The German government has approved the rehabilitation of men convicted of homosexual acts under section 175 of the Criminal Code in post-war Germany, as suggested in a bill by Justice Minister Heiko Maas (SPD). In Germany, homosexual acts were a punishable offence between May 15, 1871 and March 10, 1994.
The intensification of Section 175 of the Penal Code by the Nazis in 1935 remained in effect in both West and East Germany. After 1969, section 175 was eased in West Germany by changing the minimum age to 21 years. Four years later, this was lowered again to 19. Section 175 was permanently removed in 1994, more than four years after Germany's unification.
In West-Germany after the Second World War, approximately 50,000 men were sentenced under Section 175. Sentencing also occurred in East Germany (GDR), but the persecution there was less intense. In Nazi Germany, more than 42,000 men were sentenced on grounds of Section 175.
Many men still suffer the consequences of this policy of prosecution. In 2000, the Bundestag adopted a decision to offer official apologies to men who were prosecuted up to 1969. In 2002, the verdicts from the Nazi era were annulled.
Minister Heiko Maas’ bill, which still must be approved by the Bundestag, will ensure rehabilitation of men convicted after 1945 in both East and West Germany. However, it is under the condition that their sexual act cases involved mutual consent, and that both men involved were over 14 years of age. The verdicts will be revoked, and the victims will be compensated.
This compensation is EUR 3,000 for the verdicts, and EUR 1,500 for each year in prison or stay in a mental hospital or correctional institution if imposed by a judge at the time. This compensation will not be deducted from any possible social benefit received.
In anticipation of this bill, the Bundestag had already decided to allocate half a million Euro to the Federal Magnus Hirschfeld Foundation as a form of collective compensation. The institute will, among other things, record the history of persecution based on sexual orientation and gender identity with these funds.