Man tried to burn memorial for gay victims of Nazis in Berlin, police say

Berlin police arrested a man Tuesday in an arson attack on the city’s Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism. 

The 63-year-old suspect, whose name was not released, is accused of throwing a burning object at the concrete memorial on Saturday in an attempt to set it ablaze, authorities said in a statement Wednesday. They also said the man is suspected of sticking pieces of paper with Bible verses and Christian references on the memorial.

Police added that the man is suspected in additional arson attacks on a public book box dedicated to the history of the Holocaust and a Berlin lesbian bar from Saturday to Monday. He was arrested at his home, police said, where he “admitted the acts extensively.”

German Minister of State for Culture Claudia Roth condemned the acts of vandalism and urged Germans to “stand together against enemies of democracy” 

“Wherever we encounter hate and hate speech, we must not accept it in silence,” she wrote Tuesday on X (formerly known as Twitter). “’Never again’ must not be just lip service.” 

Gays and lesbians were systematically oppressed and persecuted under Germany’s Nazi regime from 1933 to 1945, with an estimated 50,000 convicted of crimes because of their sexuality, according to the Holocaust Memorial Day Trust, a British charity dedicated to the remembrance of those killed in the Holocaust. About 10,000 to 15,000 gay men were sent to Nazi concentration camps, the charity estimates. 

The Berlin monument for gay victims of the Nazi regime is on the edge of Tiergarten, the city’s revered park, near the memorial to the Jewish victims of the Holocaust. Through a small window, visitors to the memorial, which opened in 2008, can watch videos of same-sex couples kissing. 

The monument was defaced in 2019, when vandals painted over its window. 

This week, LGBTQ advocates denounced the latest act of vandalism.

“If people can no longer move freely in our country without fear of hostilities, that is a significant restriction of our freedom,” René Mertens, a spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Association, LSVD, said in an email Wednesday. “The safety of LGBTIQ* is not a marginal issue, but a human rights obligation. This obligation must be honored.”

The defacement of the monument comes several months after similar acts occurred in the United States. In June, LGBTQ Pride month, rainbow Pride flags on display at New York City’s Stonewall National Monument were damaged by vandals at least three times.

The Stonewall National Monument, where the vandalism took place, is across the street from the Stonewall Inn, a gay bar that was the site of a June 1969 uprising that’s widely considered to be a turning point in the modern gay rights movement. The bar and nearby Christopher Park became a national monument and the first LGBTQ space to hold landmark status in the U.S. in 2016.

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