Last edited: July 11, 2004

Nazi-Era Gays Pardoned

Advocate, 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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