German president asks for forgiveness over ‘suffering’ of gay people under Nazi rule and in decades after

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 14: German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier speaks during a ceremony to confirm the members of the new German government cabinet at Schloss Bellevue palace on March 14, 2018 in Berlin, Germany. Members of the new German government, a coalition between Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) and Social Democrats (SPD), were sworn in today and will begin work immediately. The new government took the longest to create of any government in modern German history following elections last September that left the German Christian Democrats (CDU) as the strongest party but with too few votes in order to have a strong hand in determining the next coalition. (Photo by Michele Tantussi/Getty Images)

German president Frank-Walter Steinmeier has asked for forgiveness over the “suffering and injustice” caused to gay people under Nazi rule and in the decades after.

The president was speaking on Sunday at a ceremony in Berlin, which marked the 10th anniversary of a monument commemorating the gay men persecuted by the Nazis.

Steinmeier acknowledged that this discrimination continued decades after World War II.

“The German state has inflicted heavy suffering on all these people, particularly under the Nazis, but also after that, in East Germany and also under the basic law,” said Steinmeier, reports German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle.

He said the ceremony honoured the “many tens of thousands of people whose private spheres, lives, love and dignity were infringed upon, denied and violated.”

Pink triangle at concentration camp

Gay men in a concentration camp under Nazi rule.

Some 50,000 homosexuals – mostly gay men – were officially sentenced by the Nazis, although up to 100,000 were arrested.

It’s estimated that between 5,000 and 15,000 were sent to concentration camps. Other punishments included torture and prison.

Steinmeier added: “For this reason, I am asking for forgiveness today — for all the suffering and injustice and for the long silence that followed.”

He noted that gay men continued to be punished under the application of the notorious Paragraph 175, which made sexual acts between men illegal.

Two women kiss as they attend a rally of gays and lesbian

Two women celebrate the legalisation of same-sex marriage in Germany. (Getty)

The clause was included in the German Criminal Code from 1871 until its repeal in 1994, and was used particularly rigorously under the Nazis, who increased the maximum penalty and widened the remit to include non-physical signs of homosexuality.

The paragraph was weakened in 1969, but was still used to convict gay men until its abolition.

And, although Paragraph 175 was removed in 1994, it took until 2017 for the German government to pardon those gay and bisexual men convicted under it.

Steinmeier also promised to protect the rights of LGBT+ people in Germany.

“I call to all gays, lesbians, bisexuals, all queers, transsexuals and intersexuals in our country: Your sexual orientation and your sexual identity enjoy the protection of our state without question,” he said.

“Your dignity is also as inviolable as it should have been right from the start.”

German MPs voted by a clear majority to legalise same-sex marriage in June 2017.