Steinmeier Apologizes
Published: 2018-06-06

Germany's president Frank-Walter Steinmeier appeared at a monument to gay victims of National Socialism to ask for forgiveness for the suffering and injustice gays endured. Steinmeier spoke June 2nd in a ceremony marking the persecution of gays by the Hitler regime.Steinmeier claimed that more than 50,000 men were persecuted by the Nazis and were "tortured, sent to prisons and to concentration camps." Steinmeier went on to reassure "all gays, lesbians and bisexuals, all queers, trans- and intersexuals" that they are protected in today's Germany. Steinmeier is a leader in the Leftist Social Democratic Party of Germany and was born in 1956.

In fact, the law criminalizing homosexual acts, Paragraph 175 of the German Criminal Code, was passed in May 1871 and was not revoked until 1994. Prosecution of homosexual acts predated and postdated the National Socialist government. About 10,000 men were jailed under Paragraph 175 during the National Socialist period.1 

Bowing to a myth
Bowing to a myth

Where the 1933-1945 prosecution figures have been studied, the arrest rate for male homosexual activity was low and often involved activity with minors. An example is a study of wartime court cases by Dutch historian Anna Tijsseling.  In  Guilty Sex: Homosexual Indecency Offences during the German Occupation Tijsseling reported that legal prosecution of homosexuals was more intense before and immediately after the war. Her conclusions counter the generally accepted view of  Dutch homosexuals as victims of the Nazis. Tijsseling calls this image "a persistent fiction, created by the gay-emancipation movement in the 1970s." Dr. Tijsseling was hired by the Dutch government to see if Dutch gays qualified  as victims of National Socialism entitled to compensation. They didn't.


Alan Riding's book on cultural life in Nazi-occupied Paris And the Show Went On states, ..

."while homosexuality was officially prohibited, many in the literary and artistic world were gay; not only Cocteau and Marais but also infamous collaborationists like Brasillach and Abel Bonnard. Further, numerous gay bars in occupied Paris were popular with German soldiers."

Despite Steinmeier's implications, there does not seem to be a single prosecution of lesbians in National Socialist Germany.

Why is Steinmeier  making such a show of German guilt? He exaggerates the numbers and penalties imposed, but also ignores the fact that all Western societies criminalized homosexual acts. As an example, Between 1923 and 1967... more than 50,000 men had been arrested for “frequent[ing] or loiter[ing] about any public place soliciting men for the purpose of committing a crime against nature or other lewdness” in New York City alone. 

At least in the cases of Holland and Paris, the National Socialists seemed to have a more mild policy than New York City!


 1 Mark Blasius, Shane Phelan (1997). We Are Everywhere: A Historical Sourcebook of Gay and Lesbian Politics. p. 134

 


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Author(s): David Merlin
Title: Steinmeier Apologizes
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Published: 2018-06-06
First posted on CODOH: June 6, 2018, 4:37 p.m.
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