More than 50,000 men were convicted and sentenced to sometimes lengthy jail terms between 1946 and 1969 under the infamous Paragraph 175, which deemed homosexuality to be a punishable crime. While homosexuality was decriminalised in 1969, the law was not abolished until 1994 and the sentences were never lifted.
The Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency (FADA) had asked a well-known expert in public law (Prof. Dr. Martin Burgi, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, Munich) to produce an expert opinion on the question of how to annul judgements against homosexuals after 1945 in Germany.
The expert found that it is not only possible to annul these judgements, but that the state is obliged to do so. Until now, there had been what could be seen as a lack of will in politics and also legal objections to annul judgements that have been made in a constitutional state, regardless of how immoral they might look today.
[Read report (in German)]
Change in Law
Following this outcome, FADA sent a copy of the report to the Minister for Justice Heiko Maas, and within a week, on the day of a press conference to discuss the outcome of the report, the Justice Minister announced that 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.
“The burden of guilt lies with the state because it made the lives of so many people so difficult,” Heiko Maas said. “Paragraph 175 was from the very beginning unconstitutional. The old convictions are unjust [and] do huge injury to the human dignity of each convicted man.”
Christine Lüders, head of the government’s Anti-Discrimination Authority, said the law had destroyed the lives of thousands of citizens, and wreaked havoc on partnerships and families. “The victims have had to deal with the fact that their convictions have never been lifted. These injustices can no longer be endured,” she said.
Read more on the website of the Federal Anti-Discrimination Agency