German parliament to commemorate LGBT victims of Nazis

The German parliament will for the first time next year commemorate victims of the Nazi regime, who were persecuted and killed for their sexual or gender identity, the Bundestag president said Friday.

Germany's Reichstag building illuminated with
The Reichstag building housing the lower house of the German parliament is illuminated and an inscription reading "#WeRemember" is projected on its facade as part of a social media campaign to commemorate International Holocaust Memorial Day in Berlin, on January 24, 2022. Tobias SCHWARZ / AFP

On January 27, the international Holocaust Remembrance Day, German MPs will put those victims “at the centre of the commemoration ceremony”, Baerbel Bas told German daily Tagesspiegel.

Germany has officially marked Holocaust Remembrance Day every January 27 since 1996 with a solemn ceremony at the Bundestag featuring a speech by a survivor and commemorations across the country.

“Sadly there are no survivors left” for the LGBT victims’ memorial, Bas said, adding that parliamentary authorities were in close discussions with the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany (LSVD).

Campaigners have worked for years to establish an official parliamentary commemoration of Nazi victims who were persecuted for their sexual or gender identity.

A petition, signed by victims’ organisations, academics, and other civil society figures, was put forward in support of the idea in 2018.

While the former German President Roman Herzog named homosexuals among the victims of the Nazis at the first event in 1996, “these victims have yet to have their own memorial”, said Henny Engels, member of the LSVD board.

The group “welcomed” the Bundestag president’s decision to dedicate the day to victims, who were persecuted and killed for their sexual or gender identity.

“To draw the right lessons from all its different facets, history must be comprehensively kept alive,” Engels said.

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German parliament holds minute’s silence for Gorbachev

German lawmakers on Wednesday observed a minute's silence in honour of the last Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev, who played a decisive role in the reunification of Germany in 1990.

German parliament holds minute's silence for Gorbachev

Gorbachev died late August aged 91, and hundreds of Russians paid their final respects to him at a weekend ceremony in Moscow although President Vladimir Putin was notably absent.

“We have a lot to thank Mikhail Gorbachev for,” Bundestag president Baerbel Bas said in an address ahead of the minute’s silence.

“He changed the history of our country, and the lives of millions of people.”

“There are few politicians who are as revered in Germany as he is, and we will remember him as a great liberator,” she added.

“Germans have lost a loyal friend.”

READ ALSO: Berlin to fly flags at half-mast for Gorbachev’s funeral

In power between 1985 and 1991, Gorbachev sought to transform the Soviet Union with democratic reforms, but eventually triggered its demise.

While his legacy in Russia is controversial, he is widely respected in Germany for his role in helping bring about the country’s reunification, and his death triggered expressions of gratitude across the political spectrum.

There were calls for a street or square in Berlin to be renamed after him, and official flags flew at half mast in the capital to mark his funeral Saturday.

Gorbachev defended a world order in which states sort to resolve conflicts through dialogue, said Baerbel.

“Russia under Putin has broken with this spirit, and that is a tragic mistake. It is Russia that has attacked Ukraine, and has destroyed European peace by armed force.”

READ ALSO: Gorbachev died at a time of ‘failed’ Russian democracy, says German Chancellor Scholz