Social and political situation of homosexuals during the German Nazi era

Term Paper, 2017

13 Pages, Grade: 2,3



1. Introduction

2. Main Part
2.1 Legal Situation of homosexuals in Nazi Germany
2.1.1 Paragraph
2.1.2 Implementation and Statistics
2.2 Social Situation of homosexuals in Nazi Germany
2.2.1 Public Life
2.2.2 Private Life
2.3 Society and reasons of homosexual persecution
2.3.1 Propaganda
2.3.2 Education
2.3.3 Military
2.3.4 Religion

3. Conclusion

Works Cited

1. Introduction

Although Germany is seen as a tolerant and open-minded country today, the persecution of homosexuals on German territory has a long historical background Political persecution or at least social condemnation already occurred centuries before the German nation was founded in 1871. It is difficult to say when the persecution of homosexuals actually started, but since science has shown that homosexuality is a natural tendency and even animals show homosexual behavior, the origin is likely to possess a political or religious background.

The consideration of homosexuality as an punishable offence was part of the German Criminal Code and had its origin in the Constitutio Criminalis Carolina (CCC) from 1592. In Paragraph 116 of the CCC it is written that sexual intercourse between "humans and beasts, man and man, [and] woman and woman contradicts human nature." 111 The fact that sodomy and homosexuality were regarded legally equal and both punished with death by fire indicates that showing homosexual tendencies in public was impossible at that time. The CCC is said to be the first, general German Criminal Code and was the basis of German jurisdiction until1 994. In the course of the time, however, this Paragraph was changed often. Prussia for example refrains from burning or killing homosexuals, requiring the "destruction of remembrance" 121 (exile) and a prison term up to 4 years, including a "Welcome and Farewell" 121, instead. "Welcome and Farewell" was an euphemism for a corporal punishment at the beginning and at the end of prison term.

The German Empire, with its new criminal code, introduced Paragraph 175 in 1872. It was a small improvement, but still a huge intrusion in the privacy of homosexuals. The minimum penalty for 'unnatural fornication' was reduced to one day of imprisonment, instead of six months. Additionally, "Welcome and Farewell" and the "destruction of remembrance" was replaced by the loss of civil rights 131.

Losing civil rights in the German Empire meant to be deprived of active and passive franchise as well as losing titles or doctorates. For the first time, however, people started to raise their voices against the arbitrary relation of homosexuality to criminality and mental sickness. Magnus Hirschfeld founded the Scientific-Humanitarian Committee, the first LGBT rights organization, which fought for self-determination and against legal persecution of homosexuals 141. There were 6000 people signing lSI for the deletion of Paragraph 175, but they could not convince the majority of the government. In the following years hundreds of homosexuals were sentenced annually.

In the Weimar Republic, homosexuals achieved more and more acceptance. The German capital, Berlin, could for example be regarded as a liberal city and a meeting point for many lesbians and gays. Nightclubs, bars, and even travesty clubs were open and solely reserved for homosexuals 161. They seemed to have their own parallel society which was somehow tolerated. Germany became more and more tolerant and legal equality of hetero- and homosexuals would have been the next logical step. However, things came different when the NSDAP party won the election in 1933. The ideological government made homosexuality a punishable offence again, leading to a bitter setback for any upcoming gay movement. After the slow improvement of social and legal conditions, which began to take scientific findings into account 171, all the achievements were destroyed.

But why did Nazi Germany consider homosexuality a crime again and how did the lives of LGBTs change to the worse? As in this introduction, it will be necessary to take a look at the Criminal Code and the harshness of sentencing. In addition, it could be interesting to portray the social situation of homosexuals in the 1930s and 1940s which was inseparably linked to the common mindset of the society. The common mindset itself might consist of external influences like military, education, propaganda, and religious attitude.

All these factors will lead to the conclusion that the perception of homosexuality in Nazi Germany was predominantly defined by these external factors and possesses an ideological background. Nevertheless there had to be reasons why the society allowed their government to criminalize an orientation that is prescribed by nature. The following pages will therefore be an attempt to elaborate the most important factors that caused a dreadful treatment of homosexuals and a great step backwards for legal equality of hetero­ and homosexuals in Germany.

2.1 Legal Situation of homosexuals in Nazi Germany

2.1.1 Paragraph 175

Alter the takeover of the NSDAP, Paragraph 175 was rewritten on 28'h of June 1935. "A man who commits fornication with another man [... ],will be punished with imprisonment" 181, was a clear statement of the newly elected government. The maximum prison term for minor offences was increased to five years in prison, severe cases were punished with up to ten years in penitentiary. Homosexual violence (rapes), force. prostitution, or relationships to underage men were said to be severe cases. Whereas minor offences remained unspecified.

In addition they crossed out the word "unnatural" (fornication); therefore this Paragraph did not only relate to sexual intercourse or activities anymore. Fornication is a broad term and is subject to subjective perception This lead to major changes in the interpersonal relationship of men. Having a date, even in private, became a dangerous venture, since it was not defined where the limits of tolerance are. Offensive behavior like masturbating in front of a man, but also hugs and kisses between two men could be regarded as a violation of law. Consequently, suppression of feelings and fear of standing up for free self­ determination was unavoidable. As a result, some homosexuals seem themselves forced to undergo chemical castration 191 in order to be cured and to escape social stigmatization.

2.1.2 Implementation and Statistics

The implementation of punishment was strict and lead to a doubling of condemnations of homosexuals; from approximately 1000 in 1934 to almost 2500 in 1935 liD] Nevertheless the amount of condemnations had not reached its peak and increased to a steady level of 8500 in the years 1937, 1938, and 1939 liD] In addition, Heinrich Himmler, commander of the Schutzstaffel (SS), created the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion in 1936. This so-called "central office" collected data of up to 100.000 men from 1933 to 1945 who were "arrested as homosexuals" 1''1. Most of the homosexual men whose data were captured had no protection against arbitrary repression and could be brought to prisons or concentration camps anytime. The so-called Gestapo (Secret Police) had the authorization to detain "protective custody" - imprisonment without judicial control. Over the course of the Nazi era, an estimated amount of 5000 to 15000 men was incarcerated in concentration camps. In the camps they were marked with a pink triangle and treated equally to Jewish people, race defilers, and criminals. They became victims of medical experiments, sterilization, and castration - about 50 percent of them died 1'21.


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Social and political situation of homosexuals during the German Nazi era
University of Tubingen
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social, german, nazi
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Chris Zemmel (Author), 2017, Social and political situation of homosexuals during the German Nazi era, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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