Thousands of homosexuals, primarily gay men, perished at the hands of the Nazis along with millions of Jews and other victims including Roma (Gypsies), Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and the disabled during World War II and the Holocaust. 

The story of what happened to homosexuals in Nazi Germany is the subject of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibition Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933–1945. The exhibition opens at Buffalo and Erie County Public Library on Sunday May 22, 2016 and will be on display through Saturday July 16, 2016.

“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.’ Their efforts to eradicate homosexuality left gay men subject to imprisonment, castration, institutionalization, and deportation to concentration camps.”

In 1933, the year Adolf Hitler assumed power, an estimated one 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.

Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality, and of these, approximately 50,000 were sentenced to prison for the crime. An estimated 5,000 to 15,000 were sent to concentration camps, where an unknown number of them perished.  This exhibit is made possible by generous funding from: A Jewish Program Venture Fund grant generously underwritten by the Jewish Federation of Buffalo, embraceWestern New York, Jewish Family Service of Buffalo and Erie County, Temple Beth Zion and its Cofeld Judaic Museum, Congregation Shir Shalom and Nickel City Jews.

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