John M. Becker

Israel Erecting Monument to Gay Holocaust Victims

Filed By John M. Becker | August 21, 2013 3:00 PM | comments

Filed in: Gay Icons and History, Living
Tags: concentration camp, Dachau, erasure, gay Holocaust victims, Holocaust, Israel, pink triangle, Tel Aviv, yellow star

Israel's first monument to gay victims of the Holocaust is scheduled to be completed this year in the seaside city of Tel Aviv, Israeli daily newspaper Haaretz reports:

At the center of the monument will be a concrete triangle containing a pink triangle, the symbol used by the Nazis used to mark homosexuals. A bench and plaque beside the monument will give information about the persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust.

The monument will be erected in Gan Meir Park, near the headquarters of Tel Aviv's Gay Center. According to attorney Eran Lev, a member of the municipal council and the driving force behind the project, it is especially significant because it will be the first and only memorial site in Israel to honor Holocaust victims who wore a badge other than the yellow star.

The monument also represents an important step forward in the overall international recognition of gay Holocaust victims, which has historically lagged far behind that given to other groups persecuted by the Nazis.

pink_triangle_tattoo.jpgDuring the Nazi regime, approximately 50,000 gay men were convicted under Germany's infamous Paragraph 175, which made gay sex a crime. At least 15,000 were deported to concentration camps, and between 7,000 and 10,000 died. Gay prisoners were often regarded as the lowest of the low even among their fellow inmates, and they were frequently targeted by prisoners and guards alike for especially brutal work, punishment, and humiliation.

Paragraph 175 remained on the books after World War II, and many gay men who survived the camps were re-imprisoned under the Allied government until the law was finally repealed in 1969. Other survivors often refused to acknowledge the existence or the experiences of gay Holocaust victims. In fact, one of the most striking memories Michael and I have of our visit to the Dachau concentration camp in 2009 is learning that the pink triangle was intentionally excluded from the international memorial sculpture -- designed by a survivor in 1968 -- because homosexuals were not accepted as a "recognized" persecuted group at that time. It took until 1985, forty years after the camp was liberated, for a pink triangle to be displayed at Dachau.

The last known gay Holocaust survivor died in 2011.

Especially in light of this shameful history of denial and erasure, governments and societies across the world have a moral obligation to recognize and solemnly commemorate the injustices heaped upon the LGBT community in the Holocaust and its aftermath.

Kudos to Israel for doing just that.

h/t: Will Kohler, Back2Stonewall

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