In honor of Holocaust Remembrance Day, Geoffrey Giles began his dissection of the Nazi mind with a message not conventionally tied to the genocide of six million Jews.
“Adolf Hitler was not particularly anti-Semitic,” he told the audience of about 350.
Instead of focusing solely on the Jewish demographic, the program remembered victims from the gay community Sunday night at the B’nai Israel Jewish Center.
This year’s Holocaust memorial examined the persecution and violence targeted against German homosexuals by the Nazi regime.
Holocaust Remembrance Day, or Yom HaShoah, is a reminder for everyone across the nation to remember and learn about the horrors of the Holocaust.
“The Holocaust is something that really concerns us all in terms of the relative ease with which hate groups can really gain support and how easily that can spiral out of control,” Giles said.
The program, sponsored by the Jewish Council of North Central Florida, included a brief history of the Holocaust, a candle lighting ceremony by survivors and liberators, musical performances and a discussion by Giles, a UF professor who specializes in German history.
The Hitler regime considered gay men to be a threat to the purity of the Aryan race, similar to how Jews were perceived.
More than 100,000 homosexuals were persecuted during World War II.
Philip Schwartz, a member of the Holocaust Memorial Program committee, said the message of the program hits close to home, referring to the mayoral campaign of Craig Lowe, who, if elected, would be Gainesville's first openly gay mayor.
“Recent homophobic events in the city and the efforts to introduce bigotry and intolerance into the mayor’s race showed us that this was a poignant time for us to introduce this topic,” Schwartz said.
“Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals 1933-1945,” a traveling exhibit of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, will be on display at the main branch of the Alachua County Public Library from May 6 through June 30.