Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Lesbian Kiss and HaShoah Scholars: NEEDED: a pro-radical lesbian feminist perspective

In the "What's wrong with this picture" category:

Here's the story, and after it, my comment posted to the site:

365 Gay: News

Holocaust scholars irate over plans to switch gay kiss film to lesbian one

Holocaust scholars are irate over an attempt to include a video of lesbians kissing in a monument dedicated to the gay victims of the Nazi regime.

The Berlin, Germany, memorial, erected in 2008, is a concrete slab with a window to view a never-ending kiss between two men. The video, which is replaced every two years, is set to be changed in May to a film of women kissing.

But Holocaust scholars complain the move would distort history. Alexander Zinn, a board member of the foundation that maintains former Nazi concentration camps near Berlin, said there are no known cases of Holocaust victims who were persecuted for being lesbians.

“Historical truth must remain the focus,” Zinn told AFP.

An estimated 5,000 to 15,000 gay men were rounded up to concentration camps by the Nazis during the Holocaust. In the camps, the men wore inverted pink triangles on their prison uniforms. Gays were targeted alongside of Jews, Gypsies and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

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My comment/reply:

I'll put my "post-comment" addition first:

Oh, and in the intervening 65 years since WWII, can we now use the ethnic group's name--Roma--in place of the more derogatory term "Gypsies"?

And here's a slightly modified version of the main comment I posted:

Two points:

Why does the lesbian kiss happen for a dominant cultural audience at all? Lesbianism and lesbian "sex" is always misappropriated in white het male supremacist societies as something that should be accessed, viewed, voyeured, and exploited 24/7/365 by het male pimps and procurers, and a whole lot of other het men. As proof: look at the image used to publicise this very story, above: a ridiculous still of two white thin femme, overly made up ARYAN-looking women. This image is being brought to us directly from your local porn shop and internet anti-lesbian/anti-woman pornography website serving HET MEN.

Leave the gay male kiss, as that is likely to make dominant society more uncomfortable while challenging heterosexism, and plenty of gay men did die as gay men in HaShoah.

AND, lesbians also died in HaShoah for being lesbian, despite what is offered as evidence to the contrary*. 

See, for example, this excellent documentary [info on it is from *here*]:

Love Story - A videotape by Catrine Clay (1997)

Kan lånes på biblioteket
Dokumentar - 60 min.

In 1942 Berlin, LiIly Wurst was a model Aryan hausfrau with a picture of the FŸhrer on the wall, a husband in the army, and a German motherhood medal for bearing four sons. With this distinction came mother's helper Ulla Schaaf, who unbeknownst to Lilly was deeply involved with the Jewish underground. When Lilly boasted that she could "smell a Jew", Ulla tested her by introducing her to Felice Schraderheim, aka Felice Schrader, a 20 year old Jewish woman living in hiding. The result of that meeting is an unusual love story whose arc is followed through recollections, documents, and archival footage in this beautifully made documentary.

As Ulla Schaaf and others in the Jewish underground describe living in constant fear of denunciation, they recall how Felice risked her life to smuggle false papers. In intimate interviews, Lilly tells how their relationship deepened until Felice revealed to her the secret of her Judaism. Sharing a home, wedding vows, and the care of Lilly's children, in 1944 Felice chose to stay in Berlin with Lilly rather than flee to neutral Switzerland. Later that year she was arrested by the Gestapo, never to return.

Now 82, Lilly shares her remaining photos and love letters to recall the great love of her life. As survivors from the underground recall acts of everyday courage, Love Story powerfully depicts ordinary people's resistance to injustice. Skillful, haunting, and elegiac, Love Story is a potent meditation on the healing and transformative power of love and compassion in the face of adversity. Produced for the BBC.

Lilly Wust and Felice Schragenheim--the real-life "Aimée" and "Jaguar"

* The other comments debate whether lesbians were rounded up by the Nazis for being lesbian. Here's that debate, along with the rest of the commentary from 365 Gay News:
  • jean-paul Said: March 30th, 2010 at 7:37 am
    • This whole thing is absurd. Hitler was raised as a catholic, and as a catholic he was homophobic. That homophobia was spread throughout Nazism, although as Drewski pointed out, the SS did have a strong streak of homosexuality in its ranks.
      Lesbians were “targeted” by Nazis:
      * Zoe, Lucinda. “The Black Triangle,” Lesbian Herstory Archives Newsletter, Brooklyn, N.Y., No. 12 (June 1991): p. 7. (A critical discussion of the notion that black triangles were used to mark lesbians in the concentration camps in a manner equivalent to the pink triangle for homosexual men, along with remarks on when the black triangle came to be used as a contemporary lesbian symbol).
      I only hope lesbians are not being targeted now by right-wing religious nutters within the Board…because when all is said and done, no institutions are more homophobic than religions, particularly the Abrahamic religions.
      This LGBT memorial monument is barely 2 years old, and is already having difficulty implementing the plans that were decided by the Board at the moment of its inception.
      With very little effort the international gay community could easily erect its own memorial, and believe me, it would be at least have a rainbow flag beside it, with triangles in evidence.
      Looks to me as if we have skin heads maintaining the holocaust gay memorial.
      We want to see lesbians kissing for 2 years, as planned.

  • MavsFan Said: March 30th, 2010 at 1:18 am

    • If anyone has an interest in this topic, specifically as it pertains to lesbians in Nazi Germany, I would highly recommend the book, and subsequent movie (which is German with English subtitles) “Aimee and Jaguar”. It provides a fantastic first-hand historical representation of time interwoven with a love story between a Jewish woman (Felice Schragenheim) and a Nazi wife (Elisabeth Wust). Oh, and did I mention, it’s based on a true story!

  • Drewski Said: March 30th, 2010 at 12:51 am

    • It doesn’t matter what pretext made the Nazis draw a bead on lesbians. They were arrested, sent to camps, and killed, and it all happened because they were lesbian. Str8 women in otherwise similar circumstances were not picked up first. Those lesbians were targeted because they were lesbian Communists, lesbian performers, lesbian trade unionists. It was their lesbianism that made them higher-order targets.
      If we’re going to argue over the “purity” of sexuality as justification for imprisonment/ execution, remember that the SS had a strong gay streak. Does that minimize the significance of killing gay men because they were gay? No. And neither should any gay man (or anyone else) minimize the truth that lesbians were sent to the camps for being lesbian more than for any other trait. Change the film and have it show two women this year.

  • jean-paul Said: March 30th, 2010 at 12:16 am

    • What is this…a tactic to divide the LGBT community at a time when we are seeing a horrific backlash against Human Rights (Gay Rights) in the world?
      This is nit-picking while the real problems of gay asylum are being neglected, e.g. Iraq, Iran; and while anti-homosexual laws are being re-enforced in Malawi, Zimbabwe and 48 other countries.
      Get a life.
      I hope Zinn’s letter finds the destination it deserves…

  • Peter Formaini Said: March 29th, 2010 at 8:52 pm

    • “All this came to a dead stop in 1933-34. Many lesbians were murdered by the SS as they were being interrogated because lesbians were seen as asocial or Communists, e.g. black triangle.
      Others were arrested under Austrian law which did criminalized Lesbianism, and they were ruthlessly used in the camps as prostitutes so as to boost the patriarchal ethos of Nazism.”
      Which – as the individual said – means they were NOT killed because they were lesbians. Lesbians were NOT ‘trgeted’ for death’ the way that Jews, gypsies, homosexual MEN, the mentally ill were.
      I am sure some died for being antisocial or Communist or suspected of treason – but they were NOT killed for being lesbian.
      That truth does not diminish their death – but it does a disservice to those who WERE specifically targeted to claim that those who were NOT targeted were victims in the same way as those who truly were singled out for specific traits or actions.

  • jean-paul Said: March 29th, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    • The tremendous gay and lesbian liberation which took place during the Wiemar era is very well recorded with names and places.
      All this came to a dead stop in 1933-34. Many lesbians were murdered by the SS as they were being interrogated because lesbians were seen as asocial or Communists, e.g. black triangle.
      Others were arrested under Austrian law which did criminalized Lesbianism, and they were ruthlessly used in the camps as prostitutes so as to boost the patriarchal ethos of Nazism.
      The Gay Holocaust Memorial in Berlin is as ugly as it needs to be to reflect the seriousness of these horrendous crimes. Moreover, the Memorial is meant to remind us of the unimaginable cruelty which took place when homophobia and transphobia was endorsed by the State.
      It is well to be reminded that thousands of lesbians did in fact disappear from Berlin in one fall swoop. The entire LGBT lived and died in terror in those days, and it’s not fair to pretend that only gays men suffered.
      Also, Alexander Zinn is one person. I would be curious to know what other Holocaust scholars are irritated when it comes time to implement a plan which has already been approved by the Board. This revisionism is a pure waste of time.

  • Zebulon Af Söderberg Said: March 29th, 2010 at 7:49 pm

    • That’s an odd monument…

  • Kate M Walker Said: March 29th, 2010 at 7:40 pm

    • Looks like these “experts” never bothered to read Andrea Dworkin, who has lots to say about lesbians in the holocaust:
      Scapegoat: The Jews, Israel, and Women’s Liberation (Paperback)
      ~ Andrea Dworkin (Author) “In Memory Fields Holocaust survivor Shlomo Breznitz goes to The Oxford English Dictionary to look up the word hope…” (more)

  • Gerry Fisher Said: March 29th, 2010 at 3:12 pm

    • I agree…I think it’s simplistic to say that lesbians were not persecuted by the Nazis.
      It would be cool if they could get a video that morphed between two men kissing and two women kissing!

  • Scotty Matthews Said: March 29th, 2010 at 2:03 pm

    • What makes me irate is that the “monument” to the tens of thousands of gay men targeted and killed by the Nazis is essentially a 14-foot tall blank gray rectangular concrete slab with a peephole in the side.
      Is it supposed to represent a giant stone closet? Or perhaps a garden shed?
      It has less artistic and cultural value than a pile of cinderblocks, and if you’re not angry about that, then how on Earth can you be angry about the gender of the gay couple you see when you peer into the peephole?
      Some people have way too much free time on their hands, including the “artist” who designed this excruciatingly poor excuse for a memorial.

  • artwit Said: March 29th, 2010 at 10:43 am

    • There was a “crime” of refusing to bear children for the Reich, but it wasn’t the same thing. There were some Lesbians who hid out in the countryside during the entire Nazi era and who were interviewed in their old age for a documentary.


JJones said...

It is an insult to SINGLE OUT for memorialization the handful of anti-societal trouble-seeking Jehovah's Witnesses alongside the FIVE MILLION Non-Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view some of those fellow victims (Homosexuals, Gypsies, etc. ) much as did the Nazis. Additionally, of the 5,000,000 Non-Jewish Holocaust victims, Jehovah's Witnesses constituted the LEAST number of all -- less than 1300 persons.

It is ESPECIALLY an insult to memorialize the handful of anti-societal trouble-seeking Jehovah's Witnesses alongside the SIX MILLION Jewish Holocaust victims given that Jehovah's Witnesses view the Jews much as did the Nazis.

The WatchTower Cult teaches its own version of "replacement theology", which says that GOD rejected the Jews as His "chosen people", and replaced them with today's "Jehovah's Witnesses". In fact, the title "Jehovah's Witnesses" was originally applied to the Jews by the Prophet Isaiah, and is even quoted on the wall at the entrance to the Holocaust Museum in Washington D.C. The WatchTower Society, in calling its own members "Jehovah's Witnesses" is attempting to steal that designation away from the Jews. The WatchTower Cult even teaches that all of the Bible's promises of restoration for the Jewish people now belongs to the followers of the Cult.

There were only approximately 6000 Jehovah's Witnesses in Germany during the 1930s-40s. While many of those 6000 German JWs were repeatedly arrested during the 1930s and 1940s, only a fraction were jailed or imprisoned for any significant length of time. Only about 200-300 German JWs lost their lives, and the majority of those died from any number of causes other than having been executed. Approximately 1000 JWs from other European countries lost their lives while incarcerated by the Nazis.

During that same time period, there were more Jehovah's Witnesses arrested and jailed in the United States than in Germany. In fact, from 1941 until 1945, approximately 4500 American Jehovah's Witnesses "elected" to go to prison rather than serve in the U.S. Military and go fight against those same Nazis who were committing those atrocities. Approximately 3000 of those 4500 American JWs were even offered "conscientious objector" status, in which they were offered "non-combatant" work as a substitute, but 99% of those JWs refused to even help that much.

Julian Real said...

Hi JJones,

I appreciate and respect your position on this, and don't really disagree.

So thanks for noting all that. I will keep that very much in mind in any future posts about populations impacted--killed--by the Nazis during the middle of the last century.

Now, could you refrain from using the derogatory term for the Roma? As noted in my post, "Gypsie" is derogatory.