Thursday, May 12, 2016

Germany will pay compensation to men
convicted under historic gay sex laws

Above: "The spring and summer of 1933 saw the Nazi regime expand its anti-homosexual offensive to social territories, with the SA attacking queer bars and nightclubs. Among the first establishments padlocked as a threat to public order was the famed Eldorado club in Berlin, which had remained a joyful destination for a cosmopolitan mix of lesbian women, homosexual men, transvestites of both sexes and slumming tourists. The large and handsome space on Motzstraße reopened immediately – as a Nazi party propaganda office, with huge swastikas draping the façade and an enormous Fraktur-lettered banner commanding "Vote for the Hitler ticket" obscuring the now sadly obsolete "You've found it!" sign. For German homosexuals, their dazzling land of gold, their Eldorado was rapidly vanishing back into the realm of dreams." - G. Koskovich, From Edorado to the Third Reich

Germany will pay compensation to men who faced convictions under the country’s historic laws banning gay sex.
The country initially banned gay sex in 1871, when a penal code was introduced criminalising homosexual acts – while they were extended under the Nazis to convict thousands of gay men and send them to concentration camps.
However, the laws were not repealed in West Germany after the fall of the Nazis, and many of the persecuted gay men were not cleared. Homosexuality was not legalised until 1968 and 1969, in East and West Germany respectively. The age of consent was finally equalised in 1989.
The country’s government confirmed today that it would attempt to make amends for its history – confirming plans to annul the historic convictions of tens of thousands of men charged under the law.
Financial compensation will also be paid to the surviving men who were convicted under the laws. 50,000 men were convicted under the laws.

The Eldorado nightclub shortly before it was closed by the Nazis.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas said: “We will never be able to remove these outrages committed by this country but we want to rehabilitate the victims.
“The convicted homosexual men should no longer have to live with the black mark of a criminal conviction.”
The legislation comes after pressure from LGBT organisations in the country, who have urged the changes to be brought in quickly – so that some of the men will see their names cleared in their lifetimes.
A spokesperson for the Lesbian and Gay Association said: "Time is pressing for victims of homosexual persecution to get their unfair convictions lifted and see their dignity restored."
Though Germany is moderately progressive on LGBT rights, Chancellor Angela Merkel has repeatedly ruled out calls to introduce equal marriage, saying: “For me, marriage is a man and a woman living together.”
In a challenge to her government, opposition parties in the upper house of the German Parliament passed a same-sex marriage bill last year – though it stands a near-zero chance of becoming law without her support.
Source: Pink News, Nick Duffy, May 11, 2016

German historian Klaus Müller interviews survivors of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals.
Directors: Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman
Rupert Everett (Narrator), Pierre Seel, Heinz F., Annette Eick, Albrecht Becker, Gad Beck, Heinz Dörmer.  
Full movie (in English). Run time: 74 minutes

Germany Says It Will Rescind
Convictions for Homosexuality

From 1949 to 1969, under a law inherited from the Nazi regime, about 50,000 men in West Germany were convicted of homosexuality. Many served time in prison.
Although the law — known as Paragraph 175 for the section it was part of in the country’s Criminal Code — was eased in 1969, it stayed on the books. As a result, another 3,500 men were convicted before the law was finally rescinded in 1994, four years after the reunification of Germany. Even then, the convictions stayed on the men’s criminal records. (Communist East Germany decriminalized homosexuality in 1968.)
The German government on Wednesday announced that it would finally correct what it called a longstanding injustice.
The justice minister, Heiko Maas, said the government would put forward legislation that would overturn the convictions and allow for financial compensation to the men who suffered under the legislation. Mr. Maas said the decision was reached after a study by the federal government’s anti-discrimination agency concluded there was no reason the men should not be legally rehabilitated.
Mr. Maas’s announcement amounted to an apology for the law, which scholars and civil rights activists have long considered a mar on the country’s fraught history.
Although the ban on homosexuality dated to 1871, it was significantly strengthened in 1935 when the Nazis issued an order making all male homosexuality a crime.
During the Nazi regime, from 1933 to 1945, 100,000 men were arrested and charged with homosexuality, according to the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. Some were sentenced to castration. Fifty-thousand men were sentenced to serve in regular prisons, while 5,000 to 15,000 were interned in concentration camps, where they wore uniforms marked with pink triangles. Many died from hunger, disease, abuse or targeted killings, but the precise number of deaths is not known. (Female homosexuality was not prosecuted, except in Austria, which had been annexed by Germany, though lesbians were also subjected to repression.)

Above: "The Nazi government established a department at Gestapo headquarters to collect dossiers on homosexual men from local police throughout the Reich. At the end of 1936, this special unit was taken over by the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion. The twin objects of this new agency suggest the extent to which the regime's anti-homosexual policies were motivated by its insistence that all healthy adult Aryans increase the size of the "national community" (Volksgemeinschaft) through reproduction." - G. Koskovich, From Eldorado to the Third Reich

Germany has allowed civil partnerships since 2001, and gay couples have the same tax status and adoption rights as married couples. In 2003, the government decided to erect a memorial to homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis. The memorial was publicly unveiled in 2008 in Berlin’s Tiergarten, across from the Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe.
Mr. Maas said the cancellations of the convictions were long overdue, acknowledging that “the state has burdened itself with guilt,” and that Paragraph 175 "made life difficult for so many people.” He said the law "was unconstitutional from the start,” and that the old verdicts were an injustice that "hurt each sentenced person deeply in his human dignity.”
In a statement, Mr. Maas also said: “We will never be able to eliminate completely these outrages by the state, but we want to rehabilitate the victims. The homosexual men who were convicted should no longer have to live with the taint of conviction.”
The Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, a leading civil rights organization, applauded the announcement, saying that it showed the government “not only can, but must, clear the names of the men who were convicted under Paragraph 175.”
The federation said the report commissioned by the anti-discrimination agency, which examined the issues surrounding the annulment of decades-old convictions, “makes clear that the government can no longer hide behind spurious arguments that annulling the convictions would not be legally possible.”
Mr. Maas said that the study would be taken into account in drawing up legislation, which requires approval by Parliament. He urged the country’s political parties to push through the legislation, once it was introduced, without delay. How many men will be eligible for compensation, and details of the compensation process, are unclear.
Axel Hochrein, a spokesman for the Lesbian and Gay Federation in Germany, noted that “time is short” for the men persecuted under the law, and urged the government to expedite the legislation so that they could “restore their dignity.”
Source: The New York Times, Sewell Chan, May 11, 2016

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