European Region of the International Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Trans and Intersex Association

A memorial commemorating the tens of thousands of homosexual people persecuted during the Nazi regime is opened today in Berlin

Linda Freimane, member of ILGA-Europe’s Executive Board and Philipp Braun, Secretary General of ILGA, took part in the opening ceremony alongside Klaus Wowereit, the openly gay Mayor of Berlin, and Bernd Neumann, Minister of State, Federal Government Commissioner for Culture and the Media.

This is not the first memorial commemorating homosexual people who were persecuted under the Nazi regime in Europe. But the Berlin memorial has an important symbolic value by being erected in the centre of the city from where 6-7 decades ago the policies of extermination of homosexual people along with such groups as Jews, disable people, gypsies, Jehovah witnesses and political dissidents was conceived and the deadly orders were given.

The exact number of people who were tortured and killed because of their sexual orientation is still unknown, but some estimates suggest that about 54,000 homosexuals were arrested by Nazis with 7,000 being killed in concentration camps.

This memorial is situated in Berlin’s prominent TiergartenPark, half a block from Brandenburg Gate and sits just across from the Jewish Holocaust Memorial. The homosexual memorial consists of a grey rectangular block some four meters tall. One side 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.

During the opening ceremony, Linda Freimane, member of ILGA-Europe’s 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.”

Ends

For more information please contact
Juris Lavrikovs at + 32 2 609 54 16 / + 32 496 708 375

Notes for editors:

(1) ILGA-Europe is the European Region of the International Lesbian and Gay Association and works for equality and human rights for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in Europe: www.ilga-europe.org

(2) More information about countries which criminalise sexual relationships between consenting adults and provide death penalties please see ILGA’s State-Sponsored Homophobia report: http://www.ilga.org/news_results.asp?LanguageID=1&FileID=1165&FileCatego...