The Memorial to gay and lesbian victims of National Socialism (German Mahnmal für die Opfer des lesbischen Schwulen und Nationalsozialismus in Köln ) recalls since 1995 in Cologne , on the banks of the Rhine , the persecution of homosexuals during the Nazi era .
That became the 24 of June of 1995 in the second memorial that is not shaped plaque recalling in Germany this topic. Since December 11, 1994 there is the Angel of Frankfurt dedicated to this theme. On May 27, 2008, he was followed by the Monument to homosexuals persecuted by Nazism in Berlin . Until 1994 there were no more than commemorative plaques in the German-speaking countries in the concentration camps of Mauthausen , Neuengamme , Dachau and Sachsenhausen , and in Berlin on the Nollendorfplatz .
The monument was donated to the city of Cologne by the Gewerkschaft Öffentliche Dienste, Transport und Verkehr (ÖTV, “Union of utilities, transportation and traffic ‘) Cologne (currently Vereinte Dienstleistungsgewerkschaft ,” united services union ” Ver.di ) .
The monument should recall the persecution of homosexuals during the era of National Socialism . With the inscription ” Totgeschlagen – Totgeschwiegen “, the monument also recalls the situation of the victims in the Federal Republic of the post-war period.
Although there was no systematic persecution of lesbians during Nazism, they are explicitly mentioned in the monument, because their living conditions and infrastructure worsened considerably during the period.
History of the monument
In March 1990, the Arbeitskreis Lesben und Schwule ( “Group of lesbians and gay men work”; formerly AK Homosexualität , “homosexuality Working Group ‘) of ÖTV Cologne started the initiative for the creation of the monument. The initiator, Jörg Lenk, remained until realization as the main interlocutor and engine of the project. The official request was made by the Deutsche Gewerkschaftsbund (DGB) of Cologne and was publicly supported by various organizations and parties.
After a takeover of the documentation center on Nazism in the city of Cologne, the initial idea of the mayor to expand the plaque dedicated to the deportation of Jews , Sinti and Rome located at the Cologne Fair was abandoned.
The initial doubts of the representatives of the city council of Cologne on the persecution of the lesbians were solved by the center of documentation on Nazism. The representatives of the town council wanted to replace the words “gays and lesbians” with “homosexuals”. But under an initiative of Alliance ’90 / The Greens initial formula remained.
In 1993 a reduced contest was realized between 25 artists selected by the culture office of the city of Cologne. The construction of the monument was carried out, with the exception of the votes of the Christian Democratic Union of Germany , with a broad consensus and without public discussions. The financing was done through a collection, which met 30,900.00 DM (15798.92 € ). In June 1995 it was inaugurated.
In addition to the place, the inscription Totgeschlagen – Totgeschwiegen, den schwulen und lesbischen Opfern des Nationalsozialismus (“Dead to Sticks – Dead to Silence, the Gays and Lesbians of National Socialism”), which had already been used on the Nollendorf square plaque Of Berlin, were the only conditions for the creation of the monument. With this, the ÖTV gay and lesbian working circle wanted to remember both the persecution of homosexuals by the Nazis and the continuing discrimination in the Federal Republic. The word “homosexual” seemed too medical. Since they referred to themselves as gays and lesbians, the desire to use those words was unanimous.
As site was chosen area Rheingarten / Frankenwerft, near the Hohenzollern bridge, a very popular area of Cologne residents and tourists, with the Ludwig Museum and the Cologne Cathedral in the background.
The site was chosen because it has a historical relationship. The banks of the Rhine, near the Hohenzollern bridge, have long been a meeting place for homosexual men, offering the possibility of anonymous encounters without running the risk of being recognized as homosexual in social life. Near the bridge was until its destruction in World War II, a public urinal used by gay as a meeting point. In the post-war period, the destroyed towers of the stairs were transformed into meeting places.
Among the eleven artists who participated in the selection, a jury formed by professionals was unanimously decided by the work of the sculptor of Rostock Achim Zinkann as second prize. No first prize was awarded. From June 14 to July 15, 1994, the eleven proposals were presented in an exhibition at the Forum of the Popular University of Cologne.
Achim Zinkann , born in 1960, created the monument. After his studies in Art and History, he began to teach at GH Siegen University in 1991, in the area of sculpture with stone and steel, plastic and sculpture. Since 1993 he has been teaching at the Gymnasium Käthe Kollwitz in the Rostock region.
Since 1986, Zinkann has participated in various exhibitions.
The monument is made of granite pink and gray. It has a height of 120 cm and a width of 69 cm.
The pink triangle was a symbol used during Nazism to identify male homosexual prisoners in concentration camps.
The artist Achim Zinkann describes his work as follows:
The starting point for this work are two blocks of pink and gray granite. Both blocks were cut diagonally and replaced. The gray wedges have the square side on the ground, facing their serrated sides and supporting in the V that forms thus the pink wedges, that form an equilateral triangle.
In the sculpture appears a correspondence between the wedges. Pressure, back pressure and friction are conditions to keep it together. If a wedge is removed, at least another one loses its support. The structure is destroyed. The internal stress and dissolution of the block character is achieved by the diagonal positioning of the gray stones.
The changing play of shadows reinforces the tension, as well as the changing silhouette, when the observer moves.
The proportion of the sculpture is obtained from the geometrical conditions of the equilateral triangle and the fixed height of 120 cm. This height is accessible to people. At this point is the text, engraved on the square surface of the pink wedges, and therefore can be felt both with the eyes and with the touch.
The interpretations are multiple.
Two blocks, two colors, two cuts, united in a whole. One gray block, one pink. Parts of a partnership. Men women. Lesbians, gais, pressing, rubbing against each other, protected in each other, conditioning. Other interpretations are left to the observer.
The celebration for its placement on June 24, 1995 was made as part of the contribution of ÖTV for the 50th anniversary of the liberation of Germany from Nazi terror, as well as inside the celebrations of Cologne Pride , the celebration of gay pride more Important in Germany.
The speech of the mayor Norbert Burger was his first official appearance in a gay pride celebration.
The news of ZDF that day showed videos of the placement, in addition to reports and interviews on various radio stations. The news also appeared in several national newspapers, the trade union press and the LGBT media in Germany and abroad.
In the German year of remembrance for the victims of Nazism, on the occasion of the anniversary of the liberation of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camp, on 27 January, crowns, bouquets and flowers are placed.
In regular guided tours of the city specializing in LGBT themes, the monument often marks the beginning or end of the visit.