Germany remembers Nazi persecution of sexual minorities – DW – 01/27/2023

Germany’s lower legislative house, the Bundestag, on Friday commemorated those who were killed by the Nazis, with a particular focus on people who were persecuted for their sexual orientation.

German lawmakers gathered to observe an hour of commemoration.

It is the first time that LGBTQ victims have been a special focus of parliament’s annual commemoration of victims of the Nazi regime, which comes as the world observes International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

What was said in parliament

Bundestag President Bärbel Bas said in Berlin on Friday that there should be no end to remembering all the victims who were persecuted, threatened, disenfranchised and murdered by the Nazis.

“Victims of the Holocaust are not forgotten,” he said.

“Today we remember the people who were persecuted for their sexual orientation and gender identity,” Bas said, noting that many had been deported to concentration camps. “Many were abused for medical experiments,” he said. “Most of them perished after a short time or were killed.”

German parliament highlights LGBTQ victims of Nazis

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The president of the legislature added that the end of the Nazi era was not the end of state persecution for this group of victims. The prosecution of sexual acts between men was only decriminalized in East and West Germany in 1968 and 1969, respectively.

The testimony of a survivor

Holocaust survivor Rozette Kats, whose Jewish parents were deported from the Netherlands to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp, was among those who spoke at the event.

He recounted his childhood with adoptive parents, trying to assimilate and not attract attention for fear of suffering a similar fate. Kats drew parallels with her own experience and those of gay and lesbian people forced to hide her identity.

“Every person who was persecuted at that time deserves a respectful memory,” he said. “Anyone who is persecuted today has the right to our recognition and protection.”

Stories that still carry weight

Also speaking was Klaus Schirdewahn, who was convicted in 1964, long after the Nazi period, for having sex with another man.

Schirdewahn, from Mannheim, said the community was still exposed to threats and discrimination.

It wasn’t until 2017 that the sentences against gay men were overturned, he added. “Until five years ago, you were considered to have a criminal record,” Schirdewahn said.

The actors Jannik Schümann and Maren Kroymann read texts about two victims whose life stories provide examples of the persecution of sexual minorities during the Nazi era.

DW correspondent Hans Brandt said these testimonials, like those of Kats and Schirdewahn, had been moving.

“These stories that are so old, that happened so long ago, are still impactful to this day and I think that’s the point: that these stories should not be forgotten, that we should listen to them, and that we should draw our lessons from them for today. Brandt said.

The commemoration came on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which marks the day Soviet forces liberated Auschwitz on January 27, 1945.

In the Holocaust, the Nazis and their allies annihilated an estimated 6 million Jews.

Thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender people were imprisoned and killed by the Nazis. Germany only publicly acknowledged its fate decades after the end of World War II. Other minorities, such as the Roma and Sinti ethnic groups and people with mental disabilities, were also systematically killed by the Nazi regime.

rc/kb (dpa, AFP)

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