Homosexuals after the Holocaust: Sexual citizenship and the politics of memory in Germany and the United States, 1945 - 2008
Newsome, W. Jake
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“Homosexuals after the Holocaust” explores how various actors in the Federal Republic of Germany and the United States of America transformed collective memories of the Nazis’ persecution of homosexuals into transnational discourses that shaped modern conceptions of human rights and civil liberties. I argue that judges, homosexual concentration camp survivors, gay rights activists, professional historians, playwrights, journalists, and state officials on both sides of the Atlantic used the past to mediate the meaning of sexuality, justice, citizenship, and civil rights in the present. At the heart of this dissertation, therefore, is a study of the relationship between the politics of memory and sexual citizenship. Chapter One provides an overview of the experiences of homosexual men and women in the Third Reich, which later became the foundation for postwar collective memories. This chapter situates the Nazis’ campaign against homosexuality in the context of a broader redefinition of citizenship along racial lines. The second chapter demonstrates that the politics of memory in the Adenauer era resulted in the rejection of homosexuals from the official definition of “victimhood,” which excluded homosexual survivors from the process of Wiedergutmachung and relegated homosexuals to second-class citizens in West Germany. Chapter Three shows that the public discourses surrounding the terrorization of homosexuals in the Third Reich, though originating in Germany, ultimately transcended national boundaries. Collective memories of the Nazi past provided historical roots for a transatlantic gay identity and empowered a transnational social movement for the rights of gay and lesbian citizens on both sides of the Atlantic. The final chapter argues that, beginning in the 1980s, a rapid proliferation of public discourses transformed the Nazi persecution of homosexuals into a moral, political, and scholarly topic about human rights in a diverse, democratic society.