Berlin’s LGBTQ+ museum and archive were damaged by gunfire last week, the Schwules Museum reported.
The collection, established in 1985, was targeted in an overnight strike that occurred last Friday. Two windows and the museum’s illuminated sign were damaged in the attack.
Also damaged was an artwork created for the current exhibition, “Queering the Crip, Cripping the Queer,” a large black triangle fabricated in felt.
According to the museum, the Berlin police investigated the scene and collected evidence. No specific threat was associated with Friday’s attack.
The Schwules Museum is located within a former printing factory in the Tiergarten district of the German capital. It boasts 1.5 million archival items and 20,000 books in the 17,000 sqft space. It’s been the subject of violence at least twice in the past. The name of the museum, “Schwules” loosely translates to “gay.”
“In April 2020, we discovered a windowpane that had been severely damaged by rocks, and in 2016, the reception area was also damaged with firearms,” Ben Miller, a museum board member told Dazed. “So this is not something new. But it is always unsettling.”
According to Miller, the museum’s employees routinely receive threats, by phone and online. “It’s something that’s a regular part of our day, and shouldn’t be,” says Miller.
The attack coincides with a rising tide of anti-LGBTQ+ sentiment in Germany and across the globe. A 2023 report by the group ILGA-Europe found an unprecedented rise in anti-LGBTQ+ violence and hate speech in 2022 in 16 European countries, including France, the U.K., and Germany.
“I think it’s important to state that we don’t know who did this or why,” said Miller. “However, I’m not sure it’s possible to think about this incident without considering the right-wing, anti-queer mobilization that we’re seeing around the world. And I think it’s fair to say that we are certainly the target of that kind of mobilization in general.”
According to Miller, NPD, a neo-Nazi party, has made the museum a target of anti-LGBTQ+ propaganda, marching past the building and displaying a fascist banner outside its doors.
In the German parliament, AfD, or Alternative for Germany, is a growing threat to LGBTQ+ identity, voting consistently in opposition to LGBTQ+ equality and marriage. In 2021, it lead the vote in two states, Saxony and Thuringia, while its share of the vote in a local election in Berlin in February rose to nearly ten percent.
The Schwules Museum was originally established by three young gay student guards from the Berlin Museum, who convinced the director there to mount a gay-themed exhibition in 1984. “Eldorado – the History, Everyday Life and Culture of Homosexual Women and Men 1850-1950” was a hit with museum-goers and led the three students to found the LGBTQ+-centered Schwules Museum and archive the following year.