For the first time in history, the German Parliament decided to dedicate the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust, celebrated in the country this Friday (27), to those who were persecuted because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
The date coincides with the anniversary of the closure, in 1945, of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, one of the most emblematic places of Nazi extermination policy.
Since 1996, deputies have organized a ceremony in the Lower House to commemorate the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Traditionally, the date is a time to honor the 6 million Jews exterminated by Adolf Hitler’s regime.
However, other groups were persecuted by Nazism, including gays and lesbians. During Hitler’s regime, around 57,000 people were arrested because of their gender identity or sexual orientation. Of this group, between 6,000 and 10,000 were sent to concentration camps, where they were forced to wear, on their uniforms, a pink triangle that indicated the reason for their arrest.
It is estimated that between 3,000 and 10,000 homosexuals died during Nazism. Many of them were also castrated or subjected to medical experiments as guinea pigs.
“This group is important, as it continues to suffer discrimination and hostility,” declared the president of the Bundestag —the German Parliament—, Bärbel Bas, when announcing the decision of parliamentarians to focus this year on the history of persecuted LGBTQIA+ people.
In 1996, the tragic end of gays and lesbians was remembered by then-German President Roman Herzog, but the fate of that community is not always remembered during tributes.
The absence has always been criticized by LGBTQIA+ rights activists, who considered that this population was marginalized by historians, when not totally forgotten. For that reason, Parliament’s decision this year is seen as “an important symbol of recognition of the suffering and dignity of victims arrested, tortured and murdered”, said Henny Engels, representative of the German Association for Gay and Lesbian Rights.
The Bundestag initiative was also welcomed by Dani Dayan, director of the Yad Vashem memorial in Jerusalem. “The Holocaust was an attack against humanity: against Jews in particular, but also against LGBTQ people, Roma and people with mental disorders.”
According to the president of the German Parliament, almost 80 years after the closure of Auschwitz, there are no more survivors of the concentration camp in the LGBTQIA+ community.
In the absence of living witnesses, actors perform this Friday at the Bundestag reading texts that tell the tragic stories of members of this community persecuted by the Hitler regime.
Situation of the LGBTQIA+ community during Nazism
A German law of 1871 prohibited sexual relations between men and between women. However, the text was practically not applied, and in some cities in the country, such as Berlin, there was an LGBTQIA+ scene.
But everything changed when the Nazi Party came to power after the 1933 elections and tightened the rules. In 1935, the law imposed ten years of hard labor for anyone convicted of sexual intercourse between two men.
Even with the end of Nazism, the Criminal Code of West Germany re-established, in 1969, an article based on the version that preceded the Hitler regime and continued to criminalize homosexuality. The text was only completely abolished in 1994, but it was only in 2017 that the government compensated people convicted of homosexuality after 1945. However, by that time many of the victims were already dead.
Putin uses date to criticize Ukrainians
Russian President Vladimir Putin used the International Day of Remembrance of the Victims of the Holocaust to accuse Ukraine of committing “neo-Nazi” crimes. “Forgetting the lessons of history leads to the repetition of tragedies. This is evidenced by crimes against civilians, ethnic cleansing and punitive actions organized by neo-Nazis in Ukraine,” the leader said in a statement.
Rhetoric is often used to justify the military offensive in the neighboring country. “It is against this evil that our soldiers are courageously fighting,” Putin added.
Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky reacted immediately. Without directly alluding to Putin’s statements, he only said that “indifference and hatred together create evil.” Poland also criticized Moscow. Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki accused Putin’s government of building new camps, referring to concentration camps.
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