Library hosts ‘Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals’ exhibit

GVL / Courtesy -
Rob Franciosi

GVL / Courtesy – Rob Franciosi

Lucas Escalada

The Mary Idema Pew Library is hosting an exhibit on loan from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. The exhibit, titled “Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals: 1933-45,” is open to the public until Feb. 18.

The exhibit explores the Nazi’s treatment of homosexuals during the party’s early days and through World War II.

English Professor Rob Franciosi has been involved in the planning and implementing of the exhibit since the fall of 2014. He said GVSU has a history of educational initiatives related to the Holocaust, and this seemed like an appropriate time to put on this exhibit.

“Given the ongoing discussions in Michigan and beyond regarding LGBT rights, the story of how homosexuals were persecuted under the Nazis seemed very much worth telling,” Franciosi said.

Franciosi said it was important for the event to be held in the library.

“The ideal visitor in my mind would not only learn something she did not know before,” Franciosi said, “but then head to the library catalogue to find materials providing far more information than any space-limited exhibition can present.”

Franciosi said he has devoted a lot of time to understanding the Holocaust, particularly how Americans interpret it. He said the exhibit will show visitors an aspect of the Holocaust that is mentioned, but rarely explained.

Special events occurring throughout February will accompany the exhibit. History professor Jason Crouthamel will speak about the history of Germany’s homosexual rights movement and the persecution of homosexuals on Jan. 29.

Crouthamel will also introduce a screening of the documentary film “Paragraph 175” on Feb. 2. He will also participate in a panel discussing the history of the Nazi’s persecution of homosexuals on Feb. 13.

Crouthamel said Nazi attacks on homosexuals were widely supported by the German population. He said many Germans hated “social outsiders” like homosexuals more fiercely than other groups.

“The primary purpose is to educate students about the experiences of homosexuals in Nazi Germany, which provides important lessons about the legacies of prejudice and hatred,” Crouthamel said.

Crouthamel said many students have told him that they had no idea that homosexuals were persecuted by the Nazi regime. He hopes the exhibit will provide a new source of knowledge for students and faculty, as well as help students contextualize the modern debate on homosexuality.

“I’ve also heard homophobia in a variety of contexts at GVSU and in West Michigan,” Crouthamel said. “This exhibit will help contextualize the history of homophobia and its consequences.”

GVSU must pay $2,500 for the rental of the exhibition, as well as shipping costs. The Joseph Stevens Freedom Endowment is a primary sponsor. The USHMM Lester Robbins and Sheila Johnson Robbins Traveling and Special Exhibitions Fund also sponsor it.

Various departments at GVSU sponsor the exhibit: Political Science, English, the Brooks College of Interdisciplinary Studies, the LGBT Resource Center, the Office of Inclusion and Equity and the Frederik Meijer Honors College.

A full list of events can be found at