• File photo of German flags fly in front of the Reichstag building, Berlin (AAP)Source: AAP
“More than two decades after article 175 was finally wiped from the books, this stain on democratic Germany’s legal history has been removed.”
By
Michaela Morgan

23 Jun 2017 - 10:52 AM  UPDATED 23 Jun 2017 - 10:52 AM

Germany’s parliament has voted to pardon thousands of gay men who were convicted of homosexuality under an archaic law that was first introduced in the 19th century, AFP reports.

Article 175 criminalised “sexual acts contrary to nature… be it between people of the male gender or between people and animals”.

Sebastian Bickerich from the government’s anti-discrimination office said: “More than two decades after article 175 was finally wiped from the books, this stain on democratic Germany’s legal history has been removed.”

While the legislation was introduced in 1871—it was heavily adopted by the Nazi party—who increased sentencing and charged an estimated 100,000 men with homosexuality between 1933 and 1945 with tens of thousands sent to prison or concentration camps.

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Paragraph 175 remained in place following World War II and was only abolished in 1994—even though Germany decriminalised homosexuality in 1969.

It’s estimated that there are 5,000 people who were charged under the law who are still alive—their names finally cleared of criminal conviction.

Fritz Schmehling was arrested as a teenager in 1957, and described the dangers he faced as a young man.

“Back then, you lived with one foot in prison,” he told AFP.

Now 74, Schmehling only wishes his partner Bernd—who passed away in 2011—had lived to see justice finally served.

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“He told me, ‘I don’t think I’ll ever see the day these convictions are lifted’. I think he would have been as happy as when the Berlin Wall fell.”

Another 74-year-old man who was convicted under Article 175—who withheld his real name—said the law had had a devastating impact on his life.

“I was as beautiful as a young god and men were always after me,” he said with a smile. “But I was always afraid I would end up in prison.”

The Bundestag lower house voted overwhelmingly to pardon those convicted under the law.

Victims will be paid €3,000 ($4,430AUD)  in compensation. Those who were sent to prison will receive an additional €1,500 ($2,215AUD) for each year they were locked up.