German parliament officially commemorates LGBTQ victims of the Nazi regime for the first time
The German parliament focused for the first time on Friday its annual meeting Holocaust Memorial Commemorations about people persecuted and killed for their sexual or gender identity during World War II.
Activists in Germany have worked for decades to establish an official ceremony to commemorate LGBTQ victims persecuted under the Nazi regime.
“Today’s hour of memories focuses on a group of victims who had to fight for a long time to gain recognition: people who were persecuted by the National Socialists because of their sexual orientation or gender identity,” said Baerbel Bas, Chairman of the lower house of the Bundestag. home, he said as he opened a ceremony to mark International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.
Article 175 of the German penal code had made sexual relations between men punishable by imprisonment. The section was removed from the penal code in East Germany in 1968, while in West Germany it reverted to the pre-Nazi-era version in 1969 and was only fully abolished in 1994.
“Kisses, caresses, even looks became punishable by law. Tens of thousands were accused of homosexuality. This alone was enough to ruin his social life and his existence,” Bass said during the somber commemoration.
“More than half of these men were sentenced, usually to long prison terms or hard labor. In some cases, the men were forced to undergo sterilization. Many were driven to suicide, ”he added.
The Bundestag president said that while most gay men were affected, “lesbian women were by no means safe from persecution. Neither were the 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 standards lived in fear and mistrust. 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 a short time or were killed,” he added.
The German Gay and Lesbian Association rights group welcomed Friday’s ceremony, calling it an “important symbol of recognition” of the “suffering and dignity of imprisoned, tortured and murdered victims.”
Some members of Germany’s LGBTQ community attended the event at the parliament.
Klaus Schirdewahn, who was convicted in 1964 of a sexual relationship with another man under a Nazi-era law, told German lawmakers he was found “guilty of my feelings for another man, guilty of having violated article 175 of the penal code “.
“And it wasn’t until 2017 that the guilty verdicts, including the one against me, were overturned,” Schirdewahn told the camera.
“I know that many people in the queer community have had experiences similar to mine; many people like me have lived in hiding for many decades and still do,” Schirdewahn said. He urged parliament not to forget history, “especially today, when the queer community is once again facing hostility all over the world, but also in Germany.”
“It is important to me that young people do not forget the effort and the strength that it took us to be able to live the way we are allowed to live now.”
The commemoration was attended by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and two visiting members of the Ukrainian Jewish community.
Scholz recalled on Friday Germany’s historical responsibility for the murder of millions of Jews during the Nazi era.
“The suffering of 6 million innocently murdered Jews is not forgotten, just like the suffering of the survivors,” Scholz wrote on Twitter.