The city of Te Aviv, Israel unveiled a memorial Friday honoring gays and lesbians persecuted by the Nazis, the first specific recognition in Israel for non-Jewish victims of the Holocaust.
A concrete, triangle-shaped plaque details the plight of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people under Adolf Hitler’s Third Reich. It resembles the pink triangles Nazis forced gays to wear in concentration camps during World War II and states in English, Hebrew and German: “In memory of those persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual orientation and gender identity.”
Unlike their persecution of Jews, the Nazis viewed being gay as a “public health problem” since gay German men did not produce children,
Israel was born out of the Holocaust and its 6 million Jewish victims remains seared in the country’s psyche. Israel holds an annual memorial day where sirens stop traffic across the nation, it sends soldiers and youth on trips to concentration camp sites and often cites the Holocaust as justification for an independent Jewish state so Jews will “never again” be defenseless.
But after 70 years, openly gay Tel Aviv councilman Eran Lev thought it was time to add a universal element to the commemoration.
“The significance here is that we are recognizing that there were other victims of the Holocaust, not just Jews,” said Lev, who initiated the project during his brief term in office.
The Nazis kept files on 100,000 people, mostly men. But the excact number of German LGBT sent to concentration camps and killed will never be known but leading scholar Rüdiger Lautmann believes that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60%. LGBT prisoners were subjected to harsher labor than smaller targeted groups, such as the political prisoners, and furthermore suffered a much higher mortality rate. They also lacked a support network within the camps and were ostracized in the prison community. Homosexuals, like the mentally ill and many Jews and Roma, were also subjected to medical experimentation in the hopes of finding a cure to homosexuality at the camp in Buchenwald
After the war, the treatment of homosexuals in concentration camps went unacknowledged by most countries, and some men were even re-arrested and imprisoned based on evidence found during the Nazi years. It was not until the 1980s that governments began to acknowledge what happened to the LGBT individuals and not until 2002 that the German government apologized to the gay community . In 2005, the European Parliament adopted a resolution on the Holocaust which included the persecution of homosexuals.
The Tel Aviv landmark joins similar memorials in Amsterdam, Berlin, San Francisco and Sydney dedicated to gay victims of the Holocaust.
Let us never forget and never forget.