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Diversity - Not Only in the Present: A Look at the Holocaust of the LGBT Community

Updated: Dec 6, 2023

Perry Glickman, who manages the field of diversity and inclusion at F5, sheds light on a lesser-known aspect of the Holocaust - the Nazis' systematic persecution of the proud community ● An opinion article published at "People & Computers" ● Coach Perry

One of the most talked about topics in the high-tech world in recent years is diversity. This refers to the ability of companies and the work environments they create to accommodate employees from different social backgrounds, as well as religions, sexual orientations, gender identities, and more, which make their human mosaic more interesting and monetized. Studies have shown that companies that are more diverse in terms of human resources are more successful in the bottom line.

But this diversity is not just "present" and not just "work environment". This diversity also means to know the stories and history of the different groups.

As a Jew living in the State of Israel, I grew up, like everyone else, hearing the stories of the Holocaust. I learned in schools about the atrocities my people went through, I heard personal stories of survivors, I visited museums documenting what the Nazis did, and every year, on Holocaust Day, I watched many content related to one of the darkest periods in human life. I will admit that it was very difficult for me to watch and experience again and again the same inhuman sights of Jews - men, women, and children - who are led to their deaths in unbearable torment.

Jewish boy from the Warsaw ghetto

A few years ago, when my manager at F5 came to Israel from Seattle, we visited the Yad Vashem Museum, as part of a tour in Jerusalem. We decided that, unlike the other sites we had been to, the tour of this museum will be done separately. We had a gut feeling that it would be important to go through this experience in a personal manner. It was not long before I came across the famous picture of the Jewish boy from the Warsaw ghetto. I know this picture very well, but this time it hit me hard. I do not know why. Maybe because of its location, maybe because of its size, which resembled the real height of the child, and maybe because this time, I stood in front of it as a parent, and was shocked to imagine my own daughter, Noa, being forced to raise her hands as they forced that little child.

Detained in the camps - and imprisoned again after they were released

There is one major and important issue that I was not exposed to until recently: the LGBT+ community during the Holocaust. On that visit to Yad Vashem a few years ago, I do not remember seeing anything on the subject, but maybe I missed it. Maybe many of us have missed it. We were told that other communities also suffered in the Holocaust - gypsies, the disabled, political opponents, and more, including LGBT people - but it was always mentioned as something negligible.

So I decided to extend my knowledge on the subject. I learned that at first, gays were marked with the letter "A" sewn on the left side of the shirt or pants. The letter "A" represented the German word Arschficker - a very crude German derogatory condemnation, so I will not write its meaning here. I learned later that the Nazis forced gays to wear a pink badge, just as the Jews were forced to wear a yellow badge. The same patch was larger than the other patches. I also learned that the exact numbers of gays imprisoned and perished during Nazism (gays were transferred to camps before the start of World War II) are unknown, but it is estimated that the Nazis slaughtered about 55,000 of them. And I learned that lesbians also suffered in the Holocaust as they were forced to engage in prostitution in the camps, both in order to satisfy the needs of the SS men and also with the aim of "curing" their sexual orientation.

הטלאי הוורוד שאסירים מהקהילה הגאה נאלצו לענוד במחנות של הנאצים

One of the most surprising things I learned in this study is that with the end of World War II and the liberation from the concentration camps, many of the gays were locked up again because being gay was illegal according to German law, which only changed after decades.

I have never taken for granted the support of the company I work for in diverse populations, including the LGBT+ Community. For me, being able to write these things and put them on the wall of remembrance for Holocaust victims in my workplace, with the pink badge lingering sadly on them, is a demonstration of support and identification at the highest level. More and more I am witnessing organizations and societies taking the same approach of diversity and inclusion, recognizing the fact that we are different but equal, and empowering the under-represented populations - and I am moved. I am moved by the journey we are all going through, by our acquaintance with the different, and by the help and inclusion we can express towards the other even on this sad day.

As a Jew living in the State of Israel, I grew up like everyone else hearing the stories of the Holocaust. As a human being living on Earth, I was not exposed to the suffering and horrors my community members went through during the Holocaust. On this Holocaust day, I chose to touch their souls. On this Holocaust Day, I stand by their side, just as I stand by my people.

May them rest in peace.

The author is a project manager in the fields of diversity and inclusion at F5 Israel.

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