BERLIN - Germany on Tuesday inaugurated a memorial to the thousands of homosexuals persecuted and killed under the Nazis, a monument meant both to honor a long-ignored group of victims and to make a statement against ongoing intolerance.
The memorial sits on the edge of the capital's Tiergarten Park, across the road from Germany's memorial to the Holocaust's 6 million Jewish victims.
The single gray concrete slab is a deliberate echo of the smaller slabs that make up that memorial, but also includes a small window that lets visitors see a film of two men kissing.
"This memorial is important from two points of view: To commemorate the victims, but also to make clear that even today, after we have achieved so much in terms of equal treatment, discrimination still exists daily," Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit said.
Memorial's inauguration ceremony (Photo: AFP)
Wowereit, who is openly gay, inaugurated the memorial alongside Germany's culture minister, Bernd Neumann. The federal government financed the 600,000 euro ($945,660) building costs after Germany's parliament approved the memorial's construction in December 2003.
Nazi Germany declared homosexuality an aberration that threatened the German race, and convicted some 50,000 homosexuals as criminals. An estimated 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were deported to concentration camps, where few survived.
"We stand stunned before the brutality with which the Nazis threatened, persecuted and destroyed all those who did not correspond to their inhuman ideology," Neumann said.
He noted that the memorial commemorates "a group that long drew little attention in the public arena."
Few gays convicted by the Nazis came forward after World War II because of the continuing stigma attached to homosexuality. The law used against them remained on the books in West Germany until 1969.
The German parliament in 2002 issued a formal pardon for homosexuals convicted under the Nazis. One reason the pardon took so long was because supporters linked it to a blanket rehabilitation of 22,000 Wehrmacht deserters, a move many conservatives opposed.
The memorial was designed by Danish-born Michael Elmgreen and Norwegian native Ingar Dragset, who are based in Berlin.