Gay victims of the holocaust finally remembered

Publish Date: 28/05/2008

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 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".

Klaus Wowereit, the openly gay Mayor of Berlin commented 'This memorial is important from two points of view — to commemorate the victims, but also to make clear that even today, after we have achieved so much in terms of equal treatment, discrimination still exists daily

However Germany's Lesbian and Gay Association said it was a pity that there were no survivors left to witness its inauguration.

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.

Unlike other groups of Nazi victims, the gay community was largely ignored after the collapse of the Third Reich .Few gays convicted by the Nazis came forward after World War II because of the stigma attached to homosexuality. The law used against them remained on the books in West Germany 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 has just been unveiled. The designers' original plan to feature only a video of two men kissing ran into criticism that lesbians were left out

In 2007 a compromise was reached to change the memorial's video every two years, allowing lesbian couples to be shown in the future.

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