Saturday, 11 January 2014

Year of Remembrance : Israel Remembers Gay Victims

About a month ago a new Holocaust memorial was unveiled. It was a historic occasion in itself but what made it doubly historical was that it was the first memorial in Israel dedicated to the lgbt victims of the Holocaust, not only in memory of Jews but non-Jews as well.

The new memorial is situated in Meir Park in Tel Aviv in front of the city’s lgbt centre. The lgbt centre and the initial idea for the memorial came from a gay city councillor and lgbt community leader called Etai Pinkas.

Etai Pinkas was elected to the Tel Aviv-Jaffa city council in 2003. He made history in 2006 when he succeeded in his campaign to have his same-sex marriage registered in Israel. The marriage was conducted in Canada, the only country at the time who offered same-sex marriages to non-Canadians. It was the first same-sex marriage registered in Israel.

In 2007 Etai was visiting Amsterdam when he had the idea of a memorial to gay Holocaust victims for his own city. As soon as he could he approached the mayor of Tel Aviv, Ron Huldai, with the idea. Fortunately Huldai was receptive to the idea after having already approved of municipal funding for the lgbt centre.

Shortly before the lgbt centre opened in 2008 Mayor Huldai announced the plans for the gay memorial. The memorial, designed by Ron Assouline, was to be of three large iron panels arranged  to form a standing triangle. In the centre a triangular pit dug into the ground represented “the deep well of hatred”, said Etai.

Even though the lgbt centre opened as planned, the memorial never came to fruition. The idea, though, was not forgotten. It was another five years before a memorial was built, and it had a different design.

The driving force behind the second memorial was another Tel Aviv city councillor and lgbt community leader, Eran Lev. Once again Mayor Huldai gave his unqualified support for the project and secured municipal funding for it. A larger memorial was planned, under the direction of Yael Moriah, the landscape architect who had been working on the renovation of Meir Park for several years.

Triangles form a prominent part of the design again, this time there are several. The memorial itself is a concrete triangle inscribed with an explanation of the persecution of gay men under the Nazi regime. In one corner is a small inverted pink triangle representing the badge worn by gay men in the concentration camps. To one side is a wall inscribed with names of victims of this persecution, including the last known gay Holocaust survivor, Gad Beck, who died in 2012. Next to the memorial are three long pink stone seats arranged in another triangle where visitors can sit and contemplate the memorial.

On 10th December 2013 the memorial was officially inaugurated. It is the latest in a long line of Holocaust memorials that specifically remember the many gay victims.

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