My current book project Pink Triangle Legacies: Holocaust Memory and Modern Gay Identity is the first work to demonstrate how concentration camp survivors, gay rights activists, professional historians, as well as courts and state authorities on both sides of the Atlantic have debated the legacy of the Nazis’ anti-homosexual policies. My work dispels the myth that homosexuals were “forgotten victims” of the Nazi regime. Since the end of the war, a handful of homosexual concentration camp survivors had spoken out about their experiences and petitioned to be included among those groups officially recognized as Nazi victims. Court and parliament records demonstrate that the West German state consistently ruled that homosexuals were criminals, and not – as the Federal High Court put it – victims of “typical Nazi injustice.” This competition over the correct way to interpret the past had material consequences for homosexuals in West Germany. They were not only excluded from historical scholarship and public commemorations; homosexual concentration camp survivors were also denied the financial reparations and judicial rehabilitation that accompanied official victim status.
My research also traces how gay rights activists in West Germany and the United States transformed the pink triangle – the badge worn by homosexual concentration inmates – from an emblem of discrimination into the most significant symbol of the transatlantic gay rights movement. By forcing modern democracies in the West to distance themselves from the homophobic practices of the Nazi regime, history became a tool to push for gay liberation and to help assure LGBT rights in the present. Therefore, my work also speaks to the role of history in the establishment and protection of human rights and civil liberties.
Activists in North America not only copied the use of a political symbol from their German counterparts; they also adopted a chapter of German history as their own. By charting the transference of these histories back and forth across the Atlantic, I show that the pink triangle – as a political symbol and collection of memories – was not only reflective of, but also contributed to the internationalization of the Holocaust. These transnational Holocaust memories contributed to the transformation of gays and lesbians into an international political minority that could refer to a common historical experience of discrimination. This sense of shared historical roots helped lay the foundations of a modern, international gay identity.
(forthcoming) Newsome, W. Jake, Global Encyclopedia of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer History, “Pink Triangle.” New York: Macmillan Reference USA, 2019.
Newsome, W. Jake, review of Sex and the Weimar Republic: German Homosexual Emancipation and the Rise of the Nazis, by Laurie Marhoefer, Committee on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual & Transgender History Newsletter Vol. 31:1 (Spring 2017): 9.
Newsome, W. Jake. “Pink Triangle Legacies: Holocaust Memory and International Gay Rights Activism,” Nursing Clio (blog), April 20, 2017. (Access post here.)
Newsome, W. Jake. “Liberation Was Only for Others: Breaking the Silence in Germany Surrounding the Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals.” In The Holocaust in History and Memory, Vol. 7 (2014): 53-71. (View a PDF version here.)
Newsome, W. Jake. “The Submerged Tenth: American Eugenics & German Racial Hygiene in the Early 20th Century,” In OMNINO: Undergraduate Research Journal of Valdosta State University, Vol. 1, No. 1 (2010-2011): 143-167. (View online here.)
(For a list of invited lectures and public talks, click here.)
“Gender and Sexuality in our Understanding of the Holocaust,” on the pedagogy roundtable “Teaching Queer Themes and Experiences in World History.” Sponsored by the Committee on LGBT History. American Historical Association Annual Meeting. Washington, D.C. January 2018.
“Migrating Memories: Transatlantic Commemoration of the Nazis’ Homosexual Victims in West Germany and the United States,” Sponsored by the Committee on LGBT History. American Historical Association Annual Meeting. Atlanta, Georgia. January 2016.
Panel Organizer, “Traversing Boundaries: Sexual Citizenship, Trans/National Identities, and Political Movements,” Sponsored by the Committee on LGBT History. American Historical Association Annual Meeting. Atlanta, Georgia. January 2016.
“From Adolf Hitler to Anita Bryant: The Role of German History in the American Gay Rights Movement,” German Studies Association Annual Meeting. Washington, D.C., October 2015.
“’For Gays, the Third Reich Hasn’t Ended Yet’: Competing Remembrances of the Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals in the FRG, 1969-2008,” German Studies Association Annual Meeting: Kansas City, Missouri. September 2014.
Panel Chair, “Consumption and Modernity in 20th Century Germany,” German Studies Association conference. Kansas City, Missouri. September 2014.
Organizer: 22nd Annual Milton Plesur Graduate History Conference: “Traversing the Borderland: Past, Present, & Future.” SUNY Buffalo, New York. April 2013.
“Homosexuals after the Holocaust: Heritage Building, Identity Politics, & Social Activism in the United States & West Germany,” American Canadian Conference in German History. Rochester, New York. April, 2012.
“The Damndest of the Damned? Pink Triangle Victims, a Hierarchy of Suffering, and the Idea of a ‘Homocaust,’” Loyola University Chicago Graduate Student History Conference. Chicago, Illinois. November 2011.
“Discovering a ‘Homocaust’? Autobiography as a Perspective on the Idea of a Nazi ‘Gay Genocide,’” New York State Association of European Historians Conference. Buffalo, New York. October, 2011.
“Eliminating the Unfit: America’s Crusade to Forge a Master Race,”Georgia Collegiate Honors Council Conference. Milledgeville, Georgia. February, 2010.
“Living the Good Life: Serious Games and their Impact on Mayan Identity,” Georgia Consortium on International Studies. Atlanta, Georgia. April, 2008.
FELLOWSHIPS, GRANTS, & SCHOLARSHIPS:
- German Historical Institute (Washington, D.C.) Doctoral Research Fellowship, 2014.
- State University of New York (SUNY) at Buffalo College of Arts & Sciences Dean’s Innovation Fund, 2014.
- John Naylor Dissertation Research Fellowship, SUNY Buffalo College of Arts & Sciences: 2013 – 2014.
- Mark Diamond Research Fund Dissertation Grant, 2013-2014.
- Graduate Student Employee’s Union Professional Development Grant, 2013.
- Anne Reilly Tirone Research Fellowship: 2011 – 2016.
- SUNY Buffalo Department of History Tuition Grant and Teaching Assistant Funding Package: 2010 – 2013.
- Milton Plesur Fellowship, merit-based: 2010 – 2013.
- Valdosta State University (VSU) History Department William M. Gabard Scholarship: 2009.
- State of Georgia Regents Scholarship to attend VSU’s Anthropological Field School in Blue Creek Village, Belize: 2007
- VSU Honors Program Hugh C. Bailey Family Scholarship: 2007.
- State of Georgia HOPE Tuition Scholarship: 2005-2009.
- German Historical Institute Archival Summer Seminar: Paleography & Archival Training. Germany, 2013.
- Philipps-Universität in Marburg, Germany; 2008-2009.
- Valdosta State University Anthropological Field School in Blue Creek Village, Belize; Summer 2007.
- European Council Summer Study Program in Schwäbisch Gmünd, Germany; Summer 2006.