Paragraph 175

on September 13, 2000 by Shlomo Schwartzberg
   "Paragraph 175", the 1871 German anti-sodomy law, was used by the Nazis in a campaign of "purification" to send some 10,000-15,000 gay men to the concentration camps, where most of them died.

   It's a provocative subject, but one that is undermined by directors Jeffrey Friedman and Rob Epstein's overly narrow focus. Their decision to only interview gay men imprisoned by the Nazis, instead of gay men in general from that time, means that the pool of interviewees is necessarily limited. In fact, only five gay men--one Jewish, four Christian--are interviewed for the film, along with a (token) Jewish lesbian, and their stories are generally too similar. One wonders what happened to gay men who weren't sent to concentration camps; how did they survive the war? And the look at pre-War Weimar Germany, which was remarkably accepting of gays, is merely glancing. This important issue deserves a better, deeper treatment.    Directed by Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman. Produced by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Michael Ehrenzweig and Janet Cole. A New Yorker release. Documentary. English- and German-language, subtitled. Unrated. Running time: 81 min.

Tags: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman, Michael Ehrenzweig, Janet Cole, New Yorker, Documentary, German, concentration camps, Nazi, Jewish, homosexual, post-war

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