Whose Holocaust? Plan to Recognize Gay Victims at Memorial Sparks Row
Posted on June 11, 2009
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A plan to memorialize gay male victims of Nazism amid a collection of memorial stones for Holocaust victims in a quiet half-acre patch of Brooklyn has provoked an outcry.
New York State Assembly Member Dov Hikind, a Brooklyn Democrat whose many Orthodox constituents include numerous Holocaust survivors, has decried the planned addition as a distortion of the Holocaust’s meaning with regard to Jews.
“It’s easy to say, let’s include everybody, let’s be universal, diversity is great,” he said. But he added, “It just isn’t fair. It diminishes and really dilutes what the Holocaust is.”
Hikind and the Holocaust Memorial Committee, steward of the tiny Holocaust Memorial Park in the Sheepshead Bay section of Brooklyn, are calling for the park’s memorial stones to be restricted to Jewish victims of Hitler. But the plan, approved by the city’s parks department, to commemorate non-Jewish victims of the Nazi regime there is proceeding thus far.
On June 9, representatives of the International Association of Lesbian and Gay Children of Holocaust Survivors, which proposed the addition, could be found combing the bayside memorial to measure unmarked stone pillars and determine if memorial text could be carved on them, association co-chair Rick Landman said.
The altercation raises a question that Jews have faced with increasing frequency: Whose Holocaust is it, anyway? Roma Gypsies, the disabled and gay men were among those also especially targeted by the Nazis. According to historians, though, only Jews and Roma were targeted for annihilation. Altogether, the Nazis are estimated to have murdered some 11 million from their coming to power in 1933 until their downfall in 1945.
Flanked by Emmons Avenue and Shore Boulevard, at the easternmost end of Sheepshead Bay, the memorial, built in 1997, consists of a tall eternal flame sculpture — engraved with a short statement on the Holocaust and the nations affected by the genocide — surrounded by two adjacent gardens of stone markers, each of which features either a paragraph or two of history or a list of victims’ names.
For $360 per engraved line, donors to the non-profit Holocaust Memorial Committee can pay to have a victim’s name printed on one of the stone markers. The registration form for this service, found on the committee’s Web site, asks donors to provide the victim’s name and a brief history of his or her Holocaust experience. The committee then meets to verify the authenticity of the proposed inscription, committee treasurer and past president Alfred Gollomp said.
Gollomp complained that in signing on to the IALGCHS proposal, Mayor Michael Bloomberg, City Council Speaker Christine Quinn and the city’s parks department were ignoring a memorandum that gives the Brooklyn-based group control over the park markers.
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