If a problem cannot be solved, enlarge it.
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“We must exterminate these people (homosexuals) root and branch… We can’t permit such danger to the country; the homosexual must be entirely eliminated.”
With these chilling words, the head of the SS, Heinrich Himmler, set out the Nazi master plan for the sexual cleansing of the Aryan race.
Heinz F was a care-free young German gay man in the early 1930s. He had no idea of what was about to happen. “I didn’t fully understand the situation,” he admitted with pained regret. One morning, out of the blue, the police knocked on his door. “You are suspected of being a homosexual,” they told him. “You are hereby under arrest.”
“What could I do? Off I went to Dachau, without a trial,” he recalls in an interview for the documentary film Paragraph 175.
After spending a year and a half in Dachau, Heinz was released but soon rearrested and sent to Buchenwald. He was stunned to discover the grisly fate of gay and bisexual men. “Almost all the homosexuals…nearly all of them…were killed.”
Heinz amazingly survived a total of eight-plus years in concentration camps. Following the war, he never spoke to anyone about his experiences. He was afraid. Gay ex-prisoners were regarded as common criminals – not victims of Nazism. With tears trickling down his cheeks, he lamented: “Nobody wanted to hear about it.”
His life had been very different up until 1933. Berlin was the gay capital of the world, with a huge, buzzing gay scene of bars and clubs. It boasted gay magazines and gay arts and sports associations, as well as organisations campaigning for greater understanding and rights. Life in Berlin was good – and getting better – for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and inter-sex (LGBTI) people.
Although homosexuality was illegal under paragraph 175 of the German criminal code, it was relatively rarely enforced. In the Reichstag, MPs were on the verge of securing its repeal. A new era of freedom seemed to be dawning. Then came the horrors of Nazism.
Within weeks of assuming power in 1933, Hitler outlawed homosexual organisations and publications. Gay bars and clubs were closed down soon afterwards. Storm troopers ransacked the headquarters of the gay rights movement, the Institute of Sexual Science, and publicly burned its vast library of “degenerate” books. Before the end of the year, the first homosexuals were deported to newly established concentration camps.
In 1934, the Nazis stepped up their anti-gay campaign, with the creation of the Reich Office for Combating Abortion and Homosexuality. According to Himmler: “Those who practice homosexuality deprive Germany of the children they owe her … our nation will fall to pieces because of that plague.” The police were ordered to draw up “pink lists” of known or suspected homosexuals. Mass arrests followed.
The Nazis again intensified the war against what they called “abnormal existence” in 1935, broadening the definition of homosexual behaviour and the grounds for arrest. Gossip and innuendo became evidence. A man could be incarcerated on the basis of a mere touch, gesture or look.
Later, Himmler authorised a ‘scientific’ programme for the eradication of “this vice.” Gay prisoners were subjected to gruesome medical experiments in a bid to “cure” their homosexuality – including hormone implants and castration.
From 1933-1945, an estimated 50,000 to 100,000 men were arrested under paragraph 175 for the crime of homosexuality. Some were tried and sentenced in the courts; others were sent direct to concentration camps without any trial or formal sentence. The death rate of gay prisoners in the camps was over 50%, the highest among non-Jewish victims.
Heinz Dormer and Gad Beck were also interviewed for the film Paragraph 175. Dormer spent nearly ten years in prisons and concentration camps. He remembers the haunting, agonised cries from “the singing forest”, a row of tall poles on which condemned men were hung: “Everyone who was sentenced to death would be lifted up onto the hook. The howling and screaming were inhuman… Beyond human comprehension.”
The Nazi ‘homocaust’ sought to completely eliminate gay and bisexual men. It was an integral part of the Holocaust. Contrary to false histories that claim the persecution of Jewish people was entirely distinct and separate from the victimisation of other minorities, the mass murder of Jews was part of Hitler’s grand design for the racial and genetic purification of the German volk. The Nazis set out to eradicate what they deemed to be racial and genetic “inferiors” – not just Jews, but also gay, disabled, Slav, Roma and Sinti people.
Gad Beck carried a double burden. He was gay and Jewish. He recalls his first sexual experience as a teenage schoolboy:
“I ran home to my mother and said: ‘Mother, today I had my first man.'” Luckily, his parents accepted his homosexuality. But they feared for his safety: “They said: ‘Oh my god, he’s Jewish and he’s gay. Either way he’ll be persecuted. This cannot end well.'”
But Beck survived the war, although nearly everyone around him perished. Two of his lovers were seized by the Nazis:
“I met this beautiful blonde Jew. He invited me to spend the night. In the morning the Gestapo came … I showed my ID – not on the list. They took him to Auschwitz. It had a different value then, a night of love.”
Later, Beck tried to free another lover, Manfred Lewin, from a Gestapo transfer camp. He posed as a Hitler Youth member and asked the commandant to release Manfred to help with a construction project. Although this incredibly daring, dangerous deception was successful, as they walked to freedom Manfred told Gad he could not abandon his family in the camp. Beck watched helplessly as his lover returned to be with them. He never saw Manfred again. Lewin and his entire family were murdered in Auschwitz.
During the Third Reich, these heart-breaking personal tragedies were repeated over and over millions of times for both gay and non-gay victims of Nazism. But for gay people the trauma was compounded by the fact that they often suffered alone – rejected by their families, persecuted by the Nazis and vilified by other concentration camp inmates.
No wonder so few survived and why so many were reluctant to speak out in the post-war years. Paragraph 175 remained on the statute books after 1945. Homosexuality continued to be a crime in East Germany until 1968 and in West Germany until 1969.
For more information about Peter Tatchell’s human rights campaigns, to receive his email bulletins or to make a donation: http://www.PeterTatchellFoundation.org
Reprinted from Belfast Telegraph an article on Jane Moore, artist, who has some lovely pieces for sale, and who just happens to be gay as well. 01 DECEMBER 2014
Belfast artist Jane Moore: ‘I couldn’t give up chocolate for a whole year,
but I knew I could do a sketch every single day’
Within 24 hours of the death of screen legend Lauren Bacall (89) earlier this year, her famous sultry gaze and perfect bone structure were captured beautifully by Belfast-born Jane Moore.
The drawing was part of the illustrator’s ambitious year-long Sketch a Day project, and one of the highlights of the 365 artworks she was planning to exhibit in January.
But she has been left devastated by the theft of the sketch and six others of hers from the Winter Pride Art Awards, a gay event in London celebrating diversity and sexuality. The deeply personal selection was snatched in the early hours of the morning two weekends ago – along with a memorial print by another artist – by three men posing as volunteers, who removed the artwork at around 2-3am when the only people left at the end of the evening were the curating team, security and bar staff.
“They were brazen – the staff thought they were part of the arts team,” says Jane (32). “I got a call from the curator the next morning. I left feeling sick and gutted. It’s not so much about the money, but one of the pieces was a self-portrait I spent a lot of time on. I’m not a big fan of self- portraits in general, so it was a big deal to me. It took four hours of the little time I’d set aside each day to work on this project. I don’t want to prosecute anyone; I just want them back.”
Insurance will cover the eight originals – valued at £6,000 – but Jane’s seven are the equivalent of a week’s gap in her 365 day project, spanning the whole of 2013. The art college graduate began the creative odyssey initially as a new year’s resolution.
“I could never stick to going to the gym or giving up chocolate so I picked something I knew I’d stick to every day and definitely do it,” she says, speaking at her parents’ home in Ballygowan, Co Down. “I wanted to do it for a while but I knew it would take dedication and time. It was difficult to be motivated some days, like when I was feeling poorly, so I’d pick a topic I could sketch pretty quickly, like a figure drawing. Sometimes if I’m busy in work I can only spare 30 or 40 minutes but I always managed to fit it in.”
The original self-portrait depicts the artist in a simple black T-shirt, tattooed arms raised, with her platinum-blonde hair falling loose on her shoulders (she’s growing out the pudding-bowl fringe look, recently sported by Beyonce). Her pretty features are presented expertly in monotone, which – while striking – misses out on the vivid blue of her wide-set eyes. She enhances them with lots of black eyeliner, making the cerulean irises pop out against her fair complexion and even paler hair, which is shaven at the back.
“The self-portrait was the one I was most proud of,” she admits. “I did it from a series of photos a friend took; I used a mirror as well. Looking at a photo, only, changes your perception of yourself because of the 2D. I had a big problem with the eyes – they’re the feature which stands out. Once you capture the essence of a person, the rest falls into place pretty easily.”
Currently in talks with exhibition venues in Belfast, Jane is back home from her base in London and a recent three-month stint in Barcelona to stay in the scenic Ballygowan countryside with her parents, James, a structural technician, and Sarah, a window display artist. It’s a chance to catch up with younger sister Rebecca (30), a paediatrician, and her sister’s children Michael (5) andNicole (2).
Openly gay, Auntie Jane came out of the closet long before her niece and nephew were born, just as she was moving to London to work after graduating 10 years ago. “My parents were shocked – I’ve always been quite feminine,” she laughs. “But they and my friends have been really supportive. I knew I was gay by my late teens. It was harder in Northern Ireland when I was younger but attitudes are changing now. It’s still not as open here as in London; there is greater acceptance there, you can be who you are.”
So what does she think of the continued hush-up of homosexuality in A-list circles, both in the UK and Hollywood?
“Well, the actress Ellen Page coming out recently, in her late 20s, is very encouraging. The younger generation is not ashamed of their sexuality.”
Androgynous images feature prominently in Jane’s work, although she doesn’t consider lesbianism as a major theme in it. She’s currently single and wouldn’t rule out having children in the future, but art comes first at the moment.
She excelled in the subject at Grosvenor Grammar School, and went on to study as the Creative College of Arts Art in Surrey after her foundation degree with the University of Ulster’s art college in Belfast.
Her talent and qualifications led to jobs in fashion promotion and illustration, magazine work and story-board commissions for production companies and theatre directors.
Seemingly inexhaustible, she now works for both private and corporate clients, as well as continuing her now annual Sketch A Day project.
Her commitments don’t hinder her free-spirited lifestyle, however, which allows her to travel.
Goya and Andy Warhol are influences on her work, as are fashion illustrators Rene Gruau, the inspiration for a recent John Galliano couture collection for Dior, and the legendary French image-maker Georges Barbier: “Our styles are similar in that my artwork can be quite decorative and I like to use muted colours.”
While prolific, it’s doubtful whether these great artists managed a drawing per day. Where does she get the inspiration for such a mammoth task?
“I do a lot of portraits, mostly of friends, and I like drawing animals in human clothing,” she giggles. “I draw 24/7 – I never run out of inspiration. I keep them all in a note-book I carry about with me. It’s full of fashion and figure pieces too.
“I’m continuing the project into next year, with more colour pastels, oil paint, water colours. My favourite is oil but it’s slower. Watercolour’s quicker and dries faster.”
Impressively, Jane is also working on illustrations for a children’s book. She came up with a plot and outline, while a friend is writing the narrative. They hope to publish next year. In the meantime, she’s exhibiting some of her work in a trendy Notting Hill gallery and running a Kickstarter Crowdfunding campaign, until December 11, as a means to fund her huge Sketch A Day exhibition in London and Belfast, and to self-publish her Sketch A Day book.
“I’ve poured my heart into this project and to get it out there, I’m selling the framed original drawings, prints, book and other merchandise,” she concludes.
“After that I’m just looking forward to spending Christmas with my family. Ballygowan’s beautiful and it will always be home.”
To purchase from Jane Moore’s Sketch A Day collection, click here.
The Belfast Book Festival was launched at Crescent Arts Centre in May of this year, with principal funders Arts Council Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council, and generous supporters Nicholson Bass and Belfast Calling, a programme of almost 90 events in one week was celebrated.
Speaking at the launch, Keith Acheson, Festival Director said: “This year’s Festival is the biggest and best yet, having grown to encompass almost 90 events over the course of the week.
Following this wonderful festival, I had the opportunity to meet with Keith last week on Friday in the Centre to discuss how we can incorporate relevant books and DVDs in forthcoming events. I was able to advise on the booklists and DVDs that NIGRA has published on its website, (NIGRA Booklists)