Germany extends compensation deadline for homosexuals prosecuted under Nazi law

BERLIN — The German government plans to give people prosecuted or investigated under a Nazi-era law criminalizing homosexuality that was still enforced zealously long after World War II another five years to seek compensation, the justice minister said Wednesday.

The Cabinet decided to extend the deadline, which was due to expire on July 21, to ensure that any applications that arrive after that date aren’t rejected, Justice Minister Marco Buschmann said in a statement.

“It is important to me that we continue to keep this route open to the people affected,” Buschmann said. “The state of law owes them that.”

German lawmakers in 2017 approved the annulment of thousands of convictions under the so-called Paragraph 175, which remained in force in West Germany in its Nazi-era form until homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969.

Lawmakers cleared the way for payments of 3,000 euros ($3,200) per conviction, plus 1,500 euros for every year of jail time those convicted started.

In 2019, the government extended compensation to people who were put under investigation or taken into investigative custody but not convicted. It offered payments of 500 euros per investigation opened, 1,500 euros for each year in pre-trial custody, and 1,500 euros for other professional, financial or health disadvantages related to the law.

Hundreds of homosexuals ended a week-long gay meeting with a demonstration for gay rights through downtown Frankfurt, Germany, on July 28, 1979. The banner in front reads: “Schwule dich frei” (To be gay – liberates you). (AP Photo/Rolf Boehm)

As of September 2021, authorities said they had compensated 249 people, paying out nearly 860,000 euros.

The law criminalizing male homosexuality was introduced in the 19th century, toughened under Nazi rule and retained in that form by democratic West Germany, which convicted some 50,000 men between 1949 and 1969.

Homosexuality was decriminalized in 1969, but the legislation wasn’t taken off the books entirely until 1994.

In 2000, the German parliament approved a resolution regretting the fact that Paragraph 175 was retained after the war. Two years later, it annulled the convictions of gay men under Nazi rule but not the post-war convictions.

The compensation also applies to men convicted in communist East Germany, which had a milder version of Paragraph 175 and decriminalized homosexuality in 1968.

In all, some 68,300 people were convicted under various forms of Paragraph 175 in both German states.

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