When we were in St. Petersburg, Florida earlier this month we visited The Florida Holocaust Museum which is one of the largest such museums in the country. This year they are celebrating their 25th Anniversary.
Their permanent exhibit, “History, Heritage and Hope” is on the first floor and features original artifacts, videos and photos. It deals not only with antisemitism but also with other victim groups. The Nazis classified not only Jews as ‘the enemy” but also included Roma (Gypsies), people with disabilities, Poles, Soviet prisoners of war, Afro-Germans as well as Jehovah’s Witnesses and Homosexuals.
The centerpiece of the museum collection is an actual train box car that transported victims of the Nazi regime to the concentration camps. It rests upon original track from the Treblinka Killing Center as a silent tribute to those who perished on the Holocaust. Seeing this is a VERY daunting and somber experience. Just to think of all the hatred in the world both in history and in today’s world as well ! Everyone claiming to be a right wing Christian and or ‘born again Christian needs to visit this museum as well as everyone else in the country! You will walk away with a new appreciation toward life. The 2nd and 3rd floor has changing exhibits of art and history.
Besides having artifacts, photos, exhibits, etc. the museum also runs several programs of outreach within the community with the aim of continuing their mission of human rights. To put it simple…… they are an excellent and outstanding organization.
They are now having a very special exhibit: NAZI PERSECUTION OF HOMOSEXUALS – 1933-1945. Between 1933 and 1945, 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality under Paragraph 175, the sodomy provision of the German penal code dating back to 1871. Some were imprisoned, others were sent to concentration camps. Of the latter, only about 4,000 survived. In 2000, fewer than 10 of these men were known to be living. The exhibit is full of LGBT history with stories, photos and artifacts.
Five of the survivors came forward in a documentary to tell their stories for the first time, considered to be among the last untold stores of the Third Reich. The documentary, “PARAGRAPH 175” tells of a gap in the historical record and reveals the lasting consequences, as told through personal stories of gay men and women who lived through it. including Karl Gorath, Gad Beck, the half-Jewish resistance fighter who spent the war helping refugees escape Berlin, Annette Eick, a Jewish lesbian who escaped to England with the help of a woman she loved; Albrecht Becker, German Christian photographer who was arrested and imprisoned for homosexuality, then joined the army on his release and Pierre Seel, the Alsatian teenager who watched as his lover was eaten alive by dogs in the camps. If you REALLY want to read a heart wrenching story, just ‘Google’ Perre Seel, actually ‘Google’ all of these people.
The Museum is located in downtown St. Petersburg at 55 Fifth Street South and their hours daily are 10 AM to 5 PM. You can call them at 727.820.0100 or visit their websites: www.thefhm.org or https://www.flholocaustmuseum.org/
We want to thank Kristen Wright at the Museum for her assistance.
We dedicate this travel column to Siegbert “Siggi” Wilzig, (1926-2003) who was a Holocaust survivor and the Father of Sir Ivan, Sherry Izak and Alan Wilzig and the husband of our dear friend Naomi Wilzig,(1934-2015),
Always remember to have fun when traveling, meet new people and talk to everyone!
TRAVELING IN OUR FABULOUS GAY WORLD is written by Donald Pile and Ray Williams, Award-winning, Celebrity travel columnists who write for gay publications from coast to coast (And now legally married).