At the yearly commemoration for victims of the Nazi era, Germany remembers the persecution of sexual minorities

The German Parliament the Bundestag has held its annual ceremony of remembrance for the victims of the National Socialist regime an estimated 6 million Jews were murdered by the Nazis during World War II other groups will were also persecuted by the Nazis this year’s ceremony focused on people targeted due to their sexual orientation or gender identity said that during the Nazi regime, tens of thousands were accused of homosexuality.

And imprisoned ceremony actors read out the accounts of sexual minority victims the victims and survivors of the Holocaust were honored in speeches and musical interludes [Music] then and the ceremony was also attended by members of the queer community who shared their experiences of crimes.

These were terms I heard not only from my parents I built an illusory world around me became mute suffered from depression and even physical pain for decades but my feelings could not be turned off or suppressed inside me I kept hold of a dream of a free and normal life encouraged by years of activist work and bold Role Models.

bundestag, german flag, reichstag, bundestagswahl, germany, capital, flag, architecture, building, government district, berlin
bundestag, german flag, reichstag, bundestagswahl, germany, capital, flag, architecture, building, government district, berlin

I decided late in life to finally come out as a gay man was a Liberation after which I felt for the first time that I was really me and standing by for us in the Bundestag DW’s political correspondent to Hans Brandt’s hand you were there at the ceremony give us your impressions yes I think what’s most impressive with this was a very simple solemn occasion commemoration not spectacular in any way.

And yet still very deeply moving and you could feel that in the audience which was full as it rarely is here in the bundestalk in attendance were also all the top representatives of the German State the German president for instance the German Chancellor Olaf Schultz and then there were special groups of visitors from the Jewish Community internationally especially also from Ukraine Jewish Jewish Community from Ukraine and representatives of the queer Community as you mentioned and of course the Diplomatic Representatives that are normally here for such occasions and very large groups of young people because the Bundestag the German Parliament is trying to transmit the message of this commemoration also to a new generation so a very solemn.

But very moving uh ceremony and the ceremony had a special focus on those who were persecuted for their sexual orientation or gender identity tell us a little bit more about that yes today is International Holocaust Remembrance Day and otherwise remembrance of the Six Million Jews murdered during Nazi times.

But there were also many other groups that were persecuted by the Nazis for various reasons one of them was people who were persecuted for their sexual identity homosexuals for instance or transgender people and this was a special ceremony to commemorate their suffering as well.

And what was important about that is that the laws that were used during Nazi times to persecute for instance queer men continued to be in force after the end of the Nazi era in Germany well into the time of modern German of the modern German state so that there is a sense of continuation from that times to today and Hans uh for years sexual minorities have been fighting for recognition.

I want to have a closer look now GW met with an activist from the queer community who is working for that cause it’s the day Lutz van Dijk has been fighting for in 2018 the historian and teacher petitioned the Bundestag for the first time his goal to get the highest political levels to recognize the persecution of queer people the reason why we never gave up to have hope that this recognition on the highest government level will happen is not only because it has a big meaning a strong meaning and important meaning for our minorities.

But it means also that Germany as a country has reached the level of humanity of democracy where different voices are heard in 2022 Parliament finally decided to commemorate LGBTQ victims of the Nazi regime male homosexuality was banned long before Hitler came to power in 1933.

But the Nazis ramped up persecution gay men were imprisoned and sent to concentration camps where they had to wear the pink triangle around 10 000 gay men were murdered Recent research on other queer people also shows systematic persecution and legislation outlawing homosexuality in Germany was only fully Dropped In 1994.

If I look back in my own life when I was 14 the paragraph still existed and I grew up in a society where I was a criminal boy if I would have been honest in Berlin Van Dyke meets for a discussion on why remembrance for sexual minorities has been such a struggle both audience.

And panelists agree research for many types of victims remains scant for Van Dijk the battle is only getting started without a final achievement it should be an encouragement to go on and to look in those into those countries where it’s the dangerous party life-threatening uh to be a sexual minority van Dijk will continue to fight to argue and build coalitions because the struggle for remembrance and against persecution goes on and back with correspondent Hans Brown hence there were a number of speeches given including one from a holocaust Survivor.

And testimonies from others who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime what stood out for you I think what’s really important is how relevant all of these stories are from more than 70 years almost 100 years ago some of them are still today the Holocaust surveyor was rosette cuts a woman who as a young baby was given by her Jewish parents to a Dutch family when her Jewish parents were deported and later killed in Auschwitz and she drew a parallel it took her decades to acknowledge her Jewish identity.

And Drew parallel now to the persecution of minorities today including people who are being still discriminated against across the world for their sexual identity and then there were two testimonies read by actors of a lesbian woman and a gay man about their experiences during the Nazi times and really moving was that these stories that are so old that took place such a long time ago still remain shocking to this day.

And I think that is the point that these stories should not be forgotten that we should listen to them and that we should draw our lessons from them for today’s TW political correspondent Hans brunt standing by for us in the German Bundestag where the ceremony of remembrance for the victims of national socialism has just concluded Hans thank you for your reporting well Germany’s remembrance for the victims of national socialism coincides with Holocaust Remembrance Day on this day 78 years ago Soviet forces liberated the Nazi death camp at Auschwitz to that end three women filmmakers have turned to Virtual Reality to provide people with a simulated tour of the Nazi concentration and extermination camps they want to help those who can’t visit the sites understand.

The scale of the Nazi crimes is a virtual reality with a powerful message these moviegoers in central Jerusalem are being taken on a confronting Journey the brainchild of three young Israeli filmmakers who felt this new technology would help keep the past from slipping away first thing we said is let’s take this technology and bring this emotional super powerful experience to so many people who cannot go we understood that with this technology.

We can be you know put life into history the history of Auschwitz book now for example as seen in one of these headsets for years now in Israel a concern has been growing about how to maintain awareness of the Holocaust as its last survivors disappear Sarah.

And hardly needed a reminder they escaped the Nazi extermination plan as children after we watched it we couldn’t sleep that night after we saw it all the emotions flooded in to see what we were saved from the scale of it this industry of Sarah and her family were on a train headed for Auschwitz when fate took a different turn miracle from above bombed the railway.

So instead we were taken to a Work Camp it’s a miracle from God that we managed to escape this hell that we didn’t end up there that we survived and built a family for the developers building the experience is an act of remembrance you know what I feel after the survivors after all of the survivors.

I watched this movie I feel that they feel and they know that they can leave this world and we’re not going to forget them the immersive nature of this technology makes for a very powerful and intimate experience developers hope that it will also resonate with younger audiences like this one and it will soon be played not just here in Israel but around the world to help keep the memory of the Holocaust alive for future Generations.

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