Nearly 100 lesbians and gay men attended a Ceremony of Remembance at the national war memorial, the Cenotaph, in London, on Sunday, 1st. November. They were commemorating lesbian, gay, and bisexual people who died fighting Nazism and who perished in the concentration camps.
The ceremony was organised by OutRage!, who declared Sunday, 1st. November "Queer Remembrance Day".
The keynote speaker was 77-year-old Dudley Cave, a gay World War II army veteran who served in the Royal Army Ordnance Corps and who was later a prisoner of war in Singapore and Thailand, where he worked barefoot on the notorious Burma Railway.
Dudley related how during WWII being gay was accepted: both while serving in the Armed Forces, and in PoW camps. Indeed, when he was discharged after the war, he was advised by an Army doctor "to find someone of like mind to settle down with, and not to worry about being gay". Dudley did just that, and lived for 40 years with his partner, until the latter's death four years ago.
Jack Gilbert, President of the World Congress of G/L/B Jewish Organisations, also made an address during which he recalled that the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office had last year excluded representatives of the gay community from the international Nazi Gold Conference held in London.
He also expressed the fervent hope that in future years more G/L/B/T groups would form a coalition to organise and support Queer Remembrance Day. (Other speakers regretted that advance coverage in the gay press had been patchy and tardy. The Pink Paper was berated for having totally ignored the event.) He concluded his address by reading the Jewish Prayer for the Dead; and subsequently, in accordance with Jewish tradition, laid a stone as a token of respect, rather than a wreath.
Other speakers included John Springham, who read an address from Squadron Leader Christopher Gotch, who was unfortunately unable to attend in person; and Teresa from the Anti Nazi League.
After the speeches, there was a choral tribute by the Pink Singers, followed by a minute's silence. Pink wreaths and bouquets were then laid on the Cenotaph, including named tributes by GALHA, Kenric, and the Pink Triangle Trust.
Last year's Ceremony was denounced by the British Legion as "distasteful", "offensive", and "bound to offend many former soldiers".
The pink triangle was the symbol the Nazis forced homosexuals to wear in the concentration camps. According to the US Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington DC, 100,000 gay men were arrested in antigay purges during the Third Reich. Many were put into concentration camps and died.
"The significant contribution of gay servicemen and women during the Second World War has never been adequately acknowledged by the British Legion or by the official Remembrance Sunday ceremony", said QUEER REMEMBRANCE DAY organiser, Huw Williams of OutRage!. "Over 250,000 gay people served in the British armed forces from 1939-45. The current ban on homosexuals in the military disparages their service and sacrifice.
"We hope QUEER REMEMBRANCE DAY will raise awareness about the contribution of lesbian and gay service personnel to the defeat of Nazism, and about the hidden queer holocaust that has been largely ignored by historians."
The ceremony also highlighted the continuing mistreatment by the German government of the gay victims of Nazism:
"The German government still refuses to accept persecution on
the grounds of homosexuality as a basis for compensation payments to gay
While the work of the SS concentration camp guards is counted towards
their pension entitlement, the years spent in the camps by gay prisoners is
deducted from their pensions.
"No Nazi doctors were ever prosecuted at the Nuremberg (Nürnberg) Trials
for abusing gay concentration camp inmates in gruesome medical experiments
that included castration and hormone implants
"No Nazi doctors were ever prosecuted at the Nuremberg (Nürnberg) Trials for abusing gay concentration camp inmates in gruesome medical experiments that included castration and hormone implants", said Williams.
The floral pink triangle was sponsored by the florists
David Armstrong Designs,
152, Gray's Inn Road, WC1X 8AX,
Tel. 020-18.104.22.168; Fax 020-22.214.171.124.
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