Declaration of gay survivors of the Holocaust 50 years after their liberation #HolocaustMemorialDay

HOLOCAUST Memorial Day is marked on 27th January each year in the UK, and we commemorated it in the Open Table Network‘s online service this month.

Poster indicating the marking system for prisoners in Nazi concentration camps

Holocaust Memorial Day is commemorated on 27th January as it marks the anniversary of the liberation of the largest Nazi concentration camp at Auschwitz in Poland in 1945. 

Among those whom the Nazis treated as less than human were people who were homosexual (that is, gay men and lesbian women). As their attraction meant they were less likely to have children, they were seen as ‘anti-social’ enemies of the Nazi idea of the master race. 

They were some of the first people, alongside political prisoners, to be sent to the concentration camps in 1933. It wasn’t just gay men and lesbian women, but also those thought to be homosexual because they didn’t fit stereotypes of gender and sexuality the Nazis valued. 

Men identified as gay were forced to wear pink triangles, while women identified as lesbians were made to wear a black triangle along with other ‘anti-social’ groups. For this reason, the number of women taken to camps because of judgments about their sexual orientation is unknown. 

WATCH: Alan Brooks from Open Table Liverpool & Sefton reading the gay survivors’ declaration [4 mins]. This is an extract from the Open Table Network commemoration of Holocaust Memorial Day 2021 on the theme: ‘Be the light in the darkness’.

ln 1995 – for the first and only time – a group of gay survivors of the Holocaust issued a declaration demanding recognition as part of a project of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington D.C.  Here is what they wrote:

“50 years ago, Allied troops did liberate us from Nazi concentration camps and prisons. But the world we had hoped for did not happen to come true. We were forced to hide again and faced on-going persecution under the same Nazi-law that was on the books since 1935 and stayed on the books until 1969. Raids were frequent. Some of us – just tasting their new freedom – were even sentenced to long-term prison again.

Although some of us tried courageously to gain recognition by challenging the courts up to the West German Supreme Court, we were never acknowledged as being persecuted by the Nazi regime. We were excluded from financial compensations for the victims of the Nazi regime. We lacked the moral support and sympathy of the public.

No SS man ever had to face a trial for the murder of a gay man in or outside the camps. But whereas they now enjoy a pension for their ‘work’ in the camps, our years in the camps are subtracted from our pension.

Today we are too old and tired to struggle for the recognition of the Nazi injustice we suffered. Many of us never dared to testify. Many of us died alone with their hunting memories. We waited long, but in vain for a clear political & financial gesture of the German government and courts.

We know that still very little is taught in schools and universities about our fate. Even Holocaust museums and memorials many times don’t mention the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.

Today… we turn to the young generation and to all of you who are not guided by hate and homophobia. Please support us in our struggle to memorize and document the Nazi atrocities against homosexual men and lesbian women.
Let us never forget the Nazi atrocities against Jews, Gypsies, Jehovah’s witnesses, Freemasons, the disabled, Polish & Russian prisoners of war and homosexuals.

Let us learn from the past and let us support the young generation of lesbian women and gay men, girls and boys to lead unlike us a life in dignity and respect, with their loved ones, their friends and their families.”

– Source: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum

The Open Table Network’s online service commemorating Holocaust Memorial Day premiered on YouTube at 6.30pm on Sunday 24th January 2021. Watch it here [40 mins]:

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