Identity, Sex & Gender

Get Bent

Let me get this straight-ish. Israel Gutman of Jerusalem’s Yad Vashem Institute is annoyed that a memorial monument to a group that suffered in the Holocaust isn’t appropriate because… it implies that they suffered as much as the Jews? I must be missing a step in his logic.
The monument, unveiled earlier this week in Berlin, is “half a block from the iconic Brandenburg Gate and across the street from Germany’s national memorial to Jewish victims of the Holocaust.” But how do we get from close geographic proximity to “we suffered more than you?” The monuments are of different designs, sizes, and construction. The new monument includes an explanation of the suffering faced by homosexuals under the Third Reich.
In my opinion, the monument is long overdue (though, so too are the monuments to the Romas, physically disabled, twins… and any other group that was systematically targeted by the Nazis). The issue here should be that Germany is still recognizing and apologizing for atrocities from 65+ years ago. And Yad Vashem should be applauding them for those efforts – not quibbling over the degree of the persecution.
[Read the news article.]

4 thoughts on “Get Bent

  1. I find the whole debate about who suffered more deeply troubling. Still, as Feygele noted, the two monuments are vastly different in design and size and it’s hard to see how one could read the location of the new monument as an official attempt to equate suffering unless the person making such a statement comes at the question with a predisposition to dislike or be suspicious of gay people or gay memorializing.
    I just visited both a couple of weeks ago, so this is fresh in my mind (the gay monument was partially covered pending the official unveiling). The Jewish monument is overwhelming in its scale, both in terms of actual size but also in terms of the experience of walking down into the heart of the rows upon rows of concrete blocks. As you approach the middle you feel completely cut off from the surrounding city – you can’t even really hear the passing cars and people anymore.
    The gay monument is set amidst trees and grass and is rather small and intimate (in gay symbolism, it sort of feels like a “cruising” spot – which is somewhat appropriate, given that the Tiergarten has long served that function for the gay community, going back to the late 19th century). You can only appreciate it by coming up quite close and gazing in to see the images, whereas the Jewish monument dominates the entire landscape just south of the Brandenburg Gate.
    So, although I reject the premise of the “equating suffering” debate, even if I DID see validity in such an argument there is no way one could hold that this particular monument plays into that in any way.
    Also, note that a monument to the Sinti/Roma is currently being constructed just south of the Reichstag (slightly north of the gay monument, also in the Tiergarten).
    And a final note: Gutman is quoted as saying that the Nazis persecuted “exclusively German” homosexuals, many of them Nazis, and that they were “victims of internal political battles within the NSDAP.” The claim that the gay men (and it was almost entirely men – women/lesbians were persecuted under a completely different context) jailed and killed by the Nazis were “exclusively German” is demonstrably false and frankly makes me question Gutman’s authority as a scholar. There is some historical evidence that there was an internal political battle within the Nazi party that revolved around several key players known to have engaged in sex with men. But the idea that this in any way accounts for a substantial number of the men who suffered during the Nazi era is just not true.

  2. Do we expect anything less from the captain of the holocaust industry? This news is shocking, but not surprising.

  3. Leaving aside the fact that gays were neither persecuted with the same severity nor with the same zeal nor on the same scale as Jews, Roma, or Poles: German gays (if they were arrested at all) were far more likely to be sent to jail than to concentration camps, and most who did end up in camps were not identified as gay (most had been rounded up for being Jewish) the important thing to remember is that before the Nazis, Germany had been the home of a vibrant gay-rights movement and gay culture. Gays lived with greater liberty in Germany than nearly anywhere else: and then they had those liberties taken away.

  4. Ian Thal – “then they had those liberties taken away.”
    This is hardly an argument.
    One could say: Germany was a very liberal place for Jews – there was emancipation, they served in the army in WW1, and were generally accepted in many parts of German society – and then they had those liberties taken away.
    Regardless of how liberal, accepting, welcoming a society is, when rights are taken away, when society regresses, there is a major problem. (Losing privacy and other rights, America?)

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