Did the Nazis target lesbian women as harshly as they went after gay men? We weren’t there, so we don’t know! But smarter historians than we say the answer is, flatly, no, so they don’t want the Holocaust memorial in Berlin to suddenly start recognizing lesbian attacks.
As with anything involved with the Holocaust and questioning history, this is a touchy subject. Currently the monument, installed in May 2008 next to the Jewish memorial, lets visitors peer into a concrete block to watch an infinitely-looping video showing two men kissing. It’s to honor the estimated 15,000 gay men imprisoned by the Nazis; some 60 percent of them are believed to have died during detainment. But the original plans for the memorial called for the video to be swapped out every two years, with a video of two women kissing. Cue controversy.
Under the original plans, the video is to change every two years to feature two women locked in an embrace, meaning the switch is due in May. But Alexander Zinn, a board member of the foundation that maintains the former Nazi concentration camps near Berlin, said such a move would distort history as there were no known Holocaust victims targeted for being lesbian. “Historical truth must remain the focus,” Zinn told AFP.
He has banded together with other Holocaust experts and fired off a letter of protest to Culture Minister Michael Neumann and Berlin’s openly gay mayor, Klaus Wowereit. Neumann defended the plans as true to the original concept of the memorial in addressing present-day discrimination against lesbians and gays as well as the plight of homosexuals at the hands of the Nazis. “The option of using a lesbian film motif in the memorial is in no way meant to put on the same level the persecution of homosexual men and women under the Nazi regime,” he said in a statement. “Research shows that the persecution of lesbian women by the Nazi regime was not comparable to that of homosexual men. This is also clearly explained in a plaque on the memorial.”
This is the video currently playing since the memorial’s debut:
Listen. Were some lesbian women targeted by the Nazis? Almost certainly. Were they targeted as heavily as gay men? Perhaps not. Does that mean we should these women from history and deny them remembrance? Of course not. Give the gals their two years.