There was music, and refreshments, and some smiles, to be sure. But it would be a mistake to label the event as festive.
The occasion was the opening reception for a sobering and thought-provoking exhibition entitled Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945. The free exhibition, from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, examines the Nazi regime’s attempt to eradicate homosexuality, which left thousands dead and shattered the lives of many more. The display – a series of reproductions of photos, political cartoons, letters and other memorabilia – will run from February 16 – April 10 in the Dean’s Gallery of the Miller Nichols Library.
From 1933-1945, Germany’s National Socialist government attempted to root out those who did not fit its idealistic model of a “master Aryan race.” Jews were the primary victims and six million were murdered in the Holocaust. Millions of others were persecuted for racial and political reasons, including homosexuals. Believing them to be carriers of a “degeneracy” that weakened society and hindered population growth, the Nazi state arrested and incarcerated in prisons and concentration camps tens of thousands of German men as a means of terrorizing them into social conformity.
The reception featured several speakers discussing the importance of the exhibit to the historical record, and the lessons it provides for today’s society. Speakers included Christopher Leitch, Director of the Kansas City Museum; Bonnie Postlethwaite, UMKC Dean of Libraries; Karen Dace, UMKC Deputy Chancellor of Diversity, Access & Equity; and Joe Nadeau, Artistic Director, Heartland Men’s Chorus. The reception also featured a musical performance by the chorus.
The exhibition is being co- presented by the UMKC Division of Diversity, Access and Equity, in partnership with the Kansas City Museum and in conjunction with Heartland Men’s Chorus’ spring concert, Falling in Love Again, March 23-24 at the Folly Theater.
The exhibition is a project of GLAMA: the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America, a collecting partnership of the Kansas City Museum and the LaBudde Special Collections Department of the UMKC Libraries.
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum exhibitions program is supported in part by the Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund, established in 1990.
The exhibition will be supplemented with special film viewings. “Bent,” a film about the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, will be shown Mar. 6 at 12 noon in the Miller Nichols Library iX Theatre, 1st floor. The documentary film “Paragraph 175” about the German law that criminalized homosexuality, will be shown in the same location, on Mar. 13 at 12 noon.
Photo Credit: Janet Rogers, Division of Strategic Marketing and Communications