and the Texas Democratic Party Rules” keeping the county party “in a state of turmoil.”

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition March 18, 2011.

—  John Wright

Democratic Party chairman in San Antonio calls gays ‘termites,’ likens Stonewall to Nazi Party

Dan Ramos sought Stoneawll Democrats’ endorsement during his campaign for chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party in 2010. But now he thinks Stonewall is “the equivalent of the fuckin’ Nazi Party.” (QSanAntonio)

It isn’t overly surprising to hear that a county party chairperson in Texas called gays “termites” and likened the Stonewall Democrats to Nazis. But it is a little surprising that it came from a county chairperson in the Democratic Party. Dan Ramos, the embattled chairman of the Bexar County Democratic Party, made the statements Friday in an interview with the San Antonio Current:

While the LGBT community has long found support within the national Democratic Party in its search for equal rights for gay, lesbian, and transgendered individuals, Ramos called the gay-rights movement a “very sinister movement” that is out of touch with San Antonio’s values.

In an interview with the Current today, Ramos blamed homosexuals in the party for both undermining his authority and for the poor election results in Bexar County in 2010. “They are all connected to the gay Democratic Party, the so-called Stonewall Democrats. Just like termites they managed to get some of their people in key positions,” he said.

The party faithful has been largely divided over Ramos since he was elected to office in May, 2010, but his chief detractors are all homosexuals, Ramos said.

Ramos said he opposes homosexuality on religious grounds and doesn’t believe gay-friendly Democrats like Stonewall reflect the values of Bexar County voters. “I liken them to the Tea Party — the Tea Party and the fucking Nazi Party — because they’re 90 percent white, blue-eyed, and Anglo, and I don’t give a fuck who knows that. Just like the blacks … they’re American, but you can’t get your way just because you’re black.”

The LGBT news website QSanAntonio reports that Eduardo Juarez, co-chair of the Stonewall Democrats of San Antonio, issued a statement today to the group’s Board of Directors in response to Ramos’ remarks.

“Mr. Ramos’ alleged comments blaming and condemning LGBT Democrats are so plainly ludicrous and divisive, they do not even merit a response,” Juarez said. “We Democrats are too busy right now working on real and important tasks at hand, including the task of uniting our party.”

QSanAntonio also reports that Ramos’ statements are especially surprising given that he sought the Stonewall Democrats’ endorsement in January 2010 when he ran for the position (photo above).

The Bexar County Democratic Party has been rocked by scandal in recent years, with its former treasurer awaiting trial on charges that he embezzled $200,000. The party was unable to fund a campaign in 2010, and Ramos reportedly has been a divisive figure ever since he took over as chair. State Rep. Trey Martinez Fischer, D-San Antonio, has filed legislation that would allow state parties in Texas to remove county chairs for “incompetency or official misconduct.” The bill reportedly is aimed at getting rid of Ramos.

UPDATE: Boyd Richie, chair of the Texas Democraticy Party, issued the following statement calling for Ramos’ resignation late Saturday.

“From virtually the first day he took office, Dan Ramos has kept the Bexar County Democratic Party in a constant state of turmoil. He has consistently refused to follow the Bexar County Democratic Party Rules and the Texas Democratic Party Rules, failed to call or attend meetings required by the local Rules, failed to recognize properly established local committees and officers, refused to elect Precinct Chairs in the manner required by the Rules and the Texas Election Code, and failed to assist Democratic candidates seeking office.

“I will not dignify Mr. Ramos’ most recent outburst by restating it, but I will make it clear that the bigoted attitudes he expressed are totally contrary to the Beliefs and Declarations of the Texas Democratic Party. I am shocked and outraged that an individual who claims to be an officer of the Democratic Party would hold such positions and I’m appalled that he would make such absurd statements.

“For many months, Democratic Party officials and activists have petitioned the State Party to intercede in the Bexar County situation. Until recently I resisted those requests because I believed that the best remedy would be one crafted and agreed to by Democrats inside Bexar County. Just yesterday I sent a letter to Mr. Ramos and other concerned individuals inviting them to a sit-down to discuss the problem. I no longer believe that such a meeting would be useful or have any purpose. What is necessary is for Dan Ramos to immediately resign and allow the Bexar County Democratic Party to move forward with new, more unifying leadership.”

Also, Daniel Graney, president of the Texas Stonewall Democratic Caucus, sent over an open letter to Ramos that we’ve posted after the jump.

—  John Wright

The Nooner: Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison to retire; trans woman found stabbed to death in Minn.

Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison

Your lunchtime quickie from Instant Tea:

• Anti-gay Texas Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison announces she won’t seek re-election in 2012. (via multiple sources on Twitter)

• Trans woman found stabbed to death in Minneapolis’ first murder of 2011.

• Yoga studio apologizes for calling snow closings “gay.”

• School board chair in Canada apologizes for c0mparing Gay Straight Alliance to Nazis.

• Manager of coffee house run by anti-gay preacher is a convicted child molester.

—  John Wright

Video: The courage to stand against Nazis, Gulags, and — gay equality?!




Good As You

—  admin

Why we still march

Here in Dallas, within the last three weeks we have held the 26th annual Alan Ross Texas Freedom Parade in Dallas, the Dallas Southern Pride weekend and the Tarrant County Gay Pride Parade. Within the last six months, we have seen the Equality March Texas commemorate the 40th anniversary of Stonewall, and we have seen numerous rallies and protests against the Rainbow Lounge Raid in Fort Worth and in support of gay rights.

And now, thousands are expected in Washington, D.C., this weekend for the National Equality March, the same weekend that the president of the United States will speak at the Human Rights Campaign dinner there.

But why do we still march? I think this video answers that question very well.

—  admin