Honoring fallen LGBTs
A few films worth viewing to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which commences on the evening of April 7.
by David-Elijah Nahmod
Different from the Others (1919)
In 1919, noted sexologist Dr. Magnus Hirschfeld (1868–1935) co-wrote and produced this film, a drama that called for tolerance and compassion toward homosexuals. Produced in Berlin during that brief period between the World Wars when the city was an open mecca for LGBT people, Hirschfeld was the founder of the Institute for Sexual Research. Conrad Veidt, then a major star in German cinema, played a gay violin virtuoso who falls in love with his male pupil. In 1933, the Nazis destroyed most of Hirschfeld’s works. Only half of the film survives—it stands as a lasting tribute to Hirschfeld, who was perhaps the world’s first gay rights activist.
Superb drama about two women who fall in love in Nazi-occupied Paris. One is a Jew who lives in hiding while her girlfriend covers their tracks by working for a newspaper that publishes Nazi propaganda. The film tells of their desperate struggle to stay together and alive until the war ends. Not currently available on video, distributor Wolfe Video offers Novembermoon streaming at the company website: wolfevideo.com.
Though nudity and sexuality are minimal, Bent is so disturbingly intense it was awarded an NC-17 rating. Based on the acclaimed play, Bent stars Clive Owen and Lothaire Bluteau as Max and Horst, two gay inmates at Dachau. Unable to touch, they express their love, and their sexual desire for each other, through secret whispers. Sad, yet also uplifting, Bent illustrates the immense power of love.
Paragraph 175 (2000)
New Yorker Video
Oscar winners Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (Times of Harvey Milk) produced this stunning documentary. The film provides more information on the glittering LGBT community of 1920s Berlin that was decimated when the Nazis came to power in 1933. Heartbreaking interviews with survivors in their 80s and 90s recall the degradation, torture, and mass murder that Jews, LGBTs, and others were subjected to. One man tearfully recalls the last time he saw his lover, who died in a concentration camp at age 21. Another recalls being subjected to horrific “experiments.” The film derives its title from the German law that declared homosexuality a crime. Enacted in 1871 (and used by the Nazis to their advantage), the film teaches us that it wasn’t repealed until 1994. Powerful, disturbing viewing indeed.