Monday, June 27, 2011

The Pink Triangle: Never forget

This video by Sean Chapin shows San Francisco’s annual Pink Triangle event. The event commemorates the homosexual victims of the Nazis by placing their symbol for gay men, the Pink Triangle, on a mountainside. The group says of their event:
“The goal of the Pink Triangle ceremony is to remind people that even though the hatred that existed in Germany 70 years ago that led to the creation of the Pink Triangle no longer exists there, such hatred certainly persists in many parts of the world including Uganda, Malawi, Iran, Iraq, and Afghanistan.”
No one has any idea how many gay men—or men merely labelled homosexual—were murdered in Nazi death camps, but conservative estimates have placed the number of dead at 50-65,000. But those numbers alone don’t tell the whole story.

When the Nazi death camps were liberated, gay men who managed to survive were treated, restored to health, and then returned to prison to serve out the remainder of their sentence. The men had been convicted under Paragraph 175 of the German penal code, originally enacted in Bismarck’s time and expanded under the Nazis.

East Germany reverted to the old version of the law in 1950, limited it to youths under 18 in 1969, then abolished altogether in 1988. Supposedly free and democratic West Germany, however, kept the Nazi-era version until 1969 when it was limited somewhat. It was fiddled with again in 1973, but it was not finally revoked completely until 1994, after German re-unification.

This is one aspect of history that few people know about or, if they do, not in any great detail. I didn’t know about it until I came out and started reading gay history. “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it,” as George Santayana put it. All too often that seems to be true.

So I applaud the Project for keeping the memory alive, and Sean Chapin for so beautifully capturing it. We, too, have reason to say: Nie vergessen – Never Forget.

No comments: