Germany announced this week that it had provided compensation to nearly 250 people who faced persecution under a Nazi-era law that criminalized homosexuality between men.
The Office of Justice reported that 317 individuals have applied for compensation under a law offering payouts to victims of Paragraph 175, which criminalized sodomy until its full repeal 27 years ago. An estimated 249 people have been approved, 36 have been withdrawn, and 14 are still being processed.
Payouts are made based on the level of pain and suffering caused, according to the AP. There is also the possibility of receiving a payment of for other types of harm caused by the law, such as negative effects on health or employment.
Paragraph 175 was first enacted following the unification of Germany under King Wilhelm I in 1871, but the Third Reich became the law’s strictest enforcer when Adolf Hitler took power in 1933. The criminal code condemned the “unnatural sex act committed between persons of male sex” and deemed homosexuality as abhorrent as bestiality. Both sex between men and sex with animals were “punishable by imprisonment” and “the loss of civil rights,” the statute said. In 1935, the Nazis revised Paragraph 175 to make even the suspicion of homosexuality punishable by law. A sexually charged verbal exchange or suggestive glance between two men could lead to arrest or imprisonment. In some cases, men were even castrated under the law.
Throughout its regime, the Nazi Party attempted to abolish all remnants of LGBTQ+ culture in Germany, which had thrived during the Weimar era of the 1920s despite legal oppression. The Nazis shuttered Berlin’s vibrant gay nightlife and burned the books of Magnus Hirschfeld, a German physician who conducted pioneering research on LGBTQ+ identities. Many gay men — or those presumed to be gay — were placed in concentration camps, and many killed.
Enforcement of Paragraph 175 continued until West Germany decriminalized homosexuality in 1969, although the law wasn’t formally wiped off the books until 1994, five years after the Berlin Wall was toppled. In 2000, the German government issued a resolution expressing regret that the law was not dissolved sooner.
Germany is not the only country who has issued reparations or pardons to LGBTQ+ citizens, there are UK an Canada to compensate victims of the law who are still living can also have their records expunged.