Germany to Compensate Gay Men Prosecuted Under Post-War Homosexuality Laws

Berlin 1964
Getty Images / Hutton Archive

BERLIN (AP) – German authorities on Wednesday extended compensation payments to more gay men who were investigated under a law criminalizing homosexuality that was enthusiastically enforced in West Germany after World War II.

German lawmakers in 2017 approved the annulment of thousands of convictions under the Paragraph 175 law, which remained in force in its Nazi-era form until homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969. They cleared the way for payments of 3,000 euros ($3,380) per conviction, plus 1,500 euros for every year of jail time the convicted men started.

The Justice Ministry’s new directive extends compensation to people who were put under investigation or taken into investigative custody but not convicted. There will be payments of 500 euros ($565) per investigation opened, 1,500 euros ($1,695) for each year of time in pre-trial custody started, and 1,500 euros for other professional, financial or health disadvantages related to the law.

“Paragraph 175 destroyed lives, led to sham marriages, harassment, blackmail and suicide,” Justice Minister Katarina Barley said.

She said it was important to her to go beyond the original legislation and compensate more people, because “Paragraph 175 also severely affected the lives of those who sat in investigative custody or who were just put under criminal investigation.”

The law criminalizing male homosexuality was introduced in the 19th century, toughened under Nazi rule and retained in that form by democratic West Germany, which convicted some 50,000 men between 1949 and 1969.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969 but the legislation wasn’t taken off the books entirely until 1994, a few years after German reunification.

In 2000, the German parliament approved a resolution regretting the fact that Paragraph 175 was retained after the war. Two years later, it annulled the convictions of gay men under Nazi rule but not the post-war convictions.

The compensation also applies to men convicted in communist East Germany, which had a milder version of Paragraph 175 and decriminalized homosexuality in 1968. About 4,300 men are believed to have been convicted there.

In all, some 68,300 people were convicted under various forms of Paragraph 175 in both German states.

The Justice Ministry said Wednesday that 133 people have applied for compensation so far under the 2017 legislation, and that payments totaling 433,500 euros ($490,000) have been approved.

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