“endangering the morality and purity of the German race”, said §175 of the Criminal Code when referring to gay people.
Lies like that persist in other countries today, as does persecution of sexual minorities. The World Economic Forum in 2018 said that 73 countries still outlaw homosexuality, despite the move to legalize same-sex marriage in 26 others.
This Sunday was worldwide Holocaust Remembrance Day and the new portrait painted by Belgian-American Street Artist Nils Westergard for Urban Nation museum is that of a victim of the Nazis who was made to wear the pink triangle sewn onto his concentration camp uniform.
“I was digging through images of camps and prisoners for a few days,” says Westergard of his search for the right image for this 2 meter wide, 6-story high wall in Berlin.
“There are only so many that are classified as homosexuals or for sex crimes in general,” he says as he describes needing to incorporate a pre-existing sculpture of 200 metal origami birds that form a triangle into the composition by artist Mademoiselle Maurice.
He says that he ultimately discovered the image of this individual, a 32-year old locksmith named Walter Degen who was born January 4, 1909. While it is known that he was at Auschwitz and transferred to Mauthausen, it is not known if he survived the Holocaust.
Today we shout Walter Degen’s name from the rooftops and from this new wall to remind us how wrong we humans have historically been and how much we have learned, how much we still have to learn. We’re proud of Mr. Degen’s memory and honor his right to have loved another Mr.
Our thanks to photographer Nika Kramer for sharing her excellent images of this wall with BSA readers.
URBAN NATION x Nils Westergard:
The UNforgotten – Edition 1
Thanks to Yasha Young, Urban Nation Director.
URBAN NATION MUSEUM FOR URBAN CONTEMPORARY ART.
With support of “Faces of Auschwitz” project.
About “The Unforgotten”
The wall at Bülowstraße 94 follows a very special leitmotif: it is a memorial for the victims of the Nazi regime, who were persecuted, abducted, imprisoned and murdered for homosexuality. This memorial wall in the LGBTQI-influenced neighborhood of Berlin-Schöneberg will over time transform again and again, as a reminder.
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