Gays and the Holocaust Exhibit in New Rochelle

A traveling exhibit from the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum will be hosted at Temple Israel of New Rochelle.

An exhibit that chronicles the Nazi persecution of homosexuals prior to and during World War II opens Sunday at Temple Israel of New Rochelle.

The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum traveling exhibition—"Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945—will be hosted at Temple Israel in partnership with The LOFT: LGBT Community Services Center.

The opening reception will be at 2 p.m. Sunday and the exhibit will be open through June 9.

New Rochelle resident Linda Barat said the Holocaust Memorial Museum had been reaching out to lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organizations to host the exhibit.

"They reached out to The LOFT," Barat said, "and (The LOFT) reached out to us.

"Because of our shared history, we said 'yes' right away," she said.

Barat saw the exhibit last October in a Garden City LGBT center.

"The director of the center walked me through it," she said, "and I was so moved by it."

In spite of just being panels and pictures, Barat said it was mesmerizing.

"I'm so glad that I had that emotional connection," she said. "That really helps me understand it."

According to information from the museum, between 1933 and 1945, the Nazi regime promoted racial health policies that were designed to eliminate what it thought was biological corruption of the Aryan race.

Homosexuals were persecuted as health threats because they were believed to be carriers of a "degeneracy" that weakened society and hindered population growth.

Nazis arrested and imprisoned tens of thousands of German men, sending them to prison and concentration camps.

David Juhren, executive director of The LOFT, said it was a story that not enough people know about and a story that needs to be told.

Berlin prior to 1933 "was a great place to be if you were gay," he said, "but there was still an article in the law—Paragraph 175—that basically said it was illegal to be gay."

Juhren said that is what the Nazis used to round up known homosexuals.

He said that, while young people are much more accepting of LGBT issues than their parents, they may not know much about Nazi persecution.

"It's very important for our community to know of the persecution and what happened if they were gay," Juhren said.

Cantor Erik Contzius of Temple Israel said it was vital for the synagogue to host the exhibit.

"First of all, the Holocaust is something important to talk about," he said. "If we don't understand our history, we are doomed to repeat it."

Contzius said Adolph Hitler's efforts to make a superior race reached beyond the 6 million Jews who died, extending to another 6 million people thought to be inferior.

"When we live in a society that condones the dehumanization of people, it affects everyone," he said.

"My hope is with this exhibit Jews and non-Jews alike will understand the Holocaust and that hatred and persecution on any level is something that should not be tolerated at all," Contzius said.

Barat said there will be docents available by request when the exhibit is open to guide individuals and groups through it.

Exhibition hours are from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Fridays and 9 a.m. to noon Sundays.

Barat said the daytime hours shouldn't deter people from calling Temple Israel to schedule a viewing out of hours.

"We will open it per request," she said. "We want to accommodate everyone."

Temple Israel of New Rochelle is located at 1000 Pinebrook Blvd.

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