History of the Memorial to the Homosexuals

Picture: Wreathes of flowers placed in front of the memorial

Oppression, Persecution, Murder

In Nazi Germany, homosexuality was persecuted to a degree unprecedented in history. In 1935, the National Socialists issued an order making all male homosexuality a crime; the provisions governing homosexual behaviour in Section 175 of the Criminal Code were significantly expanded and made stricter. A kiss was enough reason to prosecute. There were more than 50,000 convictions. Under Section 175, the punishment was imprisonment; in some cases, convicted offenders were castrated. Thousands of men were sent to concentration camps for being gay; many of them died there. They died of hunger, disease and abuse or were the victims of targeted killings.
The National Socialists destroyed the communities of gay men and women. Female homosexuality was not prosecuted, except in annexed Austria; the National Socialists did not find it as threatening as male homosexuality. However, lesbians who came into conflict with the regime were also subject to repressive measures. Under the Nazi regime, gay men and women lived in fear and under constant pressure to hide their sexuality.
For many years, the homosexual victims of National Socialism were not included in public commemorations – neither in the Federal Republic of Germany nor in the German Democratic Republic. In both East and West Germany, homosexuality continued to be prosecuted for many years. In the Federal Republic, Section 175 remained in force without amendment until 1969.

Because of its history, Germany has a special responsibility to actively oppose the violation of gay mens and lesbians human rights. In many parts of the world, people continue to be persecuted for their sexuality, homosexual love remains illegal and a kiss can be dangerous.

Resolution of the German Bundestag from 12 December 2003:

»The Federal Republic of Germany shall erect a memorial in Berlin to the homosexuals persecuted under the National Socialist regime. With this memorial, the Federal Republic of Germany intends

  • to honour the victims of persecution and murder,
  • to keep alive the memory of this injustice, and
  • to create a lasting symbol of opposition to enmity, intolerance and the exclusion of gay men and lesbians.«

Chronology

1992/1993
The first demands and actions in favour of a national memorial site for the homosexuals persecuted under the National Socialist regime arise in the context of discussions surrounding the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.

1995
Publishing of the memorandum »Remember the Homosexual Victims of National Socialism«.

25 June 1999
The German Bundestag resolves to erect a memorial to the murdered Jews of Europe and acknowledges the obligation to »duly honour all other victims of National Socialism«.

3 May 2001
The initiative »Remember the Homosexual Victims of National Socialism« and the Lesbian and Gay Federation of Germany jointly call for »a memorial to the homosexuals persecuted by the National Socialist regime«. Paul Spiegel, Romani Rose, Günter Grass, Christa Wolf and Lea Rosh, among others, also lend their support.

17 May 2002
The German Bundestag resolves to rehabilitate all those who fell victim to Section 175 of the German Criminal Code during the reign of National Socialism in Germany.

12 December 2003
German Bundestag resolution to build the memorial site.

2005/2006
Artistic competition for the design of the memorial site.

4 June 2007
Agreement between the Federal Government, the initiators of the memorial and the artists Elmgreen & Dragset concerning the further development of their winning design (Photo top: Ingar Dragset and Michael Elmgreen).

27 May 2008
Public unveiling of the memorial.

26 January 2012
New film inside the memorial (artists: Gerald Backhaus, Bernd Fischer and Ibrahim Gülnar).

7 October 2014
Until the announcement of a new competition, the original film by the artist duo Elmgreen & Dragset is shown in the Memorial.