Paragraph 175 was a provision of the German Criminal Code established in May 1871 that made homosexual acts between males a crime. It was not until the German Nazi party in April of 1935 broadened the law so that the courts could prosecute any “lewd act” whatsoever, even one involving no physical contact. That move caused convictions of gay men under Paragraph 175 yo multiply by a factor of ten to over 8,000 per year by 1937.
Just when it seemed things couldn’t get any worse for gay men in Germany, on April 4, 1938, the Gestapo publicly announced that men condemned for homosexuality would be deported to concentration camps.
Under the orders of Heinrich Himmler, leader of the SS, the police the Gestapo arrested around 100,000 men suspected of the crimeof homosexuality.
In his memoirs, Rudolf Hoess, commandant at Auschwitz, describes how the camp guards would often assign homosexuals forced to wear pink triangles for recognition to some of the most dangerous jobs and they were sometimes separated from other prisoners to prevent homosexuality being “propagated” to other inmates and guards. Judges and officials at SS camps could even order the castration of homosexual prisoners without consent whenever they wished.
Survival in camps took on many forms. Some homosexual prisoners secured administrative and clerical jobs. For other prisoners, sexuality became a means of survival despite the Gestapo’s best attempts to stop it. In exchange for sexual favors, some Kapos protected a chosen prisoner, usually of young age, giving him extra food and shielding him from the abuses of other prisoners
SS doctors also performed cruel experiments on prisoners to “cure” them of their homosexuality. In fact, these tests resulted in illnesses, mutilations and the deaths of hundreds upon hundreds of gay prisoners.
Even though there are no definite statistics on the number of homosexuals murdered at the Nazi camps, estimates range anywhere from 100,000 to 200,000 gay men were detained in concentration camps under the Nazi regime with little chance of survival.
Paragraph 175 stayed in effect in Germany until 1969. Even after the concentration camps were liberated gay prisoners who had survived would be sent to sent to regular prisons to finish out the terms of their sentences.
In 1985, gays and lesbians had wanted to place a plaque in the camp at Dachau, but it was not until 10 years later, in 1995, that they would be officially recognized as victims of the Holocaust
The United Nations General Assembly designated January 27—the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Birkenau—as International Holocaust Remembrance Day. On this annual day of commemoration, the UN urges every member state to honor the victims of the Nazi era and to develop educational programs to help prevent future genocides.
The Holocaust was the systematic, bureaucratic, state-sponsored persecution and murder of over six million Jews by the Nazi regime and its collaborators. Holocaust is a word of Greek origin meaning “sacrifice by fire.” The Nazis, who came to power in Germany in January 1933, believed that Germans were “racially superior” and that the Jews, deemed “inferior,” were an alien threat to the so-called German racial community.
But also as a part of the Nazis’ attempt to purify German society and propagate an “Aryan master race,” they condemned homosexuals as “socially aberrant.” Soon after taking office on January 30, 1933, Hitler banned all gay and lesbian organizations. Brownshirted storm troopers raided the institutions and gathering places of homosexuals. While this subculture had flourished in the relative freedom of the 1920s, Nazi tactics greatly weakened it and drove it underground.
Later, a harsher revision of Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code went into effect, making a broad range of “lewd and lascivious” behavior between men illegal and punishable by imprisonment. The revision of Paragraph 175.
The Nazis believed that male homosexuals were weak, effeminate men who could not fight for the German nation. They saw homosexuals as unlikely to produce children and increase the German birthrate. The Nazis held that inferior races produced more children than “Aryans,” so anything that diminished Germany’s reproductive potential was considered a racial danger.
The police had powers to hold in protective custody or preventive arrest those deemed dangerous to Germany’s moral fiber, jailing indefinitely—without trial—anyone they chose. In addition, homosexual prisoners just released from jail were immediately re-arrested and sent to concentration camps if the police thought it likely that they would continue to engage in homosexual acts.
From 1937 to 1939, the peak years of the Nazi persecution of homosexuals, the police increasingly raided homosexual meeting places, seized address books, and created networks of informers and undercover agents to identify and arrest suspected homosexuals. On April 4, 1938, the Gestapo issued a directive indicating that men convicted of homosexuality could be incarcerated in concentration camps. Between 1933 and 1945 the police arrested over 100,000 men as homosexuals.
The Nazis interned some homosexuals in concentration camps immediately after the seizure of power in January 1933. Those interned came from all areas of German society, and often had only the cause of their imprisonment in common. Some homosexuals were interned under other categories by mistake, and the Nazis purposefully miscategorized some political prisoners as homosexuals. Prisoners marked by pink triangles to signify homosexuality were treated harshly in the camps. According to many survivor accounts, homosexuals were among the most abused groups in the camps.
Because some Nazis believed homosexuality was a sickness that could be cured, they designed policies to “cure” homosexuals of their “disease” through humiliation and hard work. Guards ridiculed and beat homosexual prisoners upon arrival, often separating them from other inmates. Rudolf Hoess, commandant of Auschwitz, wrote in his memoirs that homosexuals were segregated in order to prevent homosexuality from spreading to other inmates and guards. Personnel in charge of work details in the Dora-Mittelbau underground rocket factory or in the stone quarries at Flossenbürg and Buchenwald often gave deadly assignments to homosexuals.
Survival in camps took on many forms. Some homosexual inmates secured administrative and clerical jobs. For other prisoners, sexuality became a means of survival. In exchange for sexual favors, some Kapos protected a chosen prisoner, usually of young age, giving him extra food and shielding him from the abuses of other prisoners. Homosexuals themselves very rarely became Kapos due to the lack of a support network. Kapo guardianship was no protection against the guards’ brutality, of course. In any case, the Kapo often tired of an individual, sometimes killing him and finding another on the next transport. Though individual homosexual inmates could secure a measure of protection in some ways, as a group homosexual prisoners lacked the support network common to other groups. Without this help in mitigating brutality, homosexual prisoners were unlikely to survive long.
One avenue of survival available to some homosexuals was castration, which some criminal justice officials advocated as a way of “curing” sexual deviance. Homosexual defendants in criminal cases or concentration camps could agree to castration in exchange for lower sentences. Later, judges and SS camp officials could order castration without the consent of a homosexual prisoner.
Nazis interested in finding a “cure” for homosexuality expanded this program to include medical experimentation on homosexual inmates of concentration camps. These experiments caused illness, mutilation, and even death, and yielded no scientific knowledge.
The sinister Paragraph 175 which criminalized homosexuality was in effect until 1969. Even after the concentration camps were liberated gay prisoners would be sent to sent to regular prisons to finish out the terms of their sentences.
In 1985, gays and lesbians had wanted to place a plaque in the camp at Dachau, but it was not until 10 years later, in 1995, that gays and lesbians have been recognized as a group of victims.
At this time here are no known statistics for the number of homosexuals who died in the camps but some scholars estimate the numbers could actually be from the hundreds of thousands to almost a million.
After writing in different forms throughout the 1880’s, Oscar Wilde became one of London’s most popular playwrights in the early 1890’s. Today he is mostly remembered for his keen wit, his only novel The Picture of Dorian Gray and the circumstances of his imprisonment and early death.
At the height of his fame and success, while his masterpiece, The Importance of Being Earnest (1895), was still on stage in London, Wilde had the Marquess of Queensberry prosecuted for libel. The Marquess was the father of Wilde’s lover, Lord Alfred Douglas who was regarded at the time as a “mean spirited mincing queen intent on self-destruction” and later in life, tried to distance himself from Wilde’s name.
The charge against Wilde carried a penalty of up to two years in prison.
Queensberry was arrested with the charge carrying a possible sentence of up to two years in prison. Under the 1843 Libel Act, Queensberry could avoid conviction for libel only by demonstrating that his accusation was in fact true, and furthermore that there was some “public benefit” to having made the accusation openly. Queensberry’s lawyers thus hired private detectives to find evidence of Wilde’s homosexual liaisons. They decided on a strategy of portraying Wilde as a depraved older man who habitually enticed naïve youths into a life of vicious homosexuality to demonstrate that there was some public interest in having made the accusation openly
The trial caused Wilde to drop his charges and led to his own arrest and trial for gross indecency with other men. After two more trials he was convicted and imprisoned for two years’ hard labour. In 1897, in prison, he wrote De Profundis, which was published in 1905, a long letter which discusses his spiritual journey through his trials, forming a dark counterpoint to his earlier philosophy of pleasure. Upon his release he left immediately for France, never to return to Ireland or Britain. There he wrote his last work, The Ballad of Reading Gaol (1898), a long poem commemorating the harsh rhythms of prison life.
Oscar Wilde died destitute in Paris at the age of forty-six.
1929: The Reichstag Committee votes to repeal the notorious Paragraph 175.
But in the end the Nazis’ rise to power prevents it from being removed from the books and they in turn use it as the tool to persecute hundreds of thousands of gay, lesbian and transgender German citizens which they beat, torture and kill, sending many to concentration camps from which they will never return.
Paragraph 175 made homosexual acts between males a crime, and in early revisions the provision also criminalized bestiality as well as forms of prostitution and underage sexual abuse. All in all, around 140,000 men were convicted under the law.
While the Nazi persecution of homosexuals is reasonably well-known today, far less attention had been given to the continuation of this persecution in post-war Germany.
In 1945, after the concentration camps were liberated, some homosexual prisoners were recalled to custody to serve out their two-year sentence under Paragraph 175.
In 1950, East Germany abolished Nazi amendments to Paragraph 175, whereas West Germany kept them and even had them confirmed by its Constitutional Court.
About 100,000 men were implicated in legal proceedings from 1945 to 1969, and about 50,000 were convicted. Some individuals accused under Paragraph 175 committed suicide.
In 1969, the West Germany government eased Paragraph 175 by providing for an age of consent of 21. The age of consent was lowered to 18 in 1973. Finally the paragraph was repealed and the age of consent lowered to 14, in 1994.
East Germany had already reformed its more lenient version of the paragraph in 1968, and repealed it in 1988.
We all know there is a HUGE selection of LGBT films out there available to watch. Many are recent while some began to come into mainstream media in the 1990’s.
But is it possible that the first film ever to showcase a gay couple was made over a 100 years ago?
The answer is yes.
A few years ago the UCLA Film and Television Archives discovered a film that was produced in 1919 Germany. During that time in Germany, a Social Democratic government came into power allowing long-standing censorship laws to be lifted. Acting quickly, filmmaker Richard Oswald joined with psychiatrist and gay-rights pioneer Magnus Hirschfeld to write and produce the first gay centered film.
Different From The Otherswas a 90 minute film centered around a famous violinist and his male student. This was a drama that showed a love affair between the two men. Although the film did not show any sex, it is very clear in the film that the two men were in love. Unfortunately, the film suffered many vicious attacks from the right-wing press calling Oswald a “perverted Jew”.
The complete physical copy of the film was lost except for 40 minutes that Hirschfeld edited into a 1926 documentary about tolerance.
As part of the preservation, the gay and lesbian film festival, Outfest, partnered with UCLA Film and Television Archives has reassembled those 40 minutes based on Oswald’s screenplay.
“To use the term ‘restore’ would be wrong,” says Jan-Christopher Horak, director of the archives. “There’s not enough footage for a real restoration. But what we have put together allows people to experience the remarkable culture that existed in Berlin in the 1920s, which was wiped out, of course, by the Nazis. As far as I know, this is the earliest document we have of gays and lesbians being represented on-screen.”
This is an incredible piece of LGBT history. This may be the first example of LGBT people being depicted in film. This also may be one of the first steps towards the fight for LGBT equality.
Released in released in 1919 and starring Conrad Veidt and Reinhold Schünzel. you can watch scenes from Different From Others below:
After decades of lobbying, victims and activists hailed a triumph in the struggle to clear the names of gay men who lived with a criminal record under article (Paragraph) 175 of the German penal code.
Germany’s article 175 outlawed “sexual acts contrary to nature … be it between people of the male gender or between people and animals”. Sex between women was not explicitly illegal.
Although it dated from 1871, it was rarely enforced until the Nazis came to power, and in 1935 they toughened the law to carry a sentence of 10 years of forced labour.
More than 42,000 men were convicted during the Third Reich and sent to prison or concentration camps where countless numbers died or were killed.
The article was finally dropped from the penal code in East Germany in 1968. In West Germany, it reverted to the pre-Nazi era version in 1969 and was only fully repealed in 1994.
“More than two decades after article 175 was finally wiped from the books, this stain on democratic Germany’s legal history has been removed,” Sebastian Bickerich, of the government’s anti-discrimination office, said in a statement.
The sinister Paragraph 175 was in effect until 1969. Even after the concentration camps were liberated gay prisoners would be sent to sent to regular prisons to finish out the terms of their sentences.
Learn more about paragraph 175 and watch the award winning documentary of the same name by clicking HERE
Although an exact number will never be known, between 1933 and 1945, under the notorious Paragraph 175 of the Nazi penal code, which banned homosexual relations between men, somewhere between 7,000 and 10,000 gay men were murdered in Nazi concentration camps and over 100,000 were either arrested jailed, beaten and tortured.
World War II experts believe that the death rate of homosexuals in concentration camps may have been as high as 60%.- 80%.
History has proven that in the concentration camps gay and lesbian prisoners were treated to unusual and heinous punishments and and cruelties, even worse than the Nazi captors were known for. Not only did the Nazis abuse the gay prisoners, but so did other prisoner as well. They were considered to be the lowest of low. They were beaten, tortured, experimented on and some were used for target practice by SS soldiers, who aimed at the pink triangles that the gay men were forced to wear to designate that they were homosexual on their chest. And of course some met their ends in the same way as the six million Jews, Poles, and Gypsies from that horrible time.
Persecution of gays and lesbians by the Nazis remained little known for decades, and what was known was spoken in whispers. It wasn’t until 2002 that the German government apologized to the gay community and until 2005, the European Parliament approved a resolution on the Holocaust that finally acknowledged the persecution of gays.
Now Israel’s plans to build it’s first monument to homosexuals persecuted by the Nazis will be erected in central Tel Aviv’s Meir Park (Gan Meir) later this year, near the headquarters of the Gay Center.
At the center of the monument will be a concrete triangle containing a pink triangle, the symbol used by the Nazis used to mark homosexuals. A bench and plaque beside the monument will give information about the persecution of homosexuals during the Holocaust which will be inscribed wiht the following statement: “To the memory of those persecuted by the Nazi regime for their sexual preference and gender identity.”
The monument, was the idea of attorney Eran Lev, a member of the municipal council from the Meretz party.
This will be the first and only memorial site in Israel to mention the victims of the Nazis who were persecuted for anything other than being Jewish,” Lev has stated. “As a cosmopolitan city and an international gay center, Tel Aviv will offer a memorial site that is universal in its essence.”
Memorials to the LGBT victims of Nazi persecution exist in Berlin, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Sydney and San Francisco. Most of them contain the pink triangle.