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UND is next host site for U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibit on Nazi persecution of homosexuals

Posted on 2/28/2012

Nazi persecution of homosexuals exhibit
The University of North Dakota Center for Human Right and Genocide Studies, along with the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum, is proud to announce that a traveling exhibition that uncovers and explores Nazi persecution of Homosexuals (1933-1945) will be featured at the Memorial Union, beginning Thursday, March 1, and running until March 25.

The special exhibition is being co-sponsored by the UND Office of the President, the College of Arts & Sciences and the Jewish Community Relations Council of Minnesota &The Dakotas.

The exhibition, which is free and open to the public, opens on Thursday, March 1, with a 7 p.m., reception with Hors D 'Oeuvres, in the Memorial Union Ballroom. Exhibition hours for the public generally will be 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday, with extended evening hours until 8 p.m., on Thursdays. Weekend hours are 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Gregory S. Gordon, director of the CHRGS and a UND law professor who is an international authority on human rights law, said this is the first time a U.S. Holocaust Museum Exhibition will be coming to the State of North Dakota.

More than two years in development, this is the first major exhibition on this subject for English-speaking audiences and draws on materials from more than 40 archives and other repositories in eight countries.

"This is a historic occasion for UND and for North Dakota," Gordon said. "I appreciate the fact that UND has been chosen for this honor."

Gordon said thousands of homosexuals, primarily gay men, perished at the hands of the Nazis in concentration camps during the Third Reich. The Holocaust Museum exhibition covers the story of what happened to these victims.

"It illuminates an aspect of Nazi brutality that is often left unexplored," he said.

Gordon was the most recent faculty member selected by the UND President's Office and the Chester Fritz Distinguished Professors committee to deliver a University Faculty Lecture. He took the opportunity to enlighten the campus community and public on the evolution of international laws on incitement to war crimes. Also, Gordon was recently invited by the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to conduct trial advocacy training in Sarajevo for judges, prosecutors and defense attorneys preparing for upcoming cases in the Court's War Crimes Chamber.

Earlier this month, Gordon was part of a panel of distinguished experts, including U.S. Ambassador at Large for War Crimes Issues Stephen Rapp and Don Ferencz, son of legendary Nuremberg prosecutor Ben Ferencz, in connection with the London premiere of the film "Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today." He also met with British Attorney General Dominic Grieve at the British House of Commons and spoke about the 1474 trial of Peter von Hagenbach, widely considered history's first international war crimes trial and a forerunner to Nuremberg.

Exhibition background:
In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler assumed power, an estimated 1 million homosexual men lived in Germany. Nazi policy asserted that homosexual men carried a "degeneracy" that threatened the "disciplined masculinity" of Germany. As homosexuals were believed to form self-serving groups, the emergence of a state-within-the state that could disrupt social harmony was also feared. Additionally, the Nazis charged that homosexuals' failure to father children was a factor in Germany's declining birth rate, thus robbing the nation of future sons and daughters who could fight for and work toward a greater Reich.

"The exhibition explores why homosexual behavior was identified as a danger to Nazi society and how the Nazi regime attempted to eliminate it," says exhibition curator Edward Phillips. "The Nazis believed it was possible to ‘cure' homosexual behavior through labor and ‘re-education.'"

As Nazi efforts to eradicate homosexuality grew more draconian, gay men became subject to castration, institutionalization, and deportation to concentration camps.

Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality, and of these, approximately 50,000 were sentenced for the crime. Most of these men spent time in regular prisons. An estimated 5,000 - 15,000 were sent to concentration camps where an unknown number of them perished.

Other events:
In addition to the Holocaust museum's exhibition, throughout March, UND will be hosting a series of special events and speakers on Nazi persecution, GLBT issues and human rights. One of these special events will be the presentation of the film "Question One," in partnership with the UND Global Visions Film Series, on March 21.
Here is a list of CHRGS-sponsored events set to take place at UND this month:

• 7 p.m., Monday, March 5, keynote speaker Dr. Steve Rogers, a UND visiting fellow with the CHRGS, will discuss "Nazi Persecution (1933-1945)." Memorial Union Lecture Bowl.
• 7 p.m., Tuesday, March 6, screening of the documentary film "Paragraph 175," which delves into the provision of the German Criminal Code that made homosexual acts between males a crime and that was broadened and strengthened under Nazi rule. Q & A follows. Memorial Union Lecture Bowl.

• Noon, Wednesday, March 7, a student lunch, and discussion on "Approaches to Nazi Persecution Past and Present." River Valley Room.

• 7 p.m., Monday, March 19, keynote address by Dr. Jeffrey Langstraat, UND assistant professor of sociology and an expert on sexual politics, and LBGT studies. Memorial Union Lecture Bowl.

• Noon, Tuesday, March 20, dramatic theater reading of "Angels in America," Loading Dock in the Memorial Union.

• 7 p.m., Wednesday, March 21, showing of the feature film "Question One," as part of the Global Visions Film Series, in the UND Memorial Union Lecture Bowl.

Guests without University parking permits for this or any other on-campus event may use the "pay-as-you-go" option in the Parking Ramp (corner of Second Avenue North and Columbia Road), the UND Visitor pay Lot (off Centennial Drive) or a Parking Meter. There are also several 30-minute free parking spots on the north side of the Memorial Union. Parking in any other parking lot on-campus requires a parking pass, which can be purchased directly through UND Parking Services, Twamley Hall, Room 204 (Monday, Wednesday -Friday, 8 a.m. - 4:30 p.m., and Tuesday 9 a.m. - 4:30 p.m.).

Gregory S. Gordon, associate professor of law and director of the Center for Human Rights and Genocide Studies, 701.777.2104, or at

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