Interview: Jeffrey Beaver - How Learning About The Holocaust Changed My Life - By Dan Mangini
04/05/2013

Jeffrey offers a very deep look into his journey learning about the holocaust in this interview, his internship at the holocaust museum, and how it has changed him.

Online PR News – 05-April-2013 – Philadelphia, Pennsylvania – gen·o·cide

Genocide means any of the following acts committed with intent to destroy, in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group, as such:
(a) Killing members of the group;
(b) Causing serious bodily or mental harm to members of the group;
(c) Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part;
(d) Imposing measures intended to prevent births within the group;
(e) Forcibly transferring children of the group to another group.

"The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of approximately six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. "Holocaust" is a word of Greek origin meaning "sacrifice by fire." The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were "racially superior" and that the Jews, deemed "inferior," were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.

During the era of the Holocaust, German authorities also targeted other groups because of their perceived "racial inferiority": Roma (Gypsies), the disabled, and some of the Slavic peoples (Poles, Russians, and others). Other groups were persecuted on political, ideological, and behavioral grounds, among them Communists, Socialists, Jehovah's Witnesses, and homosexuals.” (http://www.ushmm.org/ )

I have been quite honored to get to know some amazing individuals while preparing interviews for this website! Seeing the wealth of talent, compassion and wisdom in our LGBTQ community has really opened my eyes! From Rudy Flesher to Kyle Bella, I see amazing people truly set to make a meaningful "mark” on our world! No one has touched me so deeply or surprised me more then this most recent interview with Jeffrey Beaver. As I researched for something new and different being done by emerging activists in our community, I came across Jeffrey and the work he is doing with his internship with the National Holocaust Museum. Honestly, like most others, this subject greatly distresses me and makes me very uncomfortable. Images from concentration camps can move me to tears in just seconds. It is hard to even imagine that these cruelties existed in our world and yet, they still do! Through this whole process, what was more interesting was the conversation not about facts, etc of the Holocaust, but how "telling” it has been both for Jeffrey and myself about human nature. We, as humans, automatically want NOT to deal with things that make us feel distressed or unhappy. In a society, even within our LGBTQ community here in Philadelphia, this is very obvious. Most rely on "appearances”, things that we use to define us as successful, to motivate us rather then want to deal with with harsh realitites that could truly change our world. Sadly, in my work in the field of HIV, I see this too often! Many not affected by this virus tend to want to shy away from it, as if the mere mention of the word will invite it into their lives. They feel that it is not their problem and it is this attitude that drives the pandemic forward. With new infections remaining steady and still claiming lives, it IS everyones’ problem yet we don’t see it that way. Jeffrey offers a very deep look into this fact in this interview amongst many other things. It is facing these issues that are disturbing and unpleasant that move people to enact change, to make a difference. Without them, nothing will change, nothing will get better. Complacency is the worst of human conditions. Yet, I see hope, especially in our community, amongst those individuals who make issues that are not their own, their platforms. Jeffrey is one of those rare jewels, who instead of ignoring the atrocities of our history, has embraced them in order to make a difference. Very few people impress or inspire me but I have to say this young man is certainly one of them. I see him as someone who will enact change, who will shed light on the human conditions that matter most! I could not be more proud that he sat down to take part in this interview!

D.M. : Jeffrey, can you please share a little personal background about yourself?

J.B. : I was born and raised in the Boothwyn/Concordville area and raised primarily by my mom from age three forward. I obtained an associates degree in Behavorial Science in 2003 from DCCC. In 2001 I began working as a bartender at the former 12th Air Command here in the Gayborhood while also working as a real estate agent. In 2006, I worked with the Hillary Clinton for President Campaign and traveled the country extensively working with both Hillary and Chelsea.I curerntly work as a bartender at Icandy and take courses online for Holocaust studies with Clark University. In the Fall of 2011 I began an internship with the National Holocaust Musuem in Washington, D.C.

D.M. : What is your hope going forward with your studies and internship with the National Holocaust Museum?

J.B. : I will be using this experience not only to help those in my everyday but those in other parts of the world. I desperately want to draw attention to countries that commit horrible human rights violations, and also continue to commit genocide against innocent people. The world seems to turn a blind eye to these issues, and I think there needs to be a new approach to how these issues are presented. The very first thing we all need to stop doing is making it "their" problem.

D. M. : You have shared with me that this journey has been very "telling” in so many more ways then the obvious. Can you share this with us?

J.B. : The most alarming question I've been asked countless times since I've been interested in Holocaust studies has been "are you Jewish?" And at first I didn't think too much about it, but than it occurred to me that people were wondering why a non-Jew would be interested in the murder of over 6 million Jews during the holocaust.
I saw a trend, and realized people were looking for ways to make it about "them", "those people", the "Jews".
I always saw the Holocaust as a crime against all of humanity, and not just a Jewish issue. I believe as a human being that I am equal to every other human being no matter their race. I see myself as one of them, and they are one of me. So making the Holocaust, or genocide, or any crime against humanity about "them" seems to me a continuation of racism. It’s also a way that people avoid identifying with it, and not feeling responsible in any way. It blows my mind that people are completely unaware of the cruelty and this happening now in the world. It is because many are unaware that it continues on.

D.M.: I find it so very difficult to view images from back at this time. How do you handle being surrounded by the horrors of the Holocaust there at the Museum?

J.B.: I went through a period of disbelief a few times because I had a difficult time wrapping my head around the reality that people can be that cruel. It didn't seem possible that anybody could do those things to other human beings, to women, children! I have seen the movie Schindler’s List about 15 times and I cry uncontrollably EVERYTIME. The images at the museum are hard to be surrounded by everyday, but that is why I went on this journey. I needed to make it real, to see the sheer size and scale of the cruelty and devastation to fuel my mission to not only honor the memory of the countless victims who died during this tragedy , but to also take my awareness of these things and change the world! I HAVE 6 MILLION REASONS TO DEDICATE MY LIFE TO CHANGING THE WORLD and using my voice for those who no longer have one!

Every time I feel down or hurt by what I‘ve witnessed, I remind myself that I am lucky to have the freedoms that I have and that my life is a gift. This whole experience has changed me on every level. I definitely don’t see any of my problems as being very important anymore. I now see myself has having a real purpose. My life has a meaning that it never had before. I will use my life and my time here on Earth wisely.

This is the beginning of my work.

D.M.: We know that during the Holocaust that many LGBT people were also persecuted. What is something you might share about this slice of the population that we may not be aware of?

J.B.: It may shock people to know that before WWII, Germany and much of Eastern Europe had very liberal views towards gays and lesbians. There were gay bars, clubs as well as a thriving gay community. All this changed during the war. I look forward to working with you, Dan, to present that LGBT community so we have a deeper understanding of gay and lesbian persecution during the Holocaust and since then, in the very near future.

D.M.: How has this journey impacted you personally?

J. B.: I have felt a shift from being self conscious and caught up in my own insecurities to very suddenly feeling my life important. When I look at people know, I see more then just a person, I see a life that is special and unique, a part of me. I feel connected to people in a way that is hard to explain. It is more important now for me to be honest, giving, and sincere in everything I do. I carry the Holocaust tragedy inside of me as a reminder that millions never had a chance to live their lives like I am. I value my family and friendships more then I ever did before. In learning about the tragic details of the Holocaust, and subsequent genocides since, I've come to realize the importance of speaking up, and being true to myself. If I want to have any real impact on making the world a better place I have to become the living example of what I want the world to be like. I have to practice kindness, consideration, acceptance, understanding, tolerance (I hate that word), and forgiveness. I have to allow everyone to be who they are, and accept them completely. This all comes from accepting my self, and allowing me to be who I am. I want everyone to know what its like to really love who they are, and see themselves as important, valuable, and powerful, but also caring and considerate to the world around them. With that formula you can accomplish anything!

D. M.: What would you like to share with the readers about the continuing genocide that goes on in today’s world?

J. B.: Murder and genocide continue to this day, and it's almost always hidden from the world. There is a really good documentary called- 'Genocide: Worse Than War' (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w7cZuhqSzzc) available on YouTube from PBS that shows the current reality of genocide, and also tries to answer the question; How do we prevent genocide? The U.N. (The United Nations) which was created to protect people and uphold the international laws that all participating countries agreed to, often backs down due to political pressure and abandons the people it swore to protect. It's a classic case of red tape, but at the price of human lives. It's a sad reality that needs to be changed. What good is it having international laws if they aren't enforced? What good is the UN if it abandons helpless people in their greatest hour of need? These are the same conditions that allowed Nazi Germany to murder millions of innocent people.

D.M.: What are some other sources people can use to learn more?

J.B.: These are some great sources of information and the following links & videos paint a more comprehensive picture of the human suffering.

Link Nazi Persecution of Homosexuals: http://www.ushmm.org/museum/exhibit/online/hsx/

What is genocide? http://www.ushmm.org/genocide/take_action/genocide

The United States Holocaust Memorial & Museum: http://www.ushmm.org/

In closing, Jeff wanted me to share this quote, which is featured on the wall at the National Holocaust Museum. I do not believe there is any commentary necessary about the message. Our challenge is to just LIVE by these words!

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out--
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me--and there was no one left to speak for me.

Martin Niemöller
Photo:Silvi Cobo