They were threatened with social ostracism, imprisonment and often even death: Thousands of members of sexual minorities were massively persecuted and tortured by the Nazi regime. The Bundestag remembered the victims of National Socialism with an emotional hour of remembrance on Friday.

The focus was on people who were persecuted at the time because of their sexual orientation or identity and who were described as “asocial”. 50,000 men were sentenced to imprisonment under the Nazi regime under Paragraph 175, which made homosexuality a punishable offense until 1994. At least 5000 to 6000 of them were murdered in concentration camps.

Mary Pünjer was arrested as a “lesbian” under the pretext of being asocial. The actress Maren Kroymann recalled in the Bundestag the life story of the Holocaust victim who had already died: “Dear Mary Pünjer, you should actually stand here and report,” said Kroymann, who came out as a lesbian in 1993, at the beginning of her speech. But Pünjer, who was Jewish, cannot report – she was accused of “lesbian behavior” and murdered in 1942 in the killing center in Bernburg (Saale) in Saxony-Anhalt.

Members of sexual minorities had waited in vain for a long time to be recognized as victims of the National Socialists, stressed Bundestag President Bärbel Bas. “It is important for our culture of remembrance that we tell the stories of all those who were persecuted,” warned the SPD politician. It is the task of every generation to deal anew with the crimes of history.

Holocaust Remembrance Day since 1996

Holocaust survivor Rozette Kats agreed with Bas in her speech. “If certain groups of victims are seen as less valuable than others, then in the end that means only one thing – that the National Socialist ideology lives on and unfortunately continues to have an effect today,” warned the visibly moved 80-year-old. The Dutch woman was born into a Jewish family in 1942 and survived the Holocaust as a child with a married couple in Amsterdam, where she grew up under a false identity. Her biological family was murdered in Auschwitz.

On January 27, 1945, Red Army soldiers liberated the survivors of the German concentration and extermination camp at Auschwitz in occupied Poland. The Nazis had murdered more than a million people there. Since 1996, the date has been celebrated in Germany as Holocaust Remembrance Day. Wreaths were laid in memory in many places this Friday.