Germany Annuls Old Law Convictions of 50,000 Gay Men

By Stephen Fuchs on

Germany announced on Wednesday that the estimated 50,000 men that were convicted under the Nazi-era law criminalizing homosexuality, known as Article 175, will have their criminal record annulled 22 years after the law was officially stripped from the books.

“We will never be able to eliminate completely these outrages by the state, but we want to rehabilitate the victims,” Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement released on Wednesday. “The homosexual men who were convicted should no longer have to live with the taint of conviction.”

Completely removing the effects of Article 175 has been a long time coming. The law was first introduced in 1871 and a 10 year sentence of forced labor was added by the Nazis in 1935.

The 42,000 men sentenced under the Third Reich saw some relief with the passing of a 2002 law that removed Nazi-era convictions, but Article 175 was still strongly enforced after the war, leading to an estimated 50,000 additional gay men being persecuted.

East Germany was the first to strip the law from the penal code in 1968, and West Germany enforced the law until 1969. It wasn’t until 1994 that Article 175 was fully repealed from German law.

The Federal Anti-discrimination Agency has expressed that they are happy with the results but also believe the government is legally obligated to rehabilitate the men affected.

Maas would agree and stated that the old rulings were unjust and unconstitutional and the Government has supported the efforts made by the Magnus Hirschfeld foundation to document all of the cases. “It is out of the question to annul 50,000 convictions without the public knowing what it had been all about”.

Sources: BMJV, ABC Online, BBC

Photo: Kurt Löwenstein Education Center (Flickr) / CC BY 2.0