Tag Archives: Holocaust

Thanksgiving 2012: A Collective Amnesia

22 Nov

Last night we inadvertently caught about 5 minutes of the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving episode, just enough to hear Linus declare: “… We thank God for the opportunity to create the New World for freedom and justice.”  Irony much? What an extraordinarily white perspective that does not align with reality. Freedom and Justice for whom?

I often wonder, do we collectively, as Americans, conveniently choose to forget the genocide of the native peoples living in North America–the use of bio-warfare?  Yes, multi-generations of white folk have benefitted from the slaughtering of indigenous populations in North America and stealing land. It is ironic that the early survival of the Plymouth colony depended so heavily on the agricultural and fishing advice of the Wampanoag.

The whole idea of a “first Thanksgiving” is historically murky at best, with both religious and civil harvest festivals easily traceable to the Spanish in St. Augustine and British colonies in Jamestown and Plymouth. The native populations also had histories of harvest festivals, thus rendering a colonizer’s claim of “first” another in a series of misappropriations. Regular Thanksgiving celebrations as fixed civil events became common much later, dating to the 1660s.

As with so much of early colonial American history, most of what we “remember” is filtered through centuries of creative reconstruction: bucolic paintings, myths of noble savages and honest oppressed British outcasts, grade school songs and pageants. It is understandable that we prefer not to dwell on our collective responsibility for the decimation of whole populations, but it is an important part of our nation’s history. The colonizers’ relationship with the native populations was complex (and occassionally grateful) but seldom benefitted the natives and almost certainly did not involve everybody sharing a lovely meal around a table in peace.

Let us not forget this was no mere land grab but a decimation of Holocaust proportions. Our mistreatment of the indigenous peoples in North America went on well into the 20th Century with the Termination Act, Allotment, and the creation of Boarding Schools where white people thought their job was to “kill the Indian to save the man.”

The root idea of Thanksgiving — shared by the Europeans and the indigenous peoples — as a celebration is a good one. Be thankful for what you have; celebrate the cherished loved ones in your life; take time to remember what is good and bountiful with no expectations of gain other than shared love and thanks. Let us move forward as a nation, correctly learning, remembering, and growing from our history. Let us work hard to return to this spirit of Thanksgiving. It need not be buried in any trivia: upcoming shopping orgies (conspicuous consumption), 437 sporting events, overindulgence for its own sake, or cute “historical” imagery that overlooks a complex history.

We all have people and events in our lives worthy of celebration; that is what we should use today to be truly thankful for. I hope everyone reading this blog will be able to spend time with cherished loved ones, be it families of origin or families and communities we create.  TSM wishes everyone much peace and to be surrounded by love today.

A Love to Hide: How Americans Forget History

13 Nov

A Love to Hide

In the wake of Herman Cain laughing at Anita Hill and calling black people racist if they did not support him, in the wake of Republican Presidential candidates signing a pledge to further discriminate against the LGBT community, it is clear that Americans tend to conveniently forget the lessons we were to have learned from history.

Last night my husband and I had dinner and watched a movie (part of the gay agenda).  We watched the French film A Love to Hide, based on the book Moi, Pierre Seel, déporté homosexuel by Pieere Seel.  The movie tells the story of two lovers who are gay hiding a young Jewish woman during the Nazi Third Reich, or the Third Holy Roman Empire (gentle reminder that Hitler, who was elected Chancellor of Germany believed that it was the will of God to perform ethnic cleansing).  The movie is reminiscent of Martin Sherman’s 1979 play Bent, which depicts the persecution of gays during Nazi Germany.  Bent was turned into a movie in 1997.

The movie, A Love to Hide, was a very difficult watch, but a most necessary one if you believe, as I do, that we must never forget the atrocities we are capable of performing. I reflected on the Holocaust of the Native Americans, and then the Holocaust of the Jews and Gays, which brought me to the current crop of Republican Presidential candidates in the United States.  I wonder if any of them have picked up a history book? Probably safe to say that Bachmann and Perry can’t even spell history.

I strongly recommend you watch both A Love to Hide, and Bent, and read two of my favorite books: Stones From the River, and The Book Thief.  After reading these books and watching these movies there is no way one can justify voting for a political monster that runs on a platform of hate and discrimination, which are the two basic tenets that bind the Republican party.

Why We Need to Remember Gad Beck: Holocaust Survivor

20 Aug

Gay Jew Holocaust Survivor

I want to thank my friend and TSM correspondent, Brad Fairchild, for inspiring me to write this story. Sadly, TSM had reported the loss of Rudolph Brazda as the last gay man remaining survivor of the Holocaust . Apparently, Brazda was not the last survivor. Fortunately, the Dallas Holocaust Museum has tracked down Gad Beck, another gay Holocaust survivor.

Beck was featured in the documentary Paragraph 175, a film that chronicles the lives of gay men and lesbians during the Nazi regime–giving birth to labeling us with the pink triangle.  Beck was born to a Jewish father and German mother.  While living in Berlin, Beck helped Jews escape to Switzerland between 1940 and 1944.  Being gay, Beck was also able to gain the trust of  non-Jews.  Sadly, in 1945, a Gestapo spy betrayed Beck and had him sent to a Jewish transit camp–a camp from which people were then sent to concentration, work, or death camps.

Fortunately, Beck survived the concentration camp and eventually published his autobiography, An Underground Life: Memoirs of a Gay Jew in Nazi Berlin.  In his memoir, Beck describes the painful separation from his then lover.  One should note that Beck was sent to the camps for being a Jew, where as Brazda was sent to the camps for being gay. I presume that Beck was able to pass as straight.

I’m so very glad that Beck is still with us and hope there might be other LGBT Holocaust survivors whom we don’t know about yet. I, for one, would welcome the opportunity to record their histories.  In a time where right wing extremists have taken control of the Republican party, we must not forget the history of the Holocaust.  It is all too conceivable that Bachmann and Perry could design another atrocity against the LGBT community.  If you have not seen Paragraph 175, I strongly encourage you to rent it.  It is not a trip to chuckle town, but it is a necessary documentary to watch!

I am very interested in recording the history of  LGBT Holocaust survivors; please let me know if you are aware of any.

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