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Homomonument  

Unveiled in Amsterdam on September 5, 1987, the Homomonument is one of the world's foremost public memorials of the lesbians and gay men who were harassed, imprisoned, or executed during World War II. While the monument officially remembers the suffering and attempted elimination of homosexual men and women during the Third Reich, it was more widely conceived and executed as a broad acknowledgment of the persecution endured by gay men and lesbians throughout history.

The monument was also intended to function as a political touchstone for the continued fight against hatred and oppression in contemporary times.

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Although ideas for a public monument had circulated within lesbian and gay circles soon after the war, and despite complaints about the widespread erasure of homosexual persecution during Hitler's reign, organizing for a public monument was not fully realized until the 1970s, when visibility became an important political objective for many gay and lesbian emancipation groups.

Further political catalysts came in 1970 after gay activists were arrested for attempting to place a lavender wreath on Dam Square in Amsterdam during the annual national memorial service. The wreath, which was intended to draw public attention to the thousands of homosexual women and men who were persecuted during the war, was removed by police and denounced as a disgrace.

Throughout the 1970s, similar wreath-placing demonstrations were executed with varying success, as activists constantly pushed for the inclusion of homosexuals in the public's collective memory of Hitler's "social purification" campaigns.

A coalition of Dutch gay and lesbian organizations finally secured government approval for the memorial in the early 1980s and began the huge task of raising the money necessary to complete it. Through grass roots fundraising, political lobbying, and community organizing, these groups helped forge the infrastructures of action now characteristic of many communities in large European and North American cities.

In its reliance on community mobilization and its insistence on public visibility, the struggle for the monument was not simply about the past, but was also very much about--and in some senses, crucial to--contemporary strides against in Europe.

Accordingly, the monument's design simultaneously looks back on gay and lesbian histories as it also looks toward the future. Designed by Karin Daan, the monument consists of three large triangles of pinkish granite that together compose one giant triangle.

Each smaller triangle is distinct and serves a different function within the overall space: one extends tranquilly over a nearby canal and is used mainly to leave flowers in memory of the persecuted; another is raised as a sort of podium and is used mainly as a gathering spot; the last triangle is set into the ground, quietly bearing the inscription, "Such an unlimited longing for friendship," a line from the gay poet Jacob Israël De Haan.

Together, the three triangles effectively articulate the Homomonument's mediation between past, present, and future. Its solemn symbolic recognition of war and persecution is balanced by its function as a lively venue for social and political gatherings.

On one level, the design recalls the pink triangles used to designate homosexuals within Nazi concentration camps. But as the pink triangle had by the 1970s been adapted into a political marker of emancipation and pride, its incorporation into the monument's design also signifies the need for continued visibility and resistance to erasure and oppression.

Jason Goldman

     

 
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This pinkish granite triangle is one of three that comprise the Homomonument. Flowers are frequently left here in memory of those persecuted by the Nazis.
  
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   Related Entries
  
social sciences >> Overview:  Amsterdam

Famous as a major gay tourist destination and for its tolerance of glbtq people, in the second half of the twentieth century Amsterdam became a leader in the struggle for glbtq equality.

literature >> Overview:  Dutch and Flemish Literature

The history of gay and lesbian literature in the Low Countries is rich and varied, reflecting the changing concepts of intimate relations between people of the same sex.

social sciences >> Overview:  The Netherlands

The successes of the Dutch emancipation movement have served as an inspiration to the international struggle for glbtq equality.

arts >> Overview:  Patronage II: The Western World since 1900

Patronage--the sponsorship of artists and the commissioning of works from them--has remained a significant factor in the creation of queer visual culture in the modern era.

arts >> Barcelona Monument

The gay monument in Barcelona, dedicated in March 2011, commemorates the sufferings of glbtq people.

arts >> Dutch Friendship Glasses

Dutch friendship glasses, which were made on order to celebrate friendship in the eighteenth century, may also have covertly celebrated same-sex sexual desire; one surviving friendship glass celebrates sodomitical pleasure.

arts >> The Legacy Walk (Chicago)

The Legacy Walk in Chicago is an outdoor history museum that reclaims and celebrates glbtq contributions to world history and culture.

social sciences >> Pink Triangle

Originally a mark of criminalization and persecution under the Nazis, the pink triangle was later reclaimed by gays both as a memorial and as a celebration of sexual identity.

arts >> Rainbow Flag

Designed by Gilbert Baker in 1978, the rainbow flag has become a popular (and sometimes controversial), internationally recognized symbol of gay and lesbian pride.


    Bibliography
   

Koenders, Pieter. Het Homomonument/The Homomonument. Amsterdam: Stitching Homomonument, 1987.

 

    Citation Information
         
    Author: Goldman, Jason  
    Entry Title: Homomonument  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
 
    Publication Date: 2002  
    Date Last Updated October 23, 2012  
    Web Address www.glbtq.com/arts/homomonument.html  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
 
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2002, glbtq, Inc.  
 

 

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