This weekend German stadiums might be more colourful than usually. Illuminations, corner flag, captains’ armbands – these are some of the means to commemorate LGBT people as part of this year’s Remembrance Day in German Football.
When Bayern announced that Allianz Arena would shine in rainbow colours this weekend, some commentators on social media were amused, others stunned, some irritated. Presumably part of the reaction was owed to the fact that it’s part of the annual Holocaust Memorial Day.
The initiative isn’t Bayern’s alone, though. All clubs of Bundesliga and 2. Bundesliga are using the week around January 27 (Auschwitz liberation anniversary) to remind fans about the cruelty of Nazi Germany, in order for the history to not repeat itself. Thus the hashtag #NieWieder or #NeverAgain. And this year the theme is LGBT, which means rainbow illuminations are paired with rainbow flags, armbands, interviews and other materials published by clubs.
Why the link between Holocaust and LGBT?
Remembrance Day in German Football is a 17-year-old annual initiative, aimed at commemorating Auschwitz in a way that would prevent it from ever happening again. A theme is selected every year to honour those killed or persecuted by the Nazi regime.
Choosing sexual minorities is no coincidence. It’s estimated that as many as 100,000 men were sanctioned for homosexualism during Nazi rule (1933-1945), with one in ten of them ending up in concentration camps, others incarcerated and/or castrated. Those most unlucky were subject to cruel experiments.
One of such people was Emil Martens, HSV president of 1928-1934. Remembered by the club this weekend, Martens was first imprisoned and then castrated after release. He joined the Nazi party but that failed to shelter him from further persecution.
There are more stories like these, some still being uncovered as part of continued efforts to document the history of football during Nazi rule. Some clubs commission historical studies to learn about their own involvement. This was the case for Schalke 04, who ordered a study in 2004 and are still trying to learn the fate of some minority players, officials and sponsors, who fell victim to Nazism.