Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Germany's Homomonument unveiled in Berlin

The Homomonument - a memorial in the centre of Amsterdam - "commemorates all gay men and lesbians who have been subjected to persecution because of their homosexuality. Opened on September 5, 1987, it takes the form of three large pink triangles made of granite, set into the ground so as to form a larger triangle, on the bank of the Keizersgracht canal, near the historic Westerkerk church."

While in Amsterdam, I paid my respects to the memorial (see photos below).

Amsterdam_Homomonument3 Amsterdam_Homomonument2

BBC reports that a similar memorial, but of much larger scale, was inaugurated in Germany "to honour the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis between 1933 and 1945":

The four-metre high monument, which has a window showing a film of two men kissing, was unveiled in Berlin.

The Nazis branded homosexuality an aberration threatening their perception of Germans as the master race, and 55,000 gay men were deemed criminals.

As many as 15,000 of those were killed in Nazi concentration camps.

Very few who survived ever received compensation from post-war German governments for the persecution they suffered.

The new memorial - which was inaugurated by Berlin's gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit, and Germany's Culture Minister, Bernd Neumann - is situated close to that for the six million victims of the Holocaust.

Mr Wowereit said it was typical of post-war Germany that the victims had not been honoured until now.

"This is symptomatic for a society... that did not abolish unjust verdicts, but partially continued to implement them; a society which did not acknowledge a group of people as victims, only because they chose another way of life," he said.

During the opening ceremony, Linda Freimane, member of ILGA-Europe’s (Europe's leading gay rights organisation) Executive Board, said:

“Today, our continent is a safe place to live if you are homosexual – safe in comparison with many other places on our earth, where homosexuality is still considered a punishable crime.

Europe has come a long way in its battle for the right of each individual and in dealing with its history of discrimination. Today, in many European countries, lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and intersex (LGBTI) people along with other vulnerable groups enjoy the protection of their state against prejudice, discrimination and violence. In many places in Europe same-sex partners can register their partnership or get married, in some countries the state also supports our wish to become equal parents. We have not yet reached full equality, but we sense the political will to get there.

But this is not enough. You must now also be the ones who do not stay silent when other countries, which have already entered the EU or are knocking on its door, violate the rights of their own citizens. Please remind homophobic, transphobic, xenophobic, racist and sexist political leaders that they too belong to a Europe, which is built on the assumption of each individual’s right to freedom, dignity, and respect and to seek his or her own happiness. And please, do not forget all those LGBTI people around the world who live in fear and despair, who face persecution, humiliation, imprisonment and death for simply being who they are.

I hope that the present and future mayors of Berlin and members of German governments will remember to bring their foreign guests to this memorial when they show them the beautiful city of Berlin.”

the_monument_ILGA Europe

ILGE-Europe reports further that "One side [of this memorial] has a small opening through which viewers can see a black and white art film scene of two men kissing. " A simple kiss could land you in trouble," says the text which accompanies the memorial. This memorial was designed by the Danish-Norwegian artistic duo Michael Elmgreen and Ingar Dragset."

A short, looped clip of two men kissing, a key component of the memorial, was screened at Tate Modern (London) during the afternoon 27 May to coincide with this historical event. Photo below - via Tate Modern: Elmgreen & Dragset The Kiss (National Memorial for the Homosexual Victims of the Nazi Regime) 2008;
courtesy the artists and Victoria Miro Gallery.

The Kiss_Tate Modern

*photo of the Berlin memorial - via ILGA-Europe

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