German parliament commemorates LGBTQ Holocaust victims

bundestag holocaust
The Nazis identified gay prisoners by a pink triangle later adopted as a symbol of the early gay rights movement.

The Bundestag yesterday officially recognised people persecuted and killed by the Nazis over their sexuality or gender identity during the annual Holocaust memorial commemoration in the lower house of the German Parliament.

Nazi Germany murdered six million Jews during the Holocaust. The Nazis and their collaborators also murdered Soviet civilians and POWs, Roma, political and religious opponents, Afro-Germans and members of the LGBTQ communities.

The Bundestag marks International Holocaust Remembrance Day annually on the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz concentration camp. Yesterday, for the first time, the ceremony focussed on the LGBTQ victims.

Baerbel Bas, president of the Bundestag lower house, noted that LGBTQ advocates campaigned for decades for the official recognition of LGBTQ people during the ceremony.

People persecuted because of sexuality or gender identity in the Holocaust

“Today’s hour of remembrances focuses on a group of victims who had to fight for a long time to achieve recognition. People persecuted by the National Socialists because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity.

“Kisses, touching – even glances became punishable by law. Tens of thousands were accused of homosexuality. This alone was often enough to ruin their social life and existence.”

Baerbel Bas said the Nazis convicted over half the accused men and sentenced them to long prison sentences or forced labour. She said many underwent forced sterilisation and/or died by suicide.

She said the Nazi persecution mainly affected gay men. But, “lesbian women were by no means safe from persecution. Neither were people who could not or did not want to live as the gender society demanded of them.

“Those who did not conform to National Socialist norms, lived in fear and mistrust. The hardest hit were the many thousands of men and women who were deported to concentration camps because of their sexuality – usually under a pretext. Many were abused for medical experiments, most perished after only a short time or they were murdered.”

Sadly, the suffering of gay prisoners did not end following the liberation of concentration camps at the end of WWII. Occupying forces and German authorities often kept gay prisoners behind bars to serve out their sentences.

See also: Calls for memorial to gay victims in Australia’s new Holocaust museums.

Nazi book burnings: the beginnings of the queer persecution.


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