Berlin inaugurates memorial to gays persecuted by Nazis

Source: BBC
27 May 2008

Berlin remembers persecuted gays

The Berlin memorial to Nazi persecution of gaysGermany has inaugurated a 600,000 euro concrete memorial to honour the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945.

The four-metre high monument, which has a window showing a film of two men kissing, was unveiled in Berlin.

The Nazis branded homosexuality an aberration threatening their perception of Germans as the master race, and 55,000 gay men were deemed criminals.

As many as 15,000 of those were killed in Nazi concentration camps.

Very few who survived ever received compensation from post-war German governments for the persecution they suffered.

The new memorial – which was inaugurated by Berlin’s gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, and Germany’s Culture Minister, Bernd Neumann – is situated close to that for the six million victims of the Holocaust.

Mr Wowereit said it was typical of post-war Germany that the victims had not been honoured until now.

“This is symptomatic for a society… that did not abolish unjust verdicts, but partially continued to implement them; a society which did not acknowledge a group of people as victims, only because they chose another way of life,” he said.


At the inauguration of the Memorial to Nazi persecution of gays

Source: The Guardian, UK
28 May 2008

Germany remembers gay victims of the Nazis

Tens of thousands of gay men who were persecuted and murdered by the Nazi regime are remembered in a memorial unveiled yesterday in central Berlin.

A grey concrete pillar, encompassing a small slanted window displaying a film of two men locked in a passionate kiss, is the first national monument of its kind, and was constructed only after decades of debate about how to mark the crimes perpetrated against Germany’s gay population.

“Germany wants to honour the persecuted and murdered victims, to keep alive the memory of the injustice they suffered,” a plaque reads, adding that the monument is meant as “a lasting symbol against intolerance and hostility towards gays and lesbians and against their alienation”.

But gay rights campaigners, while welcoming the memorial, said it was an unfortunate consequence of the lengthy struggle to see it constructed, that there were no survivors left to witness its inauguration.

“It is a sad fact that not one of the people persecuted back then is able to be here today,” said Günter Dworek, a spokesman for Germany’s Lesbian and Gay Association. “In that sense, this monument has come too late.” The last known victim died in 2005.

Nazi Germany’s open policy against homosexuality began in 1933 when officials ordered the destruction of the Berlin institute of the sexologist and physician, Magnus Hirschfeld. Between 1935 and 1945 more than 50,000 men were convicted. It is estimated that between 5,000 and 15,000 of them were sent to concentration camps.

In some cases gay men, who were forced to wear pink triangles, were sterilised or used as medical guinea pigs. Precise figures of how many died in death camps are unknown, but the figure is estimated to be in the thousands.

Unlike other groups of Nazi victims, the gay community was largely ignored after the collapse of the Third Reich. Worse still, they continued to be persecuted by the same law until 1969, which saw a further 50,000 sentenced for the crime of being gay. It was not until 2002 that they were pardoned by the Social Democrat-Green coalition government, which also abolished the legislation. Campaigners are still fighting for compensation for many of those who fell victim to the law.

In 2003 the government announced a competition for a memorial in Tiergarten park, which was won by the Berlin-based artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset, who incorporated the one and a half minute kissing film loop by director Thomas Vinterberg into their design.


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