Gay Memorial… Just for the Guys?
By Talia Ran
When taught about the Holocaust, we are asked to never forget those who lost their lives during such a tragic time. However, for some scholars, remembering certain groups may distort history.
According to a recent article by the Sydney Morning Herald, there are Holocaust scholars against a bid to include images of lesbians kissing as part of a Berlin monument dedicated to the thousands of homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis.
The current memorial, created in May 2008, is a single concrete pillar with a small window, behind which a video of two men joined in a “never-ending” kiss. Original plans were for the loop to run continuously for two years, after which it will be replaced by a video of two women.
According to a statement by Alexander Zinn, a board member of the foundation that maintains the former Nazi concentration camps near Berlin, such a move would distort history as there were no known Holocaust victims targeted for being lesbians.
Historical truth must remain the focus…Research shows that the persecution of lesbian women by the Nazi regime was not comparable to that of homosexual men.
Zinn’s argument begs the question: Huh?
How much persecution should one endure before a monument is raised in their honor? While it may be true that gay men received the brunt of Nazi homophobia, that doesn’t diminish the discrimination and hardships endured by lesbians.
In concentration camps, gay men were forced to wear pink triangles to distinguish themselves from other prisoners. Though it is true lesbians were not blatantly branded or persecuted against, they were, however, as well as other ‘asocials,’ forced to wear black triangles while interned in camps such as Ravensbrück.
Believing that every woman, regardless of her sexuality, could serve the Nazi state as a wife and mother, the Nazis dismissed lesbianism as a state and social problem. To Nazis, women were not only inferior to men but also, by nature, dependent on them. In addition, it was considered easier to persuade or force women to comply with accepted heterosexual behavior. Therefore, they considered lesbians to be less threatening than male homosexuals.
Sure, lesbians weren’t called out by the Nazi-revised criminal code Paragraph 175. Sure, they were allowed a certain ‘legal immunity’ for their sexual actions, but they still suffered. According to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum:
Soon after Hitler’s appointment as chancellor, the police systematically raided and closed down homosexual meeting bars and clubs, forcing lesbians to meet in secret. The Nazis created a climate of fear by encouraging police raids and denunciations against lesbians. Many lesbians broke off contacts with their circles of friends, some moving to new cities where they would be unknown. Others even sought the protection of marriage, entering into marriages of convenience with male homosexual friends.
Regardless of the fact that lesbians were not being as systematically persecuted against as male homosexuals were, it still remains true that they were treated like second class citizens. Being forced to change or hide who you are is still considered persecution. Therefore, lesbians should be memorialized for their plight.