Charles D. Dunst asks why is it when we talk about non-Jewish Holocaust victims, we ignore the gays? A gay Holocaust took place in the 1930s and 1940s. It is repeating in Chechnya as we speak.
As a New York Jew, the Holocaust was introduced into my life at quite an early stage. Although a full conceptual understanding would take years to develop, the concept of “70 years ago, Germany killed a bunch of Jews – just because they were Jews” was a staple in both my early religious and secular educations.
Growing up, this collective suffering served as a source of solidarity and unity in a reform Jewish community in which other political and social views – along with level of practice – were severely deviated. As I progressed academically and personally, my understanding of the Holocaust deepened.
Hitler didn’t just kill the Jews because they were Jews. He killed the Jews because he could cite them as the harbingers of German failure – largely due to the fact that we were already otherized. In both secular and religious academia, the Holocaust is portrayed as a largely Jewish genocide. Other communities, such as Soviet prisoners of war, ethnic Poles, Serbians, the disabled, and Romani people, are mentioned as secondary victims.
For the most part, this is exactly how the Holocaust should be taught – as a Jewish genocide in which others were also targeted. The issue, however, is the historical omission of a specific community; gay men. Homosexuals were not the direct focus of the Holocaust, but they were exterminated at rates higher that most, and treated worse than nearly every community.