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  • Writer's pictureTiffany Lai

A Brief History of Homomonument in Amsterdam

What is Homomonument?

Homomonument is one of the largest LGBTQ+ monuments in the world that was first unveiled in the 1980s.


Homomonument History

As you walk along the pretty streets of Westermarkt, you might spot three pink granite triangles in prominent positions: two in the cobbled front square of the famous Westerkerk and one jutting into the canal. These triangles, connected by lines of pink granite in the ground, form what’s known as the Homomonument.

Unveiled in 1987, it was designed by Amsterdam-born artist Karin Daan to commemorate all gay people persecuted, harassed or executed for their sexuality, not only during the Second World War, but also those who are still being persecuted by oppressive systems today. During the Second World War, Hitler’s ‘social purification’ regime meant that huge numbers of gay people were tried as criminals and imprisoned in concentration camps, and most gay bars, specialist publications and meeting places were shut down. Over the course of the early 1930s, the Nazi regime became increasingly hostile towards gay people, tracking down gay men on so-called ‘pink lists’ and arresting them.

In 1936, SS leader Heinrich Himmler established the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion, in collaboration with the criminal police force and the Gestapo (the Nazi secret police). Together, they clamped down on the gay community in violent raids and merciless interrogations. Many of these raids on bars and private homes relied on tip offs from homophobic neighbours or colleagues who suspected someone of being gay. It’s estimated that between 5,000 and 15,000 gay men were imprisoned in concentration camps where they were identified by a pink triangle sewn onto their clothes. (Lesbian women were also sent to concentration camps, however their paperwork usually listed a racial, political or social reason as the primary cause for their arrest). In Buchenwald, some pink-triangle prisoners were subjected to inhumane medical experiments.

In 1940, the Nazis invaded the Netherlands. One key member of the resistance was gay artist and author Willem Arondeus who, along with lesbian resistant Frieda Belinfante, began to forge documents in order to protect Jewish citizens. However, these could easily be checked against the municipal registration lists of Amsterdam so Arondeus and his collaborators conspired to blow up the civil registry office on the 27th of March 1943. Their plan was a success and 800,000 identity cards were destroyed, but Arondeus was caught and arrested the following month. Along with 13 other men, he was tried and sentenced to death. His final words were: ‘Tell the people that gays are not cowards!’

Homomonument from above

Geert-Jan Edelenbosch, CC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons

This memorial was initially commissioned after gay rights activists were arrested for placing a lavender wreath on Amsterdam’s national war monument in Dam Square. It re-appropriates the pink triangle as a marker of the bravery and fortitude of the LGBTQ+ community, both past and present. The triangles are installed in symbolic positions such that one corner of the monument points across the canal towards Dam Square and the National Monument; another to the site of the Anne Frank House; while the third points towards the headquarters of COC Amsterdam, an LGBTQ+ organisation founded in 1946. On one of the triangles you can find an inscription from the poem To a Young Fisherman by gay Jewish poet Jacob Israël de Haan that reads: ‘Naar Vriendschap Zulk een Mateloos Verlangen’ (‘Such a boundless desire for friendship’).

Today, you’ll often find people here paying their respects and placing wreaths and flowers on the triangle that juts out into the canal. Close by you can find Pink Point, a friendly and knowledgeable kiosk providing information on LGBTQ+ rights and institutions.

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