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the holocaust: homosexual & lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender rights today

DPI/NGO Briefing 29 January 2015 - United Nations Headquarters, NY
Reported by Judy Mintz, ICJW UN NY Coordinator

Moderator: Jeffrey Brex, Chief, NGO Relations, Advocacy and Special Events

During the briefing we were reminded of one of the lesser-known group of victims of the Holocaust - the homosexuals. Its purpose was to help us learn about what happened in the past and to remind us to bear witness to the struggle of others and to leave no one behind.


Eric Jensen: Associate Professor of History, Miami University of Ohio with a specialty about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals

100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality from 1933 to 1945, about ½ were convicted and from 5,000 to 10,000 died in the camps.  Lesbians were not persecuted

During the 1920s in Berlin gays were accepted in society but an internal purge began in 1933. They were looked upon as undesirable for they went against the ideal of large German families and were thought to be a bad influence on youth.

Homosexuals were castrated, subjected to hormone experiments, subjected to psychological
therapy, and imprisoned in labor/concentration camps where they were identified by pink triangles on their clothes. Most of their stories were not told after the war. Finally in 2008 a memorial to the homosexual victims of Nazism was dedicated in Berlin.

Rafael De Bustamante: Counsellor, Human Rights and Social Affairs, EU Delegation to the UN

Within the United Nations LGBT rights are respected and counted as human rights. No violence should be directed towards any group that includes their right to safety and security. 

There are two UN resolutions and one statement specifically protecting the rights of the LGBT communities against discrimination BUT much opposition still remains in some countries based on personal belief, culture, traditions, politics and religion.

LGBT rights are part of the UN Human Rights Day. One example of "progress" is the expanded definition of "family" and the recognition of the different kinds of families. One controversial dispute centers around the acceptance and recognition of same sex marriage.

Rick Landman: Gay Activist and Son of Holocaust Survivors

Landman, as a Jewish gay man whose parents survived the Holocaust, shared his life story that began when he came out as a 13-year old in 1965. He explained how he always wondered if he would have been arrested by the Nazis if he lived in Germany during WWII.

He has led a life of activism as a gay rights organizer, an educator, attorney, and author. He spoke of the importance of recognizing the stories of all those who were Nazi targets-including homosexuals, Jehovah Witnesses, the Romas, the disabled, and all asocials.

He stressed that all these lives mattered and was pushing for their inclusion in the NYC Holocaust Memorial Park in Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn by dedicating "memorial markers" for five persecuted groups. Landman is a proud member of Congregation Beit Simchat Torah since its inception in 1973.

Charles Radcliffe: Chief, Global Issues, OHCHR (Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights) in New York

Within the UN system he is a human rights adviser on sexual orientation and gender identity. He is involved with raising awareness about violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. He reminded us of the important quote: "It happened and therefore it can happen again".

The UN works on the ideal that all human beings are born equal. The organization has come a long way to fulfilling this promise along with progress around the world for LGBTs especially in the past 20 years. It is a better, safer place for them but not in all member states. Change has occurred with laws and policies but more needs to be accomplished to raise awareness and assistance for victims.

The UN has launched a public information campaign-UN Free and Equal Campaign-to change attitudes, homophobic feelings, and remove stereotypes.
Marianne Mollmann: Director of Programs, International Gay and Lesbian Human Rights  Commission (IGLHRC)

She is a lecturer on sexual orientation, gender identity and human rights  advocacy and research. She is an activist, policy advisor, and writer. Mollmann shared three myths-that homosexuality is new, that everyone is the same and that it's all  about sex.

She stated that the only newness is that individuals are now claiming a visible identity.
Different groups need different rights. It's more than just victimization and violence. 
She reminded us that everyone has a sexual orientation and gender identity.