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In the 1920s, Berlin had nearly 100 gay and lesbian bars or cafes. Vienna had about a dozen gay cafes, clubs and bookstores. In Paris, certain quarters were renowned for open displays of gay and trans nightlife. Even Florence, Italy, had its own gay district, as did many smaller European cities. When the Nazis came to power, their ideology and policies were hostile to homosexuality. Still, the record reveals a more complex set of responses to homosexuality than the inflammatory rhetoric of Nazi leaders would indicate. Hitler stated that homosexuality was “degenerate behavior” which posed a threat to the capacity of the state and the “masculine character” of the German nation. This is quite ironic in that many of Hitler’s inner circle were in fact gay. Hans Frank, the butcher Governor-General of Poland was homosexual, Hitler’s adjutant Wilhelm Bruckner was said to be bisexual, and Walter Funk, Reich Minister of Economics and Hitler’s personal financial advisor has frequently been called a “notorious” homosexual. Most notable was Ernst Röhm, a personal friend of Adolph Hitler and the Storm Troop leader.
Speaker: Michael Gans is a PhD candidate in the Department of Holocaust Studies at the University of Haifa, researching the ways in which the transmission of transgenerational trauma in the descendants of Holocaust victims, perpetrators, and bystanders effects their present day perceptions of Jews, the Holocaust, and each other. Gans was a Yad Vashem scholar on Teaching the Holocaust to Future Generations. Gans recently completed a short film, entitled Zydu Gatve - Jew Street; documenting his personal journey as a son of a Holocaust survivor, who returns to Lithuania and has an unexpected encounter with his grandmother’s ghost. His film won two major awards at the 2010 University of Victoria’s Sunscreen Film Festival. Gans is a survivor of the AIDS Crisis and is a staunch advocate of Gay Rights and communal empowerment, whose perceptions have been shaped by the inspirational friendships of such Gay luminaries as Richard Plant and William H. Hoffman.