German parliament officially commemorates LGBTQ victims of Nazi regime for first time


On Friday, Germany’s parliament for the first time focused its annual Holocaust commemorations on those persecuted and killed because of their sexual or gender identity during World War II.

Activists in Germany worked for decades to establish an official ceremony to commemorate LGBTQ victims persecuted under the Nazi regime.

«Today’s hour of remembrance focuses on a group of victims who had to fight for a long time to gain recognition: people who were persecuted by the National Socialists because of their sexual orientation or their gender identity,» said Baerbel Bas, president of the lower Bundestag. home, said at the opening of a ceremony marking International Holocaust Remembrance Day, the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz.

Article 175 of the German Penal Code made sex between men punishable by imprisonment. The article was removed from the penal code in East Germany in 1968, while in West Germany it reverted to the pre-Nazi-era version in 1969 and was only abolished altogether than in 1994.

“Kissing, touching – even staring became punishable by law. Tens of thousands have been accused of homosexuality. That alone was often enough to ruin their social life and existence,” Bass said during the somber commemoration.

“More than half of these men were sentenced, usually to long prison terms or forced labor. In some cases, the men were forced to undergo sterilization. Many were driven to suicide,” she added.

The President of the Bundestag said that while most gay men were affected, “lesbian women were by no means immune to persecution. Nor people who could not or did not want to live as gender society demanded of them.

“Those who did not conform to National Socialist standards lived in fear and mistrust. Hardest hit were the thousands of men and women who were deported to concentration camps because of their sexuality – usually under some pretext. Many were abused for medical experiments, most died soon after or were murdered,” she added.

The German lesbian and gay rights group hailed Friday’s ceremony, calling it an «important symbol of recognition» of «the suffering and dignity of imprisoned, tortured and murdered victims».

Some members of the German LGBTQ community attended the event in parliament.

Klaus Schirdewahn, who was convicted in 1964 of having sex with another man under a Nazi-era law, told German lawmakers he was found «guilty of my feelings for another man, guilty of violating 175 of the Penal Code».

«And it wasn’t until 2017 that the guilty verdicts were overturned – including the one against me,» Schirdewahn told the chamber.

“I know many people in the queer community have had experiences similar to mine — many people like me have gone underground for many decades and continue to do so,” Schirdewahn said. He urged parliament not to forget history, «especially today when the queer community is once again facing hostility around the world – but also in Germany».

«It’s important to me that young people don’t forget the effort and strength it took us to be able to live as we are allowed to live now.»

The commemoration was attended by German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Chancellor Olaf Scholz and two visiting members of Ukraine’s Jewish community.

Scholz on Friday recalled Germany’s historic responsibility for the murder of millions of Jews during the Nazi era.

«The suffering of 6 million innocent Jews murdered is unforgettable – as is the suffering of the survivors,» Scholz wrote on Twitter.

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