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Germany: Rehabilitation of Gay Men Punished Between 1945 and 1994

(Blogmensgo, gay blog of June 23, 2017) The German Bundestag (lower chamber of parliament) unanimously voted for a bill aiming to rehabilitate gay men who were convicted according to article 175 of the penal code and based on their homosexuality. The article goes back to 1872 and classifies any “unnatural sexual act” (no matter whether homosexuality or zoophilia) as a crime. During the Nazi regime, the punishments were even more draconian, and this law was finally abolished in 1994, after the German reunion.

The bill had been pushed by Federal Minister of Justice Heiko Maas (SPD). It intends to cancel all convictions due to homosexuality based on article 175 between the end of WW II and its abrogation in 1994. In addition, the convicted men are to be fully rehabilitated and receive financial compensation.

Heiko Maas

Heiko Maas: (Partial) success for the minister of justice. ©bmjv.de / Thomas Köhler

Every man formerly convicted based on article 175 is supposed to receive a financial compensation of €3,000 plus €1,500 per year of imprisonment, if applicable.

From 1945 to 1994, between 50,000 and 68,000 gays were convicted, most of them before 1968. At that point, both parts of Germany limited application of article 175 to sexual acts with minors. As the age of consent used to be 14 in East Germany but 18 in West Germany, the age limit was set at 16 in the bill as a compromise.

In East Germany, homosexual acts were exempt from punishment as early as in 1989, which means 5 years earlier than in the western part.

The minister of justice expects about 5,000 cases to be filed because the compensation only applies to men who are still alive.

The bill also stipulates a collective compensation of €500,000 for the Magnus Hirschfeld foundation, a sexual research institution.

Heiko Maas was able to push this new law project through against the votes of the oppositional CSU.

Before the law will become effective, it needs to be confirmed by the Bundesrat (the federal chamber), which is likely to be a pure formality.

Comment: An earlier law had already rehabilitated gay men convicted during the Nazi regime (1935 to 1945). This applied to about 50,000 men of whom about 10,000 had been brought to concentration camps and labeled with the notorious pink triangle.

Frank-S / MensGo
Main source: Deutsche Welle, June 22, 2017.
Initial source: lemonde.fr, June 22, 2017.

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