Row over Lesbian inclusion in war memorial


GERMAN GAY campaigners and Holocaust scholars have attacked plans to include lesbians in Berlin’s memorial to homosexuals murdered by the Nazis.

The memorial near the Brandenburg Gate takes the form of a single concrete pillar, a nod to the adjacent field of pillars that make up Berlin’s Holocaust memorial.

The homosexual memorial contains a plexiglas window, behind which a video projection of two men kissing on the site runs in an endless loop.

Plans to replace that video for a time with footage of two women kissing has been dismissed as a “distortion of history” in an open letter to Germany’s cultural minister.

“It is not historically documented that lesbians were persecuted by the Nazis on account of their sexual orientation,” said the letter’s authors, who include prominent gay activists and the heads of several former concentration camps now operating as museums.

The authors dismiss the demand for a lesbian scene as a nod to gender balance that would lead to a “distortion” of the memorial’s purpose.

“The memorial’s historical reference point is the Nazis’ tightening up . . . of the criminal code in 1935 to criminalise male-male kissing,” they write.

Two years ago, ahead of the memorial’s unveiling, German women’s magazine Emmalaunched a campaign to include lesbians in the memorial’s brief. They pointed out that lesbians suffered hardship under the Nazi regime, including a ban on lesbian magazines.

“The individual persecution and deportation of millions of people, including an estimated 10,000 homosexual men, has a whole other quality,” counter the authors of the letter.

As a consequence of the row with Emmamagazine in 2006, the memorial committee agreed verbally to swap the men for women after two years. But the written agreement mentions “replacing the film every two years with new footage from male and female artists showing their interpretation of same-sex kissing”.

Germany’s cultural secretary Bernd Neumann has defended the lesbian footage plan as in keeping with the memorial’s original concept.

“The option of using a lesbian film motif in the memorial is in no way meant to put on the same level the persecution of homosexual men under the Nazi regime,” he said in a statement.

“Research shows that the persecution of lesbian women by the Nazi regime was not comparable to that of homosexual men. This is also clearly explained in a plaque on the memorial.”

A jury will agree on the new video in the coming weeks.