Germany’s lower house of parliament, the Bundestag, has overwhelmingly approved a bill that will vindicate all men who were convicted from 1949 to 1994 of a homosexual crime involving consensual relations between males 16 years or older. The upper house of parliament has announced it will pass the bill.
Men who are living can apply for a “vindication certificate,” and relatives of men who are deceased can apply for a posthumous pardon.
The law can rehabilitate the reputation of upwards of 50,000 males.* An estimated 5,000 of them are still living, and they will be eligible for compensation of €3,000 Euros (US$3,372) for having been convicted, plus compensation of €1,500 Euros (US$1,686) for each year they were imprisoned.** A Paragraph 175 conviction typically resulted in a two-year prison sentence.
The German government has set aside 30 million Euros ($32.6 million) to pay compensation claims.
The families of males granted a posthumous pardon will not receive compensation.
History of German Criminal Code Paragraph 175
Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code criminalized homosexual acts between males. The law was enacted in 1871, and it wasn’t repealed until March 10, 1994. The law criminalized all“sexual acts contrary to nature… be it between people of the male gender or between people and animals.” Although lesbianism was considered to be immoral and violate nature, it wasn’t criminalized in Germany because it wasn’t viewed as a threat to society.
The acts prohibited under Paragraph 175 were broadened in 1935 to include “lewd acts” by males, such as mutual masturbation and consensual touching. In 1950 the East German communist government repealed the 1935 amendments, while in West Germany they were confirmed by its Constitutional Courts.
East Germany repealed Paragraph 175 in 1968, but it was not repealed in West Germany. East and West Germany were unified in 1990, and four years later Germany repealed Paragraph 175.
More than 100,000 men were convicted of consensual homosexual acts under Paragraph 175 from 1871 to 1994. An estimated 64,000 men were convicted of violating Paragraph 175 after the Federal Republic of Germany was created in May 1949. (The FRG was known as West Germany until it unified with East Germany in 1990, when it became known as Germany.)
Homosexual acts were vigorously prosecuted in West Germany under Paragraph 175. A judge in Frankfurt who presided over the conviction of more than 100 homosexuals in 1950 and 1951 said they were guilty of “degeneration” that was capable of “destroying the foundation of the state.”
In 1957 the German Supreme Court ruled that homosexuals imprisoned during the Nazi era were not eligible for compensation or a pension as Holocaust survivors because they had been lawfully imprisoned as criminals under Paragraph 175.
In 2002 the German Parliament approved a bill pardoning about 42,000 men convicted of a homosexual crime under Paragraph 175 during the Nazi era up to when the FRG was created in 1949.
* An estimated 64,000 males were convicted of violating Paragraph 175 from 1949 to 1994, but the legislation only applies to convictions that didn’t involve coercion or a male less than 16 years old.
** On June 21, 2017 the exchange rate was 1 EUR = 1.1241 USD