The Pink Underground - Digital Conference 2020 LGBTQI* victims of the Holocaust are not a self-evident part of the commemorative culture in Germany and Israel - we want to change that!

Lambda e.V. Grafik
Source: Lambda e.V.

We, voluntary group leaders and project staff of The Jerusalem Open House of Pride and Tolerance and the youth network Lambda e.V., came together during a professional exchange in Jerusalem in 2019. Our goal at that time: developing new concepts for our youth exchange. This quickly evolved into an independent project, which we called The Pink Underground. In this project, we aim to research the biographies of LGBTQI*s who were persecuted under National Socialism and make their stories accessible. But we soon realized that we still have many questions: How do we link today's concepts of sexual orientations and gender identities with the realities of life at that time? How exactly did the persecution look like? How and where can we research biographies? How can we create a sensitive and empowering pedagogical work on this topic with our own youth groups? In order to find answers to those questions, we intended to meet again in Berlin in 2020. But due to Corona we eventually decided to hold a digital conference. What initially seemed to be a challenge, soon turned out to be a great opportunity that allowed us to discover new tools and ways of working that helped to connect us closely despite the geographical distance.

Lambda e.V. Grafik
Source: Lambda e.V.

In order to structure and secure the results of the conference, we used an online platform that functions like a giant shared whiteboard. In order to run quizzes and games, we moreover used a variety of entertaining online tools. Before the digital conference, we started regular video conferences between our two organizations for collaborative planning sessions. In the meantime, they have become indispensable as an opportunity for regular, uncomplicated exchange and for group meetings within the framework of the project. Another advantage of holding the conference in the digital space was that we were able to bring in experts on the persecution of LGBTQI*s during the Holocaust from Israel as well as from Germany. This variety of perspectives helped us to find answers to the questions we had asked ourselves concerning our project. 

We, today's young LGBTQI*s from Germany and Israel, feel connected to the generations before us. For us, LGBTQI*s persecuted under National Socialism are part of our community and we want to keep their memory alive. No matter if they are Jewish people who were also lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans*, inter* or queer, or if they were LGBTQI*s who were persecuted because of the 175§ or for other reasons.

Dealing with the life realities of LGBTQI*s under National Socialism at the digital conference has clearly shown us that people who desired same-sex and/or deviated from the prevailing two-sex gender norms could not live freely, openly and self-determined. Some of them were persecuted and murdered, while others were able to adapt or hide their sexual orientation and thus avoid persecution. It is clear, however, that an escape from persecution was only possible for those who were not persecuted as Jewish or on the basis of other categories established by the National Socialists.

With the persecution and murder of numerous LGBTQI*s and the destruction of places and networks relevant to the LGBTQI* community, also a significant amount of knowledge and cultural assets were destroyed. This includes, for example, the Institute for Social Sciences founded by Magnus Hirschfeld, lesbian magazines such as "Die Freundin", pubs and small clubs. Reconstructing knowledge about the destroyed structures can be a valuable tool in educational work with LGBTQI* youth. The representation through historically significant LGBTQI*s can strengthen the search for identity and the biographies of individual historical figures of the LGBTQI* community can serve as role models for young LGBTQI*s.

In the future, the revision of LGBTQI* biographies during the Holocaust will be done by young people in both countries within the framework of our youth exchange.
We hope that this will lead to a stronger emotional connection to the historical obligation of Germany and Israel and our community concerning the remembrance of the Holocaust.

(Nora Meduri, Youth network Lambda e.V.)

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