Holocaust teaches to avoid minority discrimination

Erinn Best

Speaker discusses Nazi persecution of homosexual Jews

Geoffrey Giles, University of Florida history professor and honorary consultant for the Holocaust Educational Foundation, has spent more than 15 years giving seminars to college faculty at Holocaust sites. He said he believes it is important to educate st

Credit: DKS Editors

Geoffrey J. Giles, associate professor of history at the University of Florida, spoke at the Kiva last night about the causes and effects of punishments and judicial systems for suspected homosexuals under the Nazis.

His address on events before, during and after the Holocaust was the first of the Fall 2009 Jewish Studies Speaker Series.

Giles, an honorary consultant of the Holocaust Educational Foundation, has led traveling seminars during the past 15 years for college faculty to visit Holocaust sites and death camps.

He said Jewish homosexual inmates of the concentration camps were treated worse than other prisoners.

Giles also talked about topics such as Germany in the 19th century and World War II.

He said there was a “danger of battle-scarred soldiers, which intensified male relationships.”

One common thread throughout Giles’ speech was the importance for students to understand how far discrimination can go.

“Students have fellow gay and lesbian classmates,” he said. “We should try to prevent it (discrimination) for all levels of education because it can get out of hand.”

Giles quoted a study by the Pew Research Center from September 2009, which reported that religious and other minority groups are facing discrimination today.

Thirty-five percent of American Jews said they are discriminated against, and 58 percent of American Muslims and 64 percent of American gays and lesbians said they still face discrimination.

“I think it’s vital to raise awareness about discrimination in school-it’s almost frightening how bad it can get,” said Laura Ward, a senior human development and family studies major who attended the event.

Benita Blessing, history professor from Ohio University, said she knows Giles through previous historical German conferences.

“It’s important, as a German historian and professor, to support German events,” she said. “I often think I need to redo my class slides after I listen to Giles lecture.”

The second part of the series will be at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 9 in the Kiva. Saul Friedlander, a professor of history at UCLA, will discuss Pope Pius XII’s reaction to the Holocaust.

Contact religion reporter Erinn Best at [email protected].