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Düsseldorf's memorial for persecuted gays, lesbians and transgenders

Düsseldorf's memorial for persecuted gays, lesbians and transgenders

The capital of North Rhine-Westphalia, Düsseldorf, is considered a special hotspot for many gays and lesbians. Here you can celebrate with many cosmopolitan people. Especially in the old town - despite Corona and in a very special way - life is bubbling.

However, this was not always the case. Among other things, many gays and lesbians were victims of persecution and discrimination here during the war years. Moreover, it would be wrong to claim that homosexuals today generally no longer suffer from assaults, verbal abuse and other types of discrimination. It is - as current reports unfortunately prove again and again - a serious issue that has even led to many gays no longer daring to walk the streets hand in hand.

Now a memorial is to be erected in the state capital that will bring the problem of discrimination against homosexuals into focus and perhaps also sensitise people a little.

What should the Düsseldorf memorial look like?

The search for a suitable motif for this theme is certainly an exciting challenge. Those responsible decided on the design by the artist Claus Richter. The statue shows several people looking towards the sky and stretching a fist upwards. The artwork is to be made of bronze and will certainly be interpreted in very different ways by passers-by.

Incidentally, this very aspect also developed into a problem with regard to the design of the memorial. Over a long period of time, it seemed difficult to find a representation that everyone could really get enthusiastic about.

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In terms of interpretation, many options remain here. For example, the fists stretched upwards (some people show a "victory sign") could represent the victory over the persecutions during the Second World War, but also show that the fight for equal rights and against discrimination is far from over. One thing is certain: gays, lesbians and transgender people are by no means depicted here as "victims". The artist's intention seems to have been to convey courage, freedom and determination.

Incidentally, the representation is the result of a competition that was already launched in 2018. Even then, there were plans to erect a memorial, which is now to be set up in a place with high public traffic (probably on the Rhine).

What is the point of a memorial at all?

A memorial of this kind is a particularly valuable way of introducing young people to the importance of acceptance and tolerance. Especially when the artwork is placed on the Rhine, there is a high probability that many people will begin to deal with the history of homosexuals in the city.

Even though Düsseldorf is - as mentioned at the beginning - a comparatively cosmopolitan city, it should never be forgotten, for example, that it was here that countless arrests of homosexuals took place during the National Socialist era.

All those who had/have to suffer from the legislation of that time and the exclusion that many still have to feel today deserve to be valued and supported in a special way. The planned memorial is therefore another step towards equality and an important statement by a city that is known for its tolerance and joie de vivre, among other things.

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