York Pride Chairman discusses why the LGB&T community shouldn’t forget our history and the struggles We have had to go through to get the level of equality and freedom that We enjoy today. It’s a fantastic and meaningful read and thank you to Dan Sidley for writing it for us.

xRoss (Co-Creator GW)

History, Freedom and equality!

Dan Sidley

Very recently, my partner and I paid respects to a victim of one of the most unthinkable and unspeakable murders. What this individual was made to endure horrified me deep to my soul; fear, degradation, beatings, terror, incarceration, theft, disease, hunger, intimidation and hatred to name just a few.

What makes this murder so incomprehensible, is that this was one murder which was allowed to happen 4.1 million times over whilst many stood by, on the very ground I now found myself stood.

As the heinous crimes against each of the 4.1 million individuals were repeated to us, a deathly silence crept around inside the gates of the Auschwitz Nazi death camp. I was overcome with so many emotions; anger, confusion, despair and a deep and unforgettable underlying sadness. But more importantly, some worrying facts and a realisations became apparent in my own mind.

As we passed from bunker to bunker, room to room, the artifacts and images which were displayed will remain with me forever. Hundreds of thousands of individual pairs of shoes, glasses, brushes, suitcases, artificial limbs, children’s toys, clothing, cooking utensils, gold teeth, and an overwhelming amount of shaved human hair were staring back at me. These possessions – stolen both before, after and during death – represented just a small fraction of the 4.1 million victims.

But probably, the most poignant image in the whole of that concentration camp to me, was a single prisoners uniform. Why would one item of clothing stand out to me from the millions of items on display taken by the Nazi’s from the many Jews, Gypsies, Prisoners of War, Trade Unionists, Poles and Disabled people? This uniform stood out to me because it was branded with a single pink triangle; used in the camps to identify homosexual men.

Upon the election of Adolf Hitler, gay men – and to a lesser extent lesbians - were two of the numerous groups targeted by the Nazi’s and subsequently became holocaust victims. Beginning in 1933, gay organisations were banned, scholarly books about homosexuality, and sexuality in general, were burned, and homosexuals within the Nazi Party itself were murdered. In Berlin, to be openly gay was most acceptable in early 1930′s Germany. The Nazi’s quickly took advantage of this, and compiled detailed lists of homosexual individuals. Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested as homosexuals, of whom some 50,000 were sent to Auschwitz.

Furthermore, homosexuals in the camps were treated in an unusually cruel manner by their captors. They faced persecution not only from German soldiers but also from other prisoners, and many gay men were beaten to death. Additionally, gay men in forced labour camps routinely received more gruelling and dangerous work assignments than other non-Jewish inmates, under the policy of “Extermination Through Work”. SS soldiers also were known to use gay men for target practice, aiming their weapons at the pink triangles their human targets were forced to wear. Nazi doctors often used gay men for scientific experiments in an attempt to locate a gay gene to cure future generations. Gay men were also routinely castrated.

After the war, the treatment of homosexuals in concentration camps went unacknowledged by most countries for many decades. Some men were even re-arrested and imprisoned based on evidence found during the Nazi years. Closer to home, it was not until the 2009 that the British Government officially began to acknowledge this episode, and until 2002 until the German Government apologised for it.

These abhorrent crimes were committed a relatively short time ago. These were the very steps which lead to mass genocide, which includes the failure of political leadership, institutions co-operating with a far right ideology of hate, scape-goating, seeing some people as less human or ‘different’, and the erosion of universal human values and rights.

After paying my respects to the innocent victims on my visit that day, the moral of the story was clear to me. The holocaust happened. And because it happened, it could happen again.

All too often I hear people within our own community, refusing to accept that politics can make a difference. That all politicians are the same. What is the point in voting, some ask. Many instead give in to the choice of cynicism.

I challenge any person with this view to make a visit to Auschwitz, or look to current Countries with draconian outdated homophobic law such as Uganda to instead form an educated opinion on the real difference politics can serve. Whilst there is more to be done to achieve full LGBT equality, it is thanks to the efforts of politicians from all colours of the current political spectrum, that our community in the UK enjoys the greatest of rights ever in LGBT history. It is the moment we stop fighting for our rights and freedoms, that they will begin to be taken away from us. We must learn and preserve the lessons of history; if we don’t, who will?

Our decision to attend the ballot box or not, and whom we vote for, really can be a life or death decision. Use it wisely.

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