Nazi-Era Gays Pardoned
May 21, 2002
German lawmakers on Friday completed the pardon process of thousands of
Nazi-era army deserters and homosexuals sent to concentration camps during
World War II. About 50,000 gay men and 22,000 deserters were included in the
pardon passed by the lower house in Berlin, an extension of a 1998 law that
cleared the names of hundreds of thousands of Germans convicted of crimes
under the Nazis. The conservative opposition voted against the law, arguing
that it sends the wrong message because it doesn’t examine each individual
case. "Finally the deserters and homosexuals who were persecuted will
receive justice," said Volker Beck, a spokesman for the Greens Party,
which supports the law. "It is an important signal in these times when
Europe is swinging to the right."
German justice minister Hertha Daeubler-Gmelin welcomed the law as long
overdue. She said it was humiliating and difficult for victims of Nazi
military courts to be expected to produce evidence of their convictions and
undergo a review of their case before being cleared. Those convicted under
Nazi laws include not only deserters but also soldiers accused of
"cowardice" or "marriage without permission," she said.
"We all know that our decisions today are more than 50 years late,"
she told parliament. "They are necessary nonetheless. We owe it to the
victims of wrongful Nazi justice."
Of the estimated 50,000 gay men convicted by the Nazis, few ever came
forward after World War II because of the continuing stigma—as well as the
fact that the law under which they were convicted remained on the books in
West Germany until 1969.
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