The German government has announced that it will make reparations to the men imprisoned under Paragraph 175, a provision in the country’s criminal code that outlawed sodomy until 1994.
Authorities also plan to expunge the records of the 50,000 jailed under the law.
Although 140,000 people were arrested in total, the country’s justice minister, Heiko Maas, has estimated that around 5,000 individuals — meaning those who are still living — stand to claim the reported payout of 30 million Euros. Mass stated that the amount of financial restitution will be based upon personal assessments of those incarcerated. Factors will include the length of time the individual spent behind bars.
“We will never be able to remove these outrages committed by this country but we want to rehabilitate the victims,” Mass said in a statement. “The convicted homosexual men should no longer have to live with the black mark of a criminal conviction.”
Germany’s Green and Left parties have placed enormous pressure in recent years on federal authorities to make amends to the men incarcerated under the law. Politicians Katja Keul and Volker Beck, both of whom serve in the German Bundestag, have referred to the lack of compensation as “a monstrous disgrace.”
The law was first enacted following the unification of Germany under Kaiser Wilhelm in 1871. After taking power in 1933, the Nazi Party intensified the prohibition against homosexual acts as a reaction to the permissiveness of cities like Berlin, which had become a safe haven to the nascent LGBT community with the success of its popular drag and cabaret bars. Many would be thrown into concentration camps because of their gender identity or sexual orientation.
Following the fall of the Third Reich, the anti-sodomy law remained on the books in both West Germany and the Socialist East Germany. Paragraph 175 would be used to target homosexuals, getting them fired from their professions and kicked out of their homes.
East Germany stopped prosecuting homosexual acts in the 1950s, although West Germany was slower to catch up. The statute was amended in 1969 to prohibit sexual assault in the workplace and gay male prostitution. It also stipulates that as a punishable act intcourse between “a man over twenty-one years old who engages as the active or passive partner in lewdness with another man under the age of twenty-one.” The age of consent would be lowered to 18 in 1973.
Paragraph 175, however, wouldn’t be stricken from the legal code for another 25 years.
Although Germany would expunge the arrests made under Hitler’s regime, that would not apply to the men harassed and imprisoned by police after the war. Those convictions had yet to be vacated.