The memorial for those homosexuals persecuted under National Socialism – unveiled to the public on Tuesday – is a strong signal for human rights. The German Lesbian and Gay Federation (LSVD) and the initiative “Remembering the Homosexual Victims of the Nazis” have been calling on Germany for sixteen years to dedicate a site in the capital Berlin.
The memorial is an important milestone in recognizing injustice. The Nazis destroyed the first German homosexual movement. In 1935, the laws were drastically changed to make sexual encounters between men a crime. There were over 50,000 judgments and thousands of gay men were put in concentration camps. A majority of them didn’t survive the Nazi terror regime.
For many decades, the homosexual victims of the Nazis in Germany were simply not acknowledged. They were denied compensation. The laws added during the Third Reich remained on the books in West Germany until 1969. The next step must therefore be the rehabilitation of those people judged according to those Nazi laws in a democratic post-war state.
But remembering must also have consequences. In many countries around the world gays and lesbians still face massive persecution. Because of its history, Germany has a special responsibility to stand up against human rights violations involving lesbians and gays.
According to a resolution passed by the Bundestag in 2003, the memorial is meant to honour the persecuted and murdered victims, encourage vigilance against injustice, and be a constant reminder to oppose intolerance, hatred and discrimination against gays and lesbians. The design by the artists Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset is an impressive manifestation of the Bundestag’s multifaceted requirements.
Translation by The Local