Speech by Michael Roth, Minister of State for Europe, at the event, LGBTI and Judaism: What Identity? – Queer Jews Facing Homophobia and Anti-Semitism in France and Germany

01.06.2018 - Speech

[delivered on his behalf by Lucy Stepanyan]

-- Check against delivery --

Ladies and gentlemen,
Fellow activists,

Less than a year ago, we in Germany were finally able to celebrate what had already become possible in France in 2013 – same-sex marriage. In both countries, this achievement came after a long, hard struggle for tolerance, diversity and sexual equality. But thanks to the courage, dedication and passion of many activists, this dream finally came true.

One of the people who fought to ensure that we can be different without having to be afraid was the Jewish doctor and sexual researcher Magnus Hirschfeld. Just over two weeks ago, we marked the 150th anniversary of his birth with a major event.

As far back as 1897, Magnus Hirschfeld campaigned for homosexual acts to be decriminalised and called for the abolition of Section 175 of the Criminal Code, which made such acts a criminal offence. The Scientific-Humanitarian Committee he founded was the first homosexual movement in the world and must also have had an impact in France.

In part thanks to Hirschfeld’s influence, Berlin became a very open-minded place during the 1920s. However, the Nazi seizure of power brought this development to a brutal end. Hirschfeld had to leave Germany and died in exile in Nice in 1935.

In both Germany and France, nationalists and populists are currently being elected to parliament once again. People are shouting anti-Semitic and homophobic slogans on our streets once more. Whether they are Jewish, LGBTI or both, many people are afraid that their freedom is at risk.

Even in such a liberal and open-minded city as Berlin, gay couples are physically attacked on the streets or verbally abused in the most shocking ways. The latest anti-Semitic attacks in France and Germany, such as the recent assault on a man wearing a kippah in Berlin, remind us that we must take action. As long as “Jew” and “gay bastard” remain among the most common insults used in German school yards, there is still a great deal to do in the fight against marginalisation and intolerance.

Around the world, including in the heart of Europe, people continue to face discrimination because of their background, skin colour, religion, gender or sexual identity. Our message is clear – zero tolerance for intolerant people! Zero tolerance for anti-Semitism, homophobia, anti-Gypsyism, racism and nationalism!

In order to protect and uphold every citizen’s rights, policymakers and civil society must work hand in hand. We are not fighting for the rights of minorities, but rather for human rights for everyone, regardless of their sexual orientation, ethnicity or religion. And that is why I was pleased to see a lot of rainbow flags and sparkling kippahs on the streets of Berlin last weekend during demonstrations for diversity in Germany.

I am equally pleased – although unfortunately cannot be here in person – that BleuBlancRose is hosting today’s event where representatives of civil society can share their experiences, and that we as the Federal Foreign Office were able to support this event.

France has had an Interministerial Commission for the Fight against Racism, Anti-Semitism and Homophobia since 2014. Germany has now also appointed a Commissioner for Jewish Life in Germany and the Fight against Anti-Semitism, Dr Felix Klein. I am thus certain that France and Germany will work even more closely together on these issues in the future.

I hope you will all learn a lot at today’s discussion!


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