VIENNA – Eighty years since the construction of Mauthausen, one of the World War II Concentration Camps where homosexual men were imprisoned and forced to wear a Pink Triangle as a marker of their sexuality, Vangardist Magazine collaborate with Mauthausen Memorial to call for; an alliance against contemporary violations of LGBTQI+ rights all around the world; to reclaim the Pink Triangle as a symbol opposing homophobia; and a petition to implore António Guterres, UN Secretary-General to stand up to the United Nations for the abolishment of homophobic laws: The Petition appeals to UN Secretary-General António Guterres to add the rights of LGBTQI+ persons to Article 2 of the United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights”.
Mauthausen Concentration Camp was liberated by American troops on May 5, 1945, however, a sad fact remains to be true: only a few people know about the torture of homosexuals in these National Socialist camps, and even less know about the current homophobic fuelled hate crimes around the world. That is why VANGARDIST Magazine, Mauthausen Memorial and Serviceplan Group have teamed up to create The Pink Triangle Issue, in an effort to start an online global petition aimed at making homophobia history once and for all, and to raise funds for the work of Rainbow Railroad.
On 7 April 2018, 80 people from 10 countries traveled great distances to Mauthausen Concentration Camp Memorial, and donated their time to take part in the creation of an artwork symbolizing ‘The Pink Triangle Issue’, a special Vangardist Magazine collaboration with Mauthausen. At the front of the Triangle stood the director of Mauthausen Memorial with the Vangardist Magazine Editor-in-Chief, and a member of the LGBTQI+ community who escaped torture in Jamaica with the help of the Rainbow Railroad. As a symbol of solidarity, all participants wore a pink triangle on their clothes.
The photo shoot on 7 April was in tribute to the LGBQTI+ people who were persecuted and tortured at Mauthausen and other concentration camps during World War II, and those who are facing persecution in contemporary societies. It was captured in a series of poignant images by acclaimed Berlin- based photographer Olaf Blecker. Blecker’s photographs will form the visual aesthetic for The Pink Triangle Issue of Vangardist Magazine, which will be distributed at a press conference on 16th May. Vienna based photographer David Meran also supported the Issue with his behind-the-scenes photographs.
The film was directed by Christoph Kuschnik out of PPM Production company in Vienna. Kuschnig is an award-winning Director and Fulbright Scholar, whose short films have been screened at festivals around the world.
On 16th May, the day before the International Day against Homophobia, a commemorative event will be hosted by Barbara Gluck, Director of Mauthausen Memorial, Julian Wiehl - Editor of Vangardist, and Bobby Hrehoruk of Rainbow Railroad. After the press conference, there will be a commemoration at the Mauthausen memorial plaque with the state secretary Karoline Edstadler. And the unveiling of an exhibition documenting the history of the concentration camp, and a behind the scenes of the 7th April Pink Triangle Issue photo shoot.
By registering with Facebook Connect, participants in The Pink Triangle Issue will have the opportunity to support the action and become part of the first global visual petition by having their photo included in the virtual Pink Triangle. They can also share and support the movement on their own Facebook page.
Between 1938 and 1945, around 190,000 people from over 40 nations were imprisoned in the Mauthausen and Gusen concentration camps or one of the subcamps. At least 90,000 people were killed. Today the Mauthausen Memorial is an international site of remembrance and a place of historical and political education. It is unusual for a concentration camp to participate in a project such as The Pink Triangle Issue, and testament to their awareness that the current issues of LGBTQI+ persecution in many countries around the world is something that needs to be addressed, since it has disturbing echoes of the persecution of minority groups which happened during WW2.
Progressive Austrian Men’s magazine Vangardist gained global recognition in 2015 with the ‘HIV Heroes’ issue, printed with HIV positive blood. Vangardist and Jason Romeyko (Serviceplan’s Worldwide Executive Creative Director) collaborated on HIV Heroes after noticing there was a need to start a conversation around HIV, a topic which had gained fewer media coverage in recent years but was still stigmatized.
With The Pink Triangle Issue of Vangardist Magazine, the motive is to ignite a conversation around the persecution of LGBTQI+ communities, who are increasingly facing persecution, imprisonment, torture or even death in more than 70 countries around the world including Chechnya, Egypt, India, Indonesia, Jamaica, Malaysia, Sudan and Uganda. For many, their only hope is to escape from those places, but only four countries in the world are open for gay asylum. The Pink Triangle Issue aims to raise awareness of these issues, and raise funds for the work of the Rainbow Railroad in helping find a path to safety for people fleeing persecution and empowering them to seek asylum.
Dr. Barbara Glück, Director of Mauthausen Memorial commented: "The fight for the rights of homosexuals in Europe and around the world is important in our time. It is not just about a fight for human rights, but also about a historical responsibility that we have to fulfill. Although the persecution of homosexuals in Europe culminated in National Socialism, their roots are much deeper. In many parts of the world, it still exists today. Although the recognition as a group of victims of the Nazis in Austria happened too late, it was nevertheless an important step to account for the persecution of homosexuals in the past, and working towards their social equality. "
Vangardist Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Julian Wiehl said: “We remember the homosexual victims of Mauthausen. As a sign of respect of their unnecessary death we call for a broad alliance against homophobia today. Because homophobia belongs to the past but not to our future.”
Rainbow Railroad is a Canadian- based, non-governmental organisation who have been helping LGBQTI+ people escape persecution in places in the Caribbean, Middle East, Africa, North Africa and Eastern Europe.
Bobby Hrehoruk, Director of Development, Rainbow Railroad commented: “In homage to the Underground Railroad, Rainbow Railroad is a one of a kind, grassroots and international organization dedicated to supporting LGBTQI+ individuals seeking safe haven from state-sponsored or enabled violence. Since our founding in 2006, we have funded travel to over 300 individuals with a record 200 people traveling to safety in 2017 alone. We recognize the atrocities that occurred in Mauthausen that targeted LGBTQI+ people, and believe that every person deserves basic dignity and safety for simply loving who they love. We are honoured to be selected as a beneficiary of the Pink Triangle Movement and hope you will support the work being done with the movement, to help us create a brighter future for many LGBTQI+ people.”
“I think it is important to use history to illustrate the dangerous effects the present can have on the future. The fact we have many positive gay, lesbian and trans role models in pop culture distracts the world’s attention from all the hate crimes against the LGBTQI+ community. You think everything has moved forward, when suddenly you realise attitudes are far from progressive,” added Jason Romeyko, Worldwide Executive Creative Director, Serviceplan Group.