Germany’s lower legislative chamber, the Bundestag, on Friday commemorated those murdered by the Nazis, with a particular focus on people persecuted for their sexual orientation.
The German legislature gathered for a commemoration.
It is the first time that LGBTQ victims have been the focus of Parliament’s annual commemoration of the victims of the Nazi regime, which joins the world in celebrating International Holocaust Remembrance Day.
What was said in Parliament
Bundestag President Bärbel Bas said on Friday in Berlin that the commemoration of all victims who were persecuted, threatened, disenfranchised and murdered by the National Socialists should not end.
“The victims of the Holocaust will not be forgotten,” she said.
“Today we commemorate the people who were persecuted because of their sexual orientation and gender identity,” said Bas, noting that many were deported to concentration camps. “Many were misused for medical experiments,” she said. “Most died after a short time or were murdered.”
The German Bundestag puts the spotlight on LGBTQ victims of the Nazis
The end of the Nazi era was not the end of state persecution for this group of victims, added the parliamentary speaker. The prosecution of sexual acts between men was not decriminalized in East and West Germany until 1968 and 1969 respectively.
A survivor’s testimony
One of the speakers at the event was Holocaust survivor Rozette Kats, whose Jewish parents were deported from the Netherlands to the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration and extermination camp.
She told of her childhood with foster parents, in which she tried to fit in and not stand out for fear of suffering a similar fate. Kats drew parallels between her own experiences and those of gays and lesbians forced to hide their identities.
“Every person who was persecuted back then deserves a respectful memorial,” she said. “Anyone who is being persecuted today deserves our recognition and protection.”
Stories that still matter
Klaus Schirdewahn, who was sentenced in 1964 – long after the Nazi era – for having sexual relations with another man, also had a say.
Schirdewahn, from Mannheim, said the community continues to face threats and discrimination.
It was not until 2017 that the convictions against gay men were overturned, he added. “Up until five years ago, I was considered a criminal record,” said Schirdewahn
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 statements, like those from Kats and Schirdewahn, were moving.
“Those stories that are so old, that happened so long ago, remain shocking to this day, and I think that’s the point – that those stories shouldn’t be forgotten, that we should listen to them and that we should draw ours.” Lessons from that for today,” said Brandt.
The commemoration took place on International Holocaust Remembrance Day, which marks the day Auschwitz was liberated by Soviet troops on January 27, 1945.
About 6 million Jews were wiped out by the Nazis and their allies in the Holocaust.
Thousands of gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people were imprisoned and murdered by the Nazis. Germany only publicly acknowledged their fate decades after the end of World War II. Other minorities, such as the Roma and Sinti ethnic groups, as well as the mentally handicapped, were also systematically murdered by the Nazi regime.
rc/kb (dpa, AFP)