Renee van Bavel



On 18 September 2022, the Sachsenhausen Memorial held the memorial event “Gedenk.Feier” (Commemoration.Celebration). During this event, we commemorated the homosexual prisoners who died in Sachsenhausen concentration camp, combined with a celebration of gay and queer life today.

At the historical site of the “Klinkerwerk” where so many men were then killed during World War II, speakers gave personal speeches, we held a colourful wreath ceremony , and the various queer artists on stage showed the multiplicity, colourfulness and liveliness of today’s queer community.

Idea & concept : Renee van Bavel

Gedenk. Feier (Commemoration. Celebration )

During my time as Artist in Residence at the Memorial Sachsenhausen I want to set new impulses for developing new ways of how we can commemorate. 

The 80 years remembrance of the murder of 200 homosexual prisoners killed in the sub-camp of the Sachsenhausen Concentration camp “ Klinkerwerk” in Oraniënburg could not remain unnoticed. Therefor the Memorial Sachsenhausen wanted to organise a special memorial event in 2022 and asked me to think about a concept.

For years I have been fascinated by the German word “Gedenkfeier” (Commemoration. Celebration) because to me it contains an interesting contradiction. My inspiration sparked-off right there; if language already indicates the possibility that both to commemorate and to celebrate can exist alongside each other in one word, perhaps it could be possible in real life too? Perhaps it is possible to commemorate what happened in the past and celebrate life’s colourfulness and beauty simultaneously in one ceremony? A moment of silence and contemplation alongside celebration! Thus showing that despite the horror and its dark echoes of what happened to the LHBTQ+ community in the past, that same community is more alive vibrant and powerful than ever before. This powerful, inspiring and hopeful thought I wanted to make visible and therefor together with cooperative partners I developed the concept of the Gedenk.Feier.

On Sunday 18th September 2022, the first Gedenk.Feier took place. 

The programme included personal speeches, a communal colourful wreath laying and a staged reading on the fate of the victims. Hereafter wonderful performances by various queer artists took place. Special guests included the beautiful Jona Gold, all the way from the south of Germany, and the magical 80-year-old Trans Diva “Die Schöne Mullerin”.  In a moving and beautiful stageshow they showed us the vibrancy and liveliness of the LGBTQ+ community today.

In 2023, the Gedenk.Feier took place on 10 September.

I sincerely thank all speakers, artists, our cooperation partners and my colleagues at the Sachsenhausen Memorial.