January 27

International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

Why the heinous crimes committed by the Nazis against thousands of queer people must never, ever be forgotten.

Gay men in a Nazi concentration camp.

It is 75 years today since Auschwitz concentration camp was liberated, which signalled the beginning of the end of one of the most horrifying chapters in modern history: the Holocaust.

Every year on this day, the world remembers the millions of people who lost their lives during the Holocaust. Up to 17 million people were exterminated under the Nazi regime, with six million Jews included in that number.

The Holocaust was, at its core, a wide-scale and violent persecution of minority groups – and LGBT+ people were not exempt. Between 1933 and 1945, an estimated 100,000 men were arrested for homosexuality in Nazi Germany. 50,000 were sentenced for their “crimes” and an estimated 5,000-15,000 gay men were sent to concentration camps.

Sociologist Rüdiger Lautmann has estimated that up to 60 per cent of gay men incarcerated in concentration camps died during their imprisonment. But these figures only account for those who were persecuted directly for their sexuality. Among the millions of people killed in the Holocaust, there were undoubtedly many more LGBT+ people who kept their sexual and gender identities a secret as they went to their deaths.

The world today is a very different place, but the threat of violence is never too far away for minority groups. Hate crimes have surged across the world, including in the UK and the United States. There was a 37 per cent surge in hate crimes against transgender people in the UK last year, along with a 25 per cent rise in hate crimes based on sexual orientation. Meanwhile, there was a 14 per cent rise in disability-based hate crimes, an 11 per cent rise in hate crimes based on race, and a three percent rise in hate crimes based on religion.

In the United States, LGBT+ people, Jewish people and Black people are the most targeted groups. 2018 was the “worst year ever for anti-semitic killings in the United States”, according to the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism (CSHE) at California State University San Bernardino.

These figures serve as a reminder that – while the Holocaust is part of our history – the lingering hatred of anybody seen as “different” is always ready to rear its head.

Holocaust Memorial Day: The Nazis immediately started targeting minority groups when they seized power in 1933.
When Adolf Hitler and his Nazi Party seized power in Germany in July 1933, the dictatorship moved to persecute and murder minority groups, including Jews, LGBT+ people, the Romani people, and political prisoners.

Beginning in 1933, the Nazis built a network of concentration camps throughout Germany, where “undesirable” groups were detained, including Jewish people and gay men.

Those “undesirables” often had their uniforms branded in concentration camps so officers knew what kind of person they were dealing with. Many gay people had their uniforms branded with an upside-down pink triangle. The symbol set them apart as sexually deviant, with paedophiles and rapists given the same mark.

Like other prisoners, those who wore the pink triangle were brutalised in ways that most people today cannot even begin to comprehend. Gay men were subjected to torture, including forced sodomy using wood, and many were experimented on. The Nazis also implemented a form of conversion therapy, whereby gay men were forced to sleep with female sex slaves.

Memorial in Tel Aviv for lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender victims of the Holocaust (Uriel Sinai/Getty)

Charting the history of other members of the LGBT+ community in the Holocaust is more challenging as they were not given their own distinct categories. Lesbians were sometimes made to wear a black triangle to denote that they were “asocial”, according to Benno Gammerl, a lecturer in Queer History at Goldsmiths, University of London.

There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste.
Meanwhile, trans people were generally lumped in under the same category as homosexuals under the Nazi regime, meaning many also wore the pink triangle. There is evidence that trans people, like gay people, were specifically targeted. On November 11, 1933, the Hamburg City Administration asked the head of police to “pay special attention to transvestites” and to “deliver them to the concentration camps”.

The end of the Second World War did not spell the end of the persecution of gay and bisexual men.

Unfortunately, when the allies liberated the concentration camps, many of the gay people who were imprisoned were not set free. Instead they were transferred to prisons, then under the control of the Allied forces. Same-sex sexual activity between men remained illegal in East and West Germany until 1968 and 1969 respectively.

Because homosexuality was still seen as a taboo topic for several decades after the end of the Holocaust, there are limited first-person accounts from queer survivors. One account, from Pierre Seel, who survived the Schirmeck-Vorbrück concentration camp near Strasbourg, recalled the trauma of watching his 18-year-old lover stripped by SS guards and mauled to death by German Shepherd dogs. Seel died in 2005.

“There was no solidarity for the homosexual prisoners; they belonged to the lowest caste,” Seel wrote in his 1995 book I, Pierre Seel, Deported Homosexual: A Memoir of Nazi Terror.

The pink triangle has been reclaimed by LGBT+ activists as a symbol of liberation and a reminder of the past.
While the pink triangle originated as a symbol of sexual deviancy, it has since been reclaimed as a powerful symbol by LGBT+ people across the world. In the 1970s, with the dawn of the modern gay liberation movement, activists took the upside-down pink triangle and turned it the right way around to use it as a sign of their own difference – and the need for that difference to be accepted, embraced and understood.

In 1972, the first autobiography of a gay concentration camp survivor was published. The Men with the Pink Triangle told the story of Josef Kohout and shone a light on the largely untold treatment of queer people in the Holocaust. The following year, Germany’s first gay rights organisation, Homosexuelle Aktion Westberlin (HAW) reclaimed the pink triangle as a symbol of liberation.

One of the organisation’s founding members, Peter Hedenström, said in 2014 that the symbol “represented a piece of our German history that still needed to be dealt with.”

The pink triangle was used again in a 1986 poster, as the AIDS epidemic took hold, that read: “Silence = Death.” The poster was later adopted by AIDS organisation ACT UP.

Today, the pink triangle is a timely reminder that we must never forget the horrors that were inflicted on minority groups during the Holocaust. As hate crimes surge across the world, that reminder has never been as important.

Copyright www.pinknews.co.uk

Sundance 2020: How VFX Pulled ‘Welcome to Chechnya’ Out of the Shadows — Exclusive.

Filmmaker David France deployed pioneering VFX in order to disguise subjects whose lives were threatened by a hostile homophobic culture.

One key role that documentarians play is to bring back into clear view stories that have, for whatever reason, vanished from the headlines. World premiering on January 26 in the Sundance FIlm Festival’s Documentary Competition, the HBO Documentary FIlm “Welcome to Chechnya” is a chilling docu-thriller that exposes a humanitarian crisis that demands to be brought back into the public eye.

Back in early 2017, Oscar nominee David France (“How To Survive A Plague”) read some horrific articles about the largely Muslim Russian federal republic of Chechnya’s crackdown on homosexuals, who were hunted, imprisoned, tortured and even killed. “There was press and pressure in Europe,” he said in a telephone interview. “In the States we were distracted by Washington. Our news attention has become very shallow and the story drifted out of headlines quickly.”

Without a global response to save gays whose lives were threatened in their home country, “I learned that the queer community in Russia had pulled together… to get people out of Chechnya to safety,” said France, “not to Russia. They had to get people out of the country. They managed to put into effect a vast underground railroad, like a French Resistance in World War II, rescuing and saving people.”

France started filming in August 2017, looking for characters to provide a spine for his movie among many remarkable stories of gay Chechens who “not only found safety in this underground network, but found comfort in their new countries,” said France, “and began to understand and embrace their lives as LGBTQ people, something they had no model for back in Chechnya. The idea of a gay sensibility, of a community, was anathema to them initially. To be brought into this incredibly tender and protective world was really eye-opening to them.”

Eventually, France focused on two stories of those fleeing from Chechnya as well as two of their rescuers. He found one man just as he was entering the system, trying to reunite with his boyfriend and his family, who was considering taking legal action against the people hunting him around the globe.

But France had to solve one serious issue with filming this unfolding narrative. “I was not the first person to go in as a reporter to try and tell that story,” he said. “What I and all the other reporters found were people running away who were too frightened to allow their stories be told. They knew it was not enough to get away. This isn’t a campaign to send into exile queer Chechens. This is an ethnic cleansing of a sort. This is an effort to liquidate LGBTQ Chechens, as a way to cleanse the blood of the Chechen people. Even should they arrive in the West in Paris or Toronto or Berlin, if it were known they were still alive, they would be pursued. They are living constantly in the shadows, and only allow people to film them in the shadows.”

Alex Gibney and other filmmakers have hired actors to speak the words of subjects they want to protect. And others have sat in darkened rooms with their voices disguised. France wanted to show his subjects’ faces as they recounted what they had been through, from fear of being hunted to capture and imprisonment and torture. “I promised them I would disguise them,” France said.

And so the director dove into a six-month R & D period, trying multiple approaches. He reviewed the ways to preserve their facial reactions, from rotoscoping and animation to filtering and overlaying systems. Some would not render his subjects sufficiently disguised, “or made them caricatures of themselves that would allow people who knew them well to recognize them,” he said. “I did not want to stylize them to the point of limiting the humanity they presented. I didn’t want to interpret through an artist’s pen. I wanted to find it and hold it, the highest standard of disguise, so even their mother won’t know who they are.”

France wanted to avoid having the VFX disconcert the viewer. “I worried about the audience’s ability to accept the disguise and not be distracted by it,” said France, who finally sought help from an expert in the Uncanny Valley, a professor at Dartmouth who specializes in human connectedness and runs an empathy lab. He asked her “to find the approach that be the most engaging and least disruptive.” She enrolled a formal scientific study using her institutional review board.

The winner, the approach that scored the best — identical to an undisguised face — was face replacement. This technique had never been used in a film before. “It is an inversion of deep fake technology used by journalists to manipulate images,” said France, like online video of Barack Obama calling for nuclear genocide, the technology that imposes a library image of a well-known person to map over somebody saying outrageous things. France asked 22 people — mostly queer activists in New York — to lend their faces as a physical shield to protect the people in the film.

The filmmakers brought the real people into a green-screen environment where VFX technicians ingested their faces and replicated the lighting circumstances of the subjects captured in the field. The VFX artists reduced their faces to an algorithm, then mapped them with deep-machine learning over the subjects in the film. “While all eye and mouth movement and facial tics belong to the original subject,” said France, “they are all being carried out beneath the skin of these volunteers. This could allow us to know their stories; it’s still them. We see the weight on their faces. It comes through, it’s unmanipulated, were picking up those expressions.”

France is grateful that “the activists lent their faces, which has given [the persecuted Chechens] the ability to tell their story. They were given the voice and a face that isn’t theirs to tell a story that is exclusively theirs. I wanted the face doubling to be part of the editorial narrative of the story, that they are so deeply afraid and thoroughly pursued that they have to hide their faces.”

Some voices were changed; some like Grisha (pictured above) were not. The technique works; the subjects who have new faces do have a slight halo framing them, which France wanted, to show that they needed the disguise. “I wanted you to feel the danger that that represented to their lives,” said France. “The differences between those being hunted and those who were helping them.”

The most upsetting scenes in the movie are trophy videos posted by Chechen perpetrators that celebrate violence against gay men and women. In order to show them, France also digitally altered these images — in one case, replacing one visage with his own face. “I couldn’t ask any of the activists to do that,” he said. The gut-wrenching sound of one man being raped was unaltered. “These were pieces of evidence gathered by the activists through their networks and interceptions, through people who have served as whistleblowers to get to the activists. It’s the proof of what is going on on the ground.”

At one dramatic moment in the movie, one person’s face is finally revealed. After years of secrecy, France showed the film to 40 of his cast and crew last week. “I heard the gasp when the mask comes off,” he said. “When I met him I didn’t know [he would go public with his story], and he didn’t know, so I was able to watch him wrestle with that. He elected to have the film unmask him in a way that will give him a greater level of protection and publicity. It’s going to be undeniable what he’s doing, risking his own life for this humanitarian undertaking.”

His rescuers are not disguised. Which proved to be a problem. At one heart-stopping juncture, Russian activist Olga felt such desperation “about this threatened girl who was coming through that airport someplace and being brought back into perilous dangers,” said France, “that Olga determined it was essential do something to try and find her. That entailed giving up personal data about herself that put her in danger.”

This forced Olga to leave the country with her young son. However, her heroic cohort David, based in St. Petersburg, is still commandeering the daring rescue work, flying in and out of Chechnya at great risk. “David was and is in imminent danger,” said France. “Two of the people are in the film were uncovered, and have also discovered how endangered they are. They are making their way out of the country.”

France hopes that the film will “shock the story back into the headlines,” he said. “The first thing is getting traction again in the media, not just in the U.S. but throughout the world. The activists on the ground need that exposure in order to continue their work. Also for their own security, they need to be known to the world to give themselves protection. I am hoping people will step up to support their work. I’m hoping the film will generate the political will, in capitals across the West, for making humanitarian parole visas available to the organizations on the ground to help people get out of there. Without official partnerships with governments around the world, they can’t find safe homes for the people they’re rescuing.”

Making the film was not without its dangers for France and his crack director of photography, dissident Russian filmmaker Askold Kurov, who had to sneak in and out of safe houses without giving the secret locations away. “We had no sound department,” said France. “We shot on a little Sony tourist 4K camera with a shotgun mic and one wireless lav that could be thrown into a bag, held under an arm, and with an iPhone 10.” The camera had a Bluetooth feature that allowed it to be manipulated and monitored by cel phone. “In public, Askold would hold the camera under his arm like a rolled-up newspaper and bury his nose in the cel phone as though he were looking at texts, and move his body to position the camera.”

As for bringing the Chechen perpetrators of these homophobic crimes to justice, that is still to be determined. One case has exhausted its appeals in the Russian domestic courts; charges against Russia should now be moved into European human rights courts.

HBO Documentary Film acquired rights to the film as the filmmakers were in the finishing stages of the expensive VFX work. After the Sundance world premiere, the movie will air on HBO in June.

Copyright www.indiewire.com

A native of Chechnya complained about the “expulsion of the genie” with a stick and tranquilizers.

Aminat Lorsanova stated that she had been subjected to violence in Grozny by close relatives and a specialist in “expelling genies” invited by them. The girl who left Russia with the help of the LGBT network demanded that the Investigative Committee start an investigation.

As the “Caucasian Knot” wrote, in September 2019, representatives of public organizations noted that in Chechen society the tendency to condemn dissent is intensifying, exacerbating women’s social injustice and the problem of domestic violence. According to activists, the number of complaints from victims of domestic violence in Chechnya, Dagestan and Karachay-Cherkessia is growing every year.

Chechnya is characterized by persecution based on sexual orientation. If homosexual men are persecuted by security forces, the fate of lesbians and transgender women is entirely in the hands of their relatives, who are no less cruel.

Lorsanova seeks criminal prosecution of his family.

22-year-old Aminat Lorsanova claims that in 2018 she was twice forcibly placed in psychiatric hospitals in Grozny. In one of the clinics, she spent 25 days, in the other four months. Several times during this time, a friend of the girl’s relatives came to her hospital, where he beat him with a stick while reading the Koran. He explained that in this way he expels a genie from her, according to a statement filed by the investigation on January 20.

“He beat me with a stick in the solar plexus, lifted a T-shirt on me, and pressed his fingers into this area, going down, also lowering the skirt to the hips, and pressed his fingers there. All this happened under my cry from hellish pain and his prayer cries in my right ear. “Close relatives” calmly watched the process, and even when I called for help and asked them to stop, they did nothing, “Aminat Lorsanova said in a statement.

According to her, at the end of 2018, one of her relatives forcibly tranquilized her at least six times. ” handcuffed me in my arms and tied my legs with tape, and glued my mouth too. He told me that he would tie me up like a sheep and treat me like an animal. After that, the forcibly gave me an injection of chlorpromazine and put him to bed, without even untying my legs – he left in that position, with his hands and feet tied, to sleep facing the wall, “said Lorsanova.

In April 2019, the girl left Chechnya.

Djinn expelled from LGBT people throughout the North Caucasus.

The practice of “expelling genies” from representatives of the LGBT community is widespread not only in Chechnya, but also in Chechen families living outside the republic.

“If a person’s behavior does not comply with the neo-traditionalist morality universally propagated in Chechnya, it is declared that genies have taken possession of such a person. The expulsion of genies in Chechnya is used not only in the form of alternative medicine, but also through quasi-medical centers such as the Clinic of Border States.

Violence, which is used against LGBT people in an attempt to “cure” them, remains one of the most relevant in Russia, despite the fact that homosexuality was no longer considered a disease more than 30 years ago, said Natalia Poplevskaya, coordinator of the monitoring and international advocacy program of the Russian LGBT network.

“Due to misconceptions about sexual orientation and gender identity (SOGI), lesbians, homosexual, bisexual and transgender people become victims of harassment, corrective rape and violence from friends and relatives who are cruelly trying to“ correct ”SOGI and achieve heteronormative behavior, “she told the Caucasian Knot correspondent.

The exclusion of homosexuality from the international classification of diseases does not stop various clinics, as well as adherents of alternative medical approaches that promise to transform and “normalize” people’s sexual preferences, Poplevskaya said. She added that such “treatment” often injures the patient.

“In Russia, the practice of such methods of treatment for homosexuality has become widespread in Dagestan, Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria and Ingushetia, where cultural and religious centers and centers of Islamic alternative medicine are located. They are mainly trying to cure homosexual women by” expelling the genie ” “The branches of these centers and other similar institutions can be found even in the central part of Russia,” said Natalya Poplevskaya.

On the websites of the Investigative Committee of Russia and the Directorate of the Investigative Committee for Chechnya by 12.56 Moscow time on January 21 there was no information about the initiation of a criminal case on the application of Lorsanova.

Copyright www.kavkaz-uzel.eu