“Gedenkkugel” – Lesbian commemorative orb (Ravensbrück)

Exhibition and introduction
“Gedenkkugel” – Lesbian
commemorative orb

Herstory and background for an memorial for the lesbian women persecuted and murdered during Nazi-fascism in the concentration camp Ravensbrück

Since the 80ies there have been several initiatives from lesbian groups and -organisations as well as from feminist historians, feminist archives and activists to create a place where to commemorate the lesbian women who have been persecuted and murdered in the women’s concentration camp of Ravensbrück.  In three consecutive years we – a group of feminist women and lesbians from Germany and Austria, have organised debates and meeting on  “Persecution of lesbian women in Nazism – Information, exchange and remembrance” at the Memorial Ravensbrück.

2015, at the 70th anniversary of the liberation of the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück, we laid a memorial stone for the lesbians persecuted and murdered in Ravensbrück.

2016 we have decided that we will apply officially for the commemorative orb to remain. We applied for a memorial plaque that is a sign of remembrance, with the inscription as follows:

In memory for all lesbian women and girls in the women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück and Uckermark.

Lesbian women were considered “abnormal” and were persecuted and murdered for being “antisocial”, rebellious, crazy and for other reasons.

You are not forgotten!

At the 19th of May 2016 the International Ravensbrück Committee (IRK) has decided at the annual meeting in Vienna, to support our demand for the installation of the commemorative orb.

We also called international for support of the initiative (in German, English, France and Italian). 519 people and organisations in 27 countries have signed our petition!

The International Advisory Council of the foundation for Memorial Sites in Brandenburg, Germany deferred a decision. They wrote in an official mail: “There were very controversial discussions both in the meeting of the International Advisory Council on 14th November 2016 and the Committee of Experts on 6th December 2016.”

We got the information that the former speaker for the LSVD (Lesbian and Gay Association Germany)-Brandenburg and representative of the homosexual victim group in the International Advisory Council, Alexander Zinn, vehemently opposed our application.

He had previously written an open letter in March 2010, during an argument about the Homo-Monument in Berlin, to prevent lesbian women in Nazi-fascism being commemorated.

In his comment to the International Advisory Council (2016) he wrote that “the NS powers also rejected female homosexuality” but that these were not persecuted because §175 did not apply to lesbian women.  He characterised the desire for a visible symbol of commemoration on lesbian women, as the creation of a “Legend of Lesbian persecution” that is based on “questionable individual cases”, is dubious “and” historical misrepresentation and a completely unacceptable misuse of history for current political interests.

The initiative “autonomous feminist lesbian women from Germany and Austria” have “demonstrated by their actions” that they are not prepared to accept the decisions of the advisory council … and have “at the Commemoration on the 70th anniversary of the liberation in April 2015” simply laid a “random memorial”.  The official application is, on the other hand, an affront to the advisory council.

We were very disappointed about this decision, and also furious and appalled at the insulting tone of communication and the ignorance and denial of the persecution of lesbian women.

On 20th/21st April 2017 within the context of the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the women’s concentration camp a symposium “Identity politics and commemoration

Lesbian-Gay cultures of commemoration in discussion” was organised by Sites of Memorial and Remembrance Ravensbrück/Foundation for Memorial Sites in Brandenburg, with lectures, discussions and podium discussion.

We were invited to make a presentation of the initiative “A Lesbian commemorative plaque for Ravensbrück”. For this Presentation we configured the exhibition “Lesbian commemorative orb”. (This exhibition was shown in the memorial Ravensbrück till the end of June 2017.)

At the 72nd anniversary of the liberation of the women’s concentration camp 2017 we organized again a memorial ceremony for the persecuted and murdered lesbian women and girl at the place where we put the Lesbian Commemorative Orb 2015. Around 65 persons took part.

We will go on to campaign for a positive decision on our application. Our continued collective commitment is necessary to establish a permanent commemorative plaque for the persecuted and murdered lesbians in the former women’s concentration camp Ravensbrück.

It is still possible to sign officially the initiative for the Lesbian Commemorative Orb. The next decision of the International Advisory Council will be in November 2017.

Therefore we would like to show the exhibition also at the International Lesbian* Meeting in Vienna 5th – 8th of October 2017. And want to give once during the days an hour introduction to the exhibition and the space and possibilities for questions, information and support.

The exhibition
+ gives information about the persecution of lesbians during Nazi-fascism,
+ make bibliographies of women, who were persecuted as lesbians,
+ shows initiatives and analyses of feminists and lesbians about persecution of lesbians,
+ shows the artistic and handcrafted creation of the Lesbian commemorative orb
+ and make visible the international support for the initiative with an installation of the 517 supporters.
Most parts are in English and German, few parts in German only, and few parts in Italian and French too.

We hope it`s possible to show the exhibition at the International Lesbian* Meeting.
With feminist lesbian greetings
For the initiative Autonomous Feminist Lesbian Women from Germany and Austria
Lisa Steininger