Vox Tablet

Monumental Embrace

Daniel Estrin reports on the controversy over Berlin’s latest Holocaust memorial, a tribute to gay victims of the Nazis that has pitted historians against activists and gay men against lesbians

December 27, 2010
From the video “The Kiss,” in the Memorial for the Homosexual Victims of the Nazi Regime in Berlin(Video by Nimbus Film/Thomas Vinterberg; visual effects by Gearless/Peter Hjorth)
From the video “The Kiss,” in the Memorial for the Homosexual Victims of the Nazi Regime in Berlin(Video by Nimbus Film/Thomas Vinterberg; visual effects by Gearless/Peter Hjorth)

Holocaust memorials seem destined to seed controversy, particularly in Berlin. When the city’s first Holocaust memorial—2,711 stone blocks designed by Peter Eisenman—opened in 2005, it provoked a barrage of criticism. Some disliked Eisenman’s abstract concept. Others objected to its location after it was discovered that the bunker where Joseph Goebbels had committed suicide was on the site. And many were horrified to learn that the anti-graffiti coating applied to the memorial was manufactured by a subsidiary of the company that produced Zyklon B, the poison used in concentration-camp gas chambers.

Now a monument directly across the street from the Holocaust memorial has sparked an entirely different conflict. Erected in 2008, it is a memorial to gay victims of the Nazi regime. Echoing the design of Eisenman’s Holocaust memorial, it consists a single cement column, which holds a video monitor playing a continuously looping film of two men kissing. The video has prompted outrage, but not from the parties one might expect. Daniel Estrin reported for Vox Tablet from Berlin. [Running time: 12:00.]

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