Talk of the Holocaust has been prominent in my family from the time I was old enough to read a book of substance to the present day. My grandparents were young adults growing up in Denmark during World War II.
My grandfather fought first with the Danish Army and later worked with the underground to help smuggle Jews into Sweden. He was caught twice by the Nazis and put into a POW camp both times.
He never spoke of what they did to him, I think because he didn’t want to bring the pain and suffering onto anyone else, especially my grandma. The inhumanity of it all is just unreal. No one knows exactly how he escaped, but he risked his life because he knew what was going on was wrong.
He was lucky not to have been killed on more than one occasion, and after being caught the second time, he went off to Jutland to safely await the arrival of the war’s end.
My grandpa did his part, that’s for certain. He always spoke modestly of his actions saying he was just doing what needed to be done but, for the rest of my family and me, he breathes new life into the word courage.
I’m familiar with WWII up-close, but it’s hard to be familiar when there were so many sides to this unbelievably tragic event in history. Tragic doesn’t even begin to describe it.
Miller Nichols Library is currently showcasing the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibit on Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals.
I had never thought specifically about the treatment of homosexuals during the war, but it’s truly horrifying, as is the treatment of all living beings who were held in the concentration camps.
On March 6, the library had a showing of the film, “Bent,” a 1997 film about the impact of the war on homosexual prisoners. Max and Horst, the film’s main characters try their hardest not to let the physical and emotional trauma of being prisoners weigh them down.
Deprived of all love, compassion and free will, the two become friends and ultimately fall in love as they do their best to tread through the blatant torture and mistreatment all inhabitants of the camp received.
This movie is not easy to watch. I sat mostly in shock for the greater part of the film, trying to wrap my mind around how something like this could happen.
Although the credibility of the film in certain parts is questionable, the abuse shown is realistic. For example, Max receives a letter from a family containing money, and I find it hard to believe the Nazis would allow such a thing. But for the most part, the film is credible.
The film begins with a set up of wild parties night after night and friends sharing cigarettes, laughs, drinks and a good night in the sack, but in the finale of it all, all audience members will find themselves with a broken heart. The emotional connection Max and Horst share is undeniable, and all they have is to try and make it through to the next bland and torturous idea of a day.