Saturday, March 3, 2012

Legacy


Danielle skipped classes.  Instead, she spent the morning in bed, thinking deep thoughts. After a quick breakfast cereal, she sat alone in the lounge of the apartment she shared with two girlfriends, doing research online.  She searched terms like ‘hate speech’, ‘prejudice’ and in particular the word ‘bigot’.  She stumbled onto a site about genocide and put two and two together.  ‘Ethnic cleansing’ was another keyword. ‘Persecution’ another. 'Genocide' was the last word.  This is the 21st century for crying out loud! A quiet little voice inside her replied: ‘evil knows no time’.

Another site told her how in the early 20th century, Berlin had been a lively gay and transgender friendly place. The most enlightened and accepting city in the entire world. By 1923 the rise of the Nazis changed all that. The great purge began, all those labeled ‘sick and sexual deviants’ were violently removed from society, demonized and criminalized. Institutions devoted to the legitimate scientific and medical study of gender matters were labeled ‘perversion’, closed and their archives destroyed in the great bonfires of the willfully ignorant.  

Gays – and those like her – the transgender, were all tarred with the same brush, labeled ‘homosexual’ or  ‘transvestites’ and sent to concentration camps with the other victims of the Nazis, the Jews and Gypsies, to die.  There they were forced to wear inverted pink triangles on their clothes and were often shot by the S.S. guards for ‘sport’ from their watch towers.  Often they were mistreated by even their fellow inmates. 

Oh well, Danielle supposed, everybody has to feel worth something, that at least there was somebody else lower in the pecking order than them… that at least somebody else had a worse day than you… but who did the gays and transgender have left to look down on?  They were the lowest of the low, even in the death camps.  And when the brave, noble Allies arrived and liberated the camps, were they not all saved? She was saddened to see the entries that indicated otherwise.

When the Allied armies reached the camps, the inmates were freed and cared for, but not all of them. Those interned as homosexuals or ‘transvestites’ by the Nazis were kept in custody as criminals for years afterwards, perpetuating the cruel system of the Nazis themselves!  Many were persecuted in years to come in their native countries under Nazi laws instituted during the time of their occupation, not removed until 30 years later! And did the western powers ever apologize for this?  She searched.  Nothing.  No apologies, no memorials.  

In fact, the only government ever to apologize for the atrocities was the post-war German government in the early 21st century, who in fact, really had nothing to apologize for in the first place.  The people who apologized were never part of the regime that perpetrated these heinous crimes against humanity, nor were they even born at the time.  Not one war criminal tried at Nuremburg in the late 1940’s or after was ever convicted or even charged specifically with crimes relating to the persecution or murder of a single gay or transgender person.

The suffering of a generation – never given justice, never apologized to, nor shown any regret, respect or attempt at recompense or a chance to reclaim their dignity or equal value as human beings.

She was horrified.  She was part of the legacy of a silent minority in one of the most bitter, tragic periods in human history. Forgotten victims.  A mass of human beings with souls and hearts and feelings who had loved, desired and sought happiness - and to live - had been marginalized, tortured, murdered and made to feel irrelevant and hated simply for what they were and had no control over being.  People who, for the most part, had been law-abiding, peace loving citizens of the country that killed them. They were people murdered simply for who they were.  Just people.  And they were a group that wasn’t worth remembering, not worth apologizing to. Uncounted, unknown and unmourned. 

She remembered an old lady who spat in her face once at the fruit and veg stall near the ranch.  She called her a ‘queer piece of shit’.  And once there was hate mail in her mailbox from someone who seemed concerned that her she would go to a "Hell" she didn't believe in for being honest about who she was. Why did some people hate them so? Why did they have to hate at all?  She felt sick.  She had to get out, the walls were closing in on her.

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