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Gay victims of Nazis given due respect

Local

AN exhibition like no other, which touches on the critical issue of prejudice associated with homosexuality, is on display at the Durban Holocaust Centre until the end of the month. In Whom Can I Still Trust? explores the largely untold history of the persecution of homosexuals in Nazi Germany.

I attended the launch of the exhibition at the Durban Holocaust Centre which has been redesigned and redeveloped for South Africa. According to a statement, it relates the historical narrative to the prejudices still facing homosexuals today. Moreover, it highlights the progress – and lack thereof – made in ensuring the protection of sexual minorities in South Africa.

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Tragic end: Lilly Wust (left) and Felice Schragenheim. It was to be the last time they spent together in freedom. When they returned home, the Gestapo (secret police of Nazi Germany) were waiting. Picture: Supplied

The launch commenced with a presentation of those involved in the exhibition and members of the Durban Holocaust Centre with Dr Lutz van Dijk (author and co-director of Homes for Kids in South Africa), Richard Freeman (director of Cape Town Holocaust Centre) and Mary Kluk (Durban Holocaust Centre’s director).

Freeman said: “This exhibition tells a specific narrative... of a group of people who were targeted during the Nazi area simply because they were homosexual. They were seen in Nazi terms as not worthy of love.

“Through the exhibition and the Holocaust centres, we are able to take history out of numbers and personalise it and we are able to honour victims. When I first saw this exhibition, it was in Dutch and I thought if we could relate it to South Africa, it would be great. There are so many murders related to homosexuality happening in real time in our country,” Freeman said.

“I felt like we needed to bring this exhibition here in order to engage with our own issues, since it talks about the consequences of prejudice and talks about society.”

Freeman stressed the importance of getting this message through to pupils across the country which is why The Durban Holocaust Centre is deeply involved with the establishment of these programmes for schools across Durban. Over the years, violent attacks against members of sexual minority groups have increased dramatically.

Homophobic bullying is happening on a daily basis in schools with grave consequences for young South Africans.

After the informative presentation, we were taken on a tour of the Holocaust Centre. The exhibition incorporates archive photographs, personal testimonies and video clips. We were enlightened on the level of prejudice homo-sexuals were subjected to between 1933 and 1945. Homosexual men were targeted by the Nazis and thousands were murdered in concentration camps.

An important part of the exhi-bition, titled It Gets Better South Africa, is a collection of short videos which discourage homophobic bullying and feature messages of hope from a diverse group of high-profile individuals including Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu and TV presenters Jo-Ann Strauss and Sade Gilberti.

Those who believe in taking a stand against homophobia can attend the exhibition (free of charge) which promotes the acceptance of diversity and protection of sexual minorities.

• The exhibition ends on May 31 at the Durban Holocaust Centre, corner KE Masinga and Playfair roads. Call 031 368 6833.

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