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The Third Sex in the Third Reich

Holocaust Memorial exhibition 23 January – 3 February 2012 at Jubilee Library, Brighton.

Brighton’s LGBT community marked Holocaust Memorial Day with an exhibition at Jubilee Library, called The Third Sex in the Third Reich. It traced the way Germany’s Nazi Party changed the world for male and female homosexuals and transvestites, from the very beginning of its reign to well beyond the end.

It was compiled by Brighton Ourstory, Lesbian, Gay and Bisexual History Centre with the support of Brighton & Hove City Council’s Equalities and Inclusion Unit. The exhibition included poems written by members of Allsorts Youth Group, with the help of Queer Writing South, inspired by the famous "First they came for…" poem by Pastor Martin Niemoller.

First they came for the communists
And I did not speak out because I was not a communist
Then they came for the socialists
And I did not speak out because I was not a socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists
And I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews
And I did not speak out because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me
And there was no one left to speak out for me...

Eighty years ago, Germany’s capital city, Berlin, led the world in its liberal attitudes towards same-sex love. Within three weeks of the Nazi Party taking power in 1933, Berlin’s gay clubs were being closed down and its gay organisations and publications banned. The Nazis wanted to cleanse German society of people it didn’t approve of. When the first concentration camps were opened gay men were among the first to be interned. Although few in number by comparison with other groups persecuted by the Nazi Party, gay men were treated particularly harshly. Unlike the Jews, homosexuals were not targetted for extermination but their treatment meant they died in larger numbers than some other groups. 

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The Eldorado nightclub in Berlin, a popular destination for lesbians, gay men and transvestites of both sexes, as it looked during its heyday around 1930.

Reproduced from Andreas Sternweiler, et al. (eds), Goodbye to Berlin? 100 Jahre Schwulenbewegung (Berlin: Verlag rosa Winkel, 1997).

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The Eldorado as it appeared around February-March 1933, after it was closed by the new Nazi government.

Reproduced from Claudia Schoppmann, Days of Masquerade: Life Stories of Lesbians During the Third Reich (New York: Columbia University Press, 1996).

Linda Pointing from Brighton Ourstory said, "It’s been an emotional experience for us, researching this profoundly dreadful aspect of LGBT history. The exhibition isn’t always a comfortable read but Brighton is not unlike Berlin at that time and we should take note. One of the quotes we've used is Thomas Jefferson’s ‘The price of liberty is eternal vigilance’."

The theme of this year’s Holocaust Memorial Day is 'Speak Up Speak Out'.

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