Cruising the Archives: The Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals and Sexual Desire

Saturday, January 3, 2015: 2:30 PM
Midtown Suite (New York Hilton)
Jacob Evoy, University of Western Ontario
The United States Holocaust Memorial Museum’s traveling exhibit “The Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals, 1933-1945” visited Toronto, Ontario during the summer of 2013. As a visitor to the exhibit, I was privy to not only the historical narrative on display within the exhibit but also witness to how the space was being used by visitors, volunteers, and staff. My paper examines the space of the exhibit as not only an archive of historical knowledge, but also as a cruising ground. This partially auto-ethnographic project details my experiences within the traveling exhibit and witnessing and partaking in cruising that was occurring within the space. I juxtapose these experiences with the life of Gad Beck, a Jewish and homosexual survivor of the Holocaust. Beck lived underground throughout the war, took part in resistance movements, and aided those in need. Additionally, Beck engaged in multiple sexual relationships out of his own sexual desire and his desire to survive. Even amongst the destruction and oppression, Beck was able to fulfill his sexual desires. This phenomena is repeared within the space of the traveling exhibit. The desire that takes place in the traumatic space depicting mass violence and homophobia is turned into a space of resistance grounded in non-normative sexual desire. The very acts and desires that are punished within the exhibit are the desires that are resisting the continued oppression and political dynamics of the exhibit. My paper examines the use of sexual desire as a form of resistance against collective trauma that is found within the archive of Beck’s life and Nazi persecution, the exhibit depicting this historical narrative, as well as contemporary homophobia. The desire left by ephemeral traces of the exhibit and from within the archive continue to function to ensure a space of sexual resistance and of sexual pleasure and desire.
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