Vandals defile Berlin monument to Nazis' gay victims

BERLIN (Reuters) - German politicians expressed dismay on Monday at the desecration of a monument to tens of thousands of homosexuals persecuted under the Nazis which was opened less than three months ago in Berlin.

People stand in front of the new memorial to homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis, during the inauguration ceremony in Berlin May 27, 2008. The single grey concrete slab is placed in the capital's central Tiergarten park. REUTERS/Johannes Eisele

Police said they were looking for the unidentified perpetrators who at the weekend attacked the monument, a large grey cube located in the Tiergarten park in central Berlin.

The vandals had smashed a window in the monument through which viewers could see a picture of two men kissing and also ripped down some fencing. Police said it was unclear if the motive for the attack was political.

“This cowardly and shocking act is an attack on the image we have of ourselves as a tolerant and open city,” said Frank Henkel, a senior lawmaker in the Berlin assembly and member of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservative Christian Democrats.

“Obviously many people still have homophobic tendencies.”

Greens politicians also condemned the attacks which they described as a warning sign that homophobia was still rampant in German society.

In May, Germany unveiled the monument to homosexuals persecuted in the 1930s and 1940s.

Some 50,000 gay men were convicted by Nazi courts during Adolf Hitler’s 12-year dictatorship. Some gay men were castrated and thousands were sent to concentration camps.

“This attack is shocking, appalling. To see such a thing today after all the suffering and horror we had to go through, it is cruel,” said Rudolf Brazda, who survived imprisonment at the Buchenwald concentration camp for being gay.

“People don’t want to accept that there are people who are different from them by nature,” he said in a statement issued by Germany’s LSVD gay and lesbian association.

Openly gay Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, who unveiled the monument, will take part in a vigil there later on Monday.

Nazi laws were used to prosecute homosexuals in Germany until 1969.

Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Michael Winfrey