Who can I trust? Homosexuals during the nazi era

• 22 september 2006 - 28 january 2007

The Dutch Resistance Museum Amsterdam offers an exhibition on the persecution of homosexuals in Germany 1933-1945 and in the Netherlands during the nazi occupation. The exhibition starts on September 22th and can be visited daily until January 28th, 2007.

Actor and pianist Robert T. Odeman (right) made these photo booth passport photographs with his friend Muli in 1931. In 1938, he was banned from his profession, convicted under paragraph 175 and sent to Sachsenhausen concentration camp. After the war he fought in vain for his rehabilitation. (Schwules Museum Berlijn)

Who can I trust in a society that considers me inferior and dangerous? Under Nazi rule, homosexuals, men and women alike, were excluded and persecuted. Personal testimonies show how individuals came under pressure in a treacherous environment. A look back at history that also raises questions about the present: how strong is the recently secured position of homosexuals in society? How would family, friends or colleagues react today?

In the dictatorship that was Germany after 1933, homosexual men and lesbian women were, like many other groups, excluded from normal every-day life. Without rights, maligned, persecuted. Neighbours, colleagues or even passers-by in the street reported them to the authorities. It was difficult for homosexuals to know whom they could still trust.

After 1940, the persecution of homosexuals also began in the Netherlands, with much the same measures as in Nazi-Germany: repression of homosexuality in public, tightening of penal measures, central registration of homosexuals and the formation of special police units. However, unlike the Jews, Dutch homosexuals were not sent to the camps. Frieda Belinfante was one of the Dutch lesbian during WWII. She took part in the Dutch resistance dressed as a man and escaped from the Gestapo.

After the war, the victims of homosexual persecution had nowhere to tell their stories. Their suffering was left unrecognised. Karl Gorath survived the camps, but was condemned again, in Germany, in 1947 by the same judge under the same law as during the nazi era. Homosexuals remained a despised minority group without rights for a long time, both in the Netherlands and in Germany. They were left alone with their memories.

Producers The exhibition has been put together by dr. Klaus Müller, museumconsulent, working for the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, among others. Initiator and producer is the Internationaal Homo/Lesbisch Informatiecentrum en Archief (IHLIA/International Gay Lesbian Information Centre and Archive). The exhibition has been realised with the financial help of the Dutch Ministry of Health, Well-being and Sport.