Germany pays compensation to people investigated under anti-gay laws

Germany has begun offering compensation to men who faced criminal investigations under historical anti-gay laws.

The country extended compensation for LGBT+ people who faced oppression under authorities in both East and West Germany following the fall of the Nazis.

Gay people were just one of many minority groups persecuted by the Nazis, but the law banning gay sex that was expanded under Nazi rule, Paragraph 175, remained in effect across Germany for years after the end of World War II.

Germany extends compensation to gay men who faced criminal investigations

On Wednesday (March 13), Germany’s Federal Ministry of Justice announced it would begin paying compensation to men investigated under the laws for having consensual gay sex, prior to the law’s 1968 abolition in East Germany and 1969 abolition in West Germany.

An estimated 70,000 people were convicted of consensual homosexual acts under the law, according to the ministry, but many more “were prosecuted, but ultimately not convicted” and suffered adverse effects.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley arrives for the weekly government cabinet meeting on March 13, 2019 in Berlin, Germany.

German Justice Minister Katarina Barley arrives for the weekly government cabinet meeting on March 13, 2019 in Berlin, Germany. (Sean Gallup/Getty)

The government scheme now allows for anyone who was investigated under the historical law to apply for compensation, in addition to those convicted.

People who were investigated under the law will also be entitled to payments of €500, while additional payments of €1,500 are available to those whose professional, financial or personal wellbeing was significantly harmed by the law.

Compensation was made available in 2017 to men who were jailed under the law, who were entitled to €3,000 plus €1,500 per year of time served.

A statement clarifies that the payments are “not to be understood as damages” but are an important part of “symbolic recognition of impairments suffered.”

Germany anti-gay law Paragraph 175 ‘destroyed lives’

Federal Minister Katarina Barley said: “Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code punished people for loving people of the same sex. Paragraph 175 destroyed lives.”

She added: “It is important that we show solidarity and recognition. The persecution of homosexuals was grossly wrong from today’s perspective, and we must take responsibility for this.”

The change comes after the German Parliament passed a bill in 2017 quashing the convictions of men under Paragraph 175 and setting out the compensation scheme.

Around €30 million was originally set aside to cover the costs of the compensation scheme, but Associated Press reports that just 133 people applied under the existing scheme, with payments to date totalling €433,500.

The first version of Paragraph 175 stems from 1872, criminalising “unnatural fornication between persons of the male sex.”

However, persecution under the law surged in 1935, when the Nazis significantly broadened its remit and redefined the crime as a felony.

The maximum penalty under the law was also increased from six months to five years’ imprisonment.