Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg has become the first senior politician to back the inclusion of gay victims of Nazi persecution in a national Holocaust memorial.
Speaking to PinkNews on Holocaust Memorial Day, the Lib Dem leader paid a moving tribute to the gay victims of the Nazis and to the pink triangle which he said has evolved from “a badge of shame” to “an international symbol of freedom and pride”.
Responding to a question from PinkNews on the importance of remembering gay victims of the Nazis, Mr Clegg said: “Today we remember the millions of innocent people who lost their lives in the Holocaust, one of the worst genocides known to man. Their crimes, nothing more than the way they were born.
“As we pay tribute to them, we must never forget the tens of thousands of gay people who were so brutally persecuted and executed at the hands of the Nazis, simply because of their sexuality.”
Mr Clegg added: “The symbol of the pink triangle, once intended as a badge of shame, today stands as an international symbol of freedom and pride. From the dark shadow of history rises a neon emblem of diversity and hope.
“Any memorial remembering the Holocaust should recognise the persecution of non-Jewish victims whilst maintaining the centrality of the six million murdered Jews.”
Benjamin Cohen, the Chief Executive of PinkNews will say in an article to be published alongside Mr Clegg’s: “Keeping the pink flag flying as an act of remembrance to the persecution of gay people by the Nazis matters now more than ever. In 2012, the last gay survivor of the concentration camps, Gad Beck died. We owe it to his memory to constantly be telling the story of the Nazi’s persecution of gay people.
“Last year, the government announced the formation of the Holocaust Commission with a mission to create a permanent memorial to the Holocaust in Britain and increase the level of awareness of this important part of modern history. It’s incumbent for the commission to ensure that the persecution of gay people is included in the memorial, perhaps with the inclusion of the pink triangle.”
According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum, over a million German men were targeted by the Nazis for threatening the “disciplined masculinity” of Germany, and over 100,000 were arrested under a law criminalising homosexuality.
Approximately 50,000 served prison sentences as “convicted homosexuals”, and around 5,000 to 15,000 gay men were imprisoned in concentration camps. Many gay men were imprisoned by the allied authorities after the liberation of the concentration camps as homosexuality remained illegal.
Memorials to gay victims appear in Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sydney, Tel Aviv and San Francisco.
A memorial was unveiled in Berlin in 2008, next to the Holocaust monument, which consists of a concrete slab with a window where viewers can see a continuous film of two men kissing.
The posters had been put up around the Stratford area to advertise an event being held on Holocaust Memorial Day by Newham Council.