Scottish government supports Auschwitz trips for teenagers

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

Two pupils from every school in Scotland will be able to visit one of the sites of the Holocaust after the country’s government announced funding for the Lessons from Auschwitz Project.

Karen Pollock, chief executive of the Holocaust Educational Trust (HET) said:

“We are delighted that the Scottish government has recognised the value of the Lessons from Auschwitz Project and we look forward to working with them to involve more Scottish pupils with the work of the Holocaust Educational Trust.

“It would have been a great shame if Scottish pupils had not been able to benefit from the Project following the announcement of renewed funding for English schools in February 2008.

“That is why we have been working tirelessly at the highest levels in Scotland to ensure Scottish pupils did not miss out.”

The Nazis murdered homosexuals along with Jews, Poles, Romas and Gypsies, political prisoners, people with disabilities, and others during the Second World War.

Between 5,000 and 15,000 gay men were held in concentration camps by the Nazis as members of an “anti-social group.” Historians estimate that 60% of them died while incarcerated.

After the war gay men were not recognised as victims of the Holocaust and many were re-imprisoned by the authorities because of the sexuality.

They were denied the reparations and state pensions available to other groups.

The homosexual victims of Nazi Germany remained excluded from the public process of remembrance of past injustices until recent times.

Earlier this year the Roman Catholic Bishop of Motherwell in Scotland caused outrage when he said that a “homosexual lobby” attend Holocaust memorial events to create for themselves “the image of a group of people under persecution.”

Bishop Joseph Devine’s extremist views were widely criticised.

The chair of the Holocaust Educational Trust, Lord Janner, defended the right of gay people to commemorate the Holocaust, telling

“They were persecuted by the Nazis and are right to recall the horrors of the Holocaust.”

The Nazis’ anti-gay polices and their destruction of the early gay-rights movement in Germany were generally not considered suitable subject matter for Holocaust historians and educators.

It was not until the 1970s and 1980s that there was some mainstream exploration of the theme, with Holocaust survivors writing their autobiographies, plays such as Bent, and more historical research and documentaries about Nazi homophobia.