Although earthly harmony among all people might be an unattainable goal, we are nevertheless blessed as 21st-century LGBT Americans and allies to live in an age and a place where reason, acceptance and freedom are on the rise. Our civil rights achievements must never be taken for granted.
Lesson: Urban gay people living in the post-World War I incarnation of Germany, the Weimar Republic, might have thought they had it made for a few heady years. But then in 1933, an Austrian-born chancellor came to power. He wanted living space for his pure German race, and homosexuals had no place in his idealized society.
Thanks to the musical Cabaret, many are familiar with the artistic flamboyance of late ’20s and early ’30s gay Berlin, but many are not aware of what happened shortly thereafter. To teach visitors about the plight of gays under Hitler, the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum (ushmm.org) in Washington has put together a traveling exhibition, “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945.”
When Rick Fisher, executive director of Heartland Men’s Chorus, approached Christopher Leitch of the Kansas City Museum and Stuart Hinds of UMKC about hosting this exhibit in Kansas City, Leitch said, he and Hinds were eager to participate in their capacities as principals of the Gay and Lesbian Archive of Mid-America (glama.us). Leitch is director of the Kansas City Museum’s Historic House, and Hinds is the head of UMKC’s LaBudde Special Collections.
Heartland Men’s Chorus and GLAMA already enjoyed a functional relationship before this project, Leitch said — the chorus has committed a significant archive of its historical material to the GLAMA collection.
On Feb. 13, collaborators, sponsors and supporters attended an opening reception for the USHMM exhibition at Miller Nichols Library. General public viewing began Feb. 16. The exhibition consists of 30 panels with text and images. It is an easily accessible piece for community members and students.
“The exhibit is one of the most important historical stories being told right now,” Leitch said. “I saw the informational panel exhibit in 2002 in Washington, D.C., at the USHMM, and it was just overwhelming. It is exhaustively researched and meaningfully interpreted so that you really get a sense of how such atrocities came to be perpetrated and tolerated by the community at large.”
Deputy chancellor Karen Dace, head of the UMKC Division of Diversity, Access and Equity and an HMC board member, was instrumental in securing funding for the exhibition, which will continue through April 10.
GLAMA has a couple of oral histories that speak of individual experiences of Kansas City lesbians and gay men during World War II. If you have a historical LGBT-related story to tell or artifacts to share, please contact GLAMA via its website.
The HMC’s upcoming concert is related to the USHMM exhibition, and the chorus has set up a blog (hmcblog.org) about it. Readers can find a wealth of information there about the event and its narrative of gay Berlin and homosexual persecution by the Nazis. The concert’s title, “Falling in Love Again,” is taken from a popular Marlene Dietrich song of the decade. Another selection is called “Das Lila Lied” or “The Lavender Song.” It was a gay liberation song of the era, according to Eric Lane Barnes, assistant artistic director of Seattle Men’s Chorus, who researched, selected and arranged the first act of the spring show.
We are not doomed to repeat it
Even with the truth of this historical persecution laid out for all to see, some people still insist that it never happened. And what’s more, people like evangelist Scott Lively claim that “the Nazi party was entirely controlled by militaristic male homosexuals throughout its short history.” Lively’s Abiding Truth Ministries, in California, is on the Southern Poverty Law Center’s hate group map.
Lively is also an adamant supporter of Uganda’s so-called “Kill the Gays” bill, and he affirms the discredited practice of reparative therapy that aims to change sexual orientation.
Exhibit at UMKC: “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945”
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s free exhibition “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945” will be at UMKC’s Miller Nichols Library through April 10. Enter the library via its north-side ground-floor entrance. The exhibition is two stories up in the second-floor Dean’s Gallery. Check the library website (library.umkc.edu)for hours of operation. Go to kansascitymuseum.org/persecution for exhibition details. Parking is available in the lot north of Miller Nichols Library, 800 E. 51st St. (enter from Rockhill Road). Spaces are metered (25 cents/15 minutes) Monday through Friday, free on Saturdays and Sundays.
Concert: “Falling in Love Again” by Heartland Men’s Chorus
8 p.m. Saturday, March 23
4 p.m. Sunday, March 24
Folly Theater, 300 W. 12th St., Kansas City, Mo.
Tickets: $15-30 at hmckc.org/spring-concert or 816-931-3338.
Among the songs featured are “Mack the Knife,” “Bei Mir Bist Du Schö