Friday, February 23, 2024

LGBT+ College Conference panelists discuss documentary about queer Holocaust survivors 


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Featured Photo courtesy of William Langston

Story by Baylah Close

On Friday, the LGBT+ College Conference featured a panel with Elyce Helford, Jake Newsome and Caleb Franklin. The audience watched and discussed the documentary “Paragraph 175,” which tells the stories of queer survivors of the Holocaust.  

Paragraph 175 was a German criminal code used during the Nazi regime, although homosexuality remained criminalized until 1969 in some parts of Germany. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 men were put into concentration camps, where most passed away. The film “Paragraph 175” tells the stories of five gay men and one lesbian during the Nazi regime.  

Their stories are vast and tragic. There is Annette Eick, a lesbian who escaped to England to be with her lover, Albrecht Becker, who joined the army after being arrested for homosexuality. Along with this, character, Pierre Seel, watched his lover pass away in the camp among several others.  

This film allows these survivors to tell their stories, several of whom hadn’t talked about their experiences prior to the film. This film informs viewers of a less talked about part of history and gives them a better understanding of the events that took place during that time.  

An estimated 4,000 LGBT+ people survived, although most of their stories have been lost due to their passing away. 

The panel, Caleb Franklin (he/him), Jake Newsome (he/him) and Elyce Helford (she/her) discuss the film with the audience. (Photo by Dr. William Langston)

Newsome, a scholar of American and German LGBTQ+ history, discussed how these numbers are consistently changing as archives update and new information is revealed.  

Members of the crowd were able to ask questions during a discussion following the viewing, during which Newsome elaborated on the developments being made.  

He mentioned how the numbers can be misguided at times as the labels that the Nazi parties put on individuals to prosecute them may not have been accurate to their true identities.  

“I think we as scholars, as educators, have to be wary of not accidentally reproducing those categories that the Nazis established because that just assumes that everyone just has one tiny identity, that they can be placed into that category and that’s just not the case, that’s not how we live our lives,” Newsome said.  

For Newsome, he hopes the film encourages people to look deeper at the stories and lives of these LGBTQ+ people during this time.   

“In order to tell a more accurate history, we might have to set aside some of those categories to think more about how those victimized individuals may have lived their lives,” Newsome said.  

“Paragraph 175” is available to view for all MTSU students, faculty and staff through Kanopy.

To contact Lifestyles Editor Destiny Mizell, email For more news, visit, or follow us on Facebook at MTSU Sidelines or on Twitter at @Sidelines_News.


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