history-of-germany

History of Gay Rights in Germany

1794: The Kingdom of Prussia abolishes the death penalty for sodomy

August 29, 1867: Karl Heinrich Ulrichs becomes the first self-proclaimed homosexual to speak out for the repeal of anti-gay laws at the  Congress of German Jurists in Munich.

1869: The term “homosexuality” appears for the first time in a German-Hungarian pamphlet written by human rights campaigner Karl-Maria Kertbeny

1871: Homosexuality is criminalized by Paragraph 175 of the Reich Criminal Code.

1907: Adolf Brand, member of a gay rights organization, publishes a piece “outing” the imperial cancellor of Germany, Prince Bernhard von Bülow. He is sued for libel and is sentenced to 18 months in prison.

1907-1909: The Harden-Eulenburg affair. Even more people are called gay and sue for libel.

1919: Magnus Hirschfeld co-founds the Institut für Sexualwissenschaft (Institute for Sex Research), a pioneer calling for the civil and social acceptance of gay and trans people.

1919: Anders als die Anderen (Different from the Others), one of the first explicitly gay films, premiers. Magnus Hirschfeld was a co-writer and funded its production.

October 16, 1929: A Reichstag Committee votes to repeal Paragraph 175. The Nazis’ rise to power prevents the implementation.

1931: Mädchen in Uniform, one of the first pro-lesbian films, is released.

1933: The Nazi party bans homosexual groups. Gay people are sent to concentration camps. Nazis burn the Institut für Sexualwissenschaften to the ground.

1937: First use of the pink triangle for gay men in concentration camps.

1945: After the liberation of concentration camps by the allied forces, gay people have to serve out the full term of there sentences under Paragraph 175.

1950: East Germany partially abolishes the Nazis’ emendations to Paragraph 175.

1968: East Germany decriminalizes homosexual acts for people over the age of 18.

1969: West Germany decriminalizes homosexual acts.

1974: General Gay Association, the second openly-LGBT rights organization in German history, is established.

1985: Herbert Rusche becomes the first openly-gay member of the Bundestag.

1987: Jutta Oesterle-Schwamm becomes the first lesbian member of the Bundestag.

1994: The Supreme Court rules that the age of consent for sex must be equalized.

2000: The Bundestag apologizes to gays and lesbians persecuted under the Nazi regime, and for “harm done to homosexual citizens up to 1969”.

2001: Same-Sex couples get the right to enter a civil partnership. Klaus Wowereit becomes the first openly-gay major of Berlin, making Berlin the largest city of the world with a gay major. Ole von Beust becomes the first openly-gay major of Hamburg.

2002: Same-sex stepchild adoption is legalized. Guido Westerwelle, leader of the FDP, becomes the first leader of a major party to come out as gay.

2009: Westerwelle becomes the first openly-gay member of the Federal Cabinet

2013: Barbara Hendricks becomes the first openly-lesbian member of the Federal Cabinet

March 22, 2017: The Bundestag votes in favor of rehabilitation for those presecuted under Paragraph 175.

June 30, 2017: Same-Sex marriage and adoption is legalized.

Daguerreotype portrait of Helene Biewend and her friend Emilie Fromke sewing in a garden probably somewhere in Germany, 1846. By Hermann Carl Eduard Biewend.

Source: National Gallery of Canada.

Take That, Anti-Semites

In 1916, in the middle of World War I, the German military conducted the Judenzählung: a census of German Jews. It was intended to confirm accusations of lack of patriotism among German Jews. But the census not only disproved the anti-Semitic rumors, it crushed them. Not only were German Jews enlisting in the army, a higher percentage of German Jews fought than of any other ethnic, religious or political group in Germany.

The results of the census were not made public at the time.

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Porta Nigra 

Trier, Germany

200 CE


The Porta Nigra was built in grey sandstone between 186 and 200 CE. The original gate consisted of two four-storied towers, projecting as near semicircles on the outer side. A narrow courtyard separated the two gate openings on either side. For unknown reasons, however, the construction of the gate remained unfinished. For example, the stones at the northern (outer) side of the gate were never abraded, and the protruding stones would have made it impossible to install movable gates. Nonetheless, the gate was used for several centuries until the end of the Roman era in Trier. It serves as an entrance to town.

In Roman times, the Porta Nigra was part of a system of four city gates, one of which stood at each side of the roughly rectangular Roman city. The Porta Nigra guarded the northern entry to the Roman city, while the Porta Alba (White Gate) was built in the east, the Porta Media (Middle Gate) in the south, and the Porta Inclyta (Famous Gate) in the west, next to the Roman bridge across the Moselle. The gates stood at the ends of the two main streets of the Roman Trier, one of which led north-south and the other east-west. Of these gates, only the Porta Nigra still exists today.

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February 22nd 1943: White Rose group executed

On this day in 1943, three members of the peaceful resistance movement in Nazi Germany, the White Rose, were executed. The White Rose, comprising students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor, began in June 1942. The group secretly distributed leaflets protesting against the regime of Adolf Hitler and the war being waged in Europe, highlighting the repressive nature of the Nazi police state and drawing attention to the mistreatment of Jews. The group took precautions to avoid capture by keeping the White Rose group very small. However, on 18th February 1943, the siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl were discovered distributing leaflets by a university janitor, who informed the Gestapo. Hans and Sophie were arrested and immediately admitted guilt, hoping to avoid being coerced into implicating their fellow members of the White Rose, but after further interrogation were forced to give up the names. Four days later, the Scholls and Christoph Probst - some of the founding members of the group - were put on trial and found guilty of treason; they were sentenced to death. That same day, February 22nd, the three were executed by beheading at Stadelheim Prison. After their executions, the remaining members were arrested and killed, thus ending the White Rose resistance movement. The White Rose, alongside other groups like the Edelweiss Pirates, are an important example of Germans speaking out against Hitler’s regime, and their deaths are yet another in the litany of Nazi crimes.

“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”

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February 25th 1947: Prussia ceases to exist

On this day in 1947, the state of Prussia, which had existed since 1525, ceased to exist. Prussia was a German kingdom, and in the nineteenth century became its most powerful state, rising in strength to challenge other established European powers. Otto von Bismarck aimed to unite all German states under the domination of Prussia, which was achieved through the German Unification Wars (Austro-Prussian War 1866 & Franco-Prussian War 1870-1871). As Prussia merged with Germany it lost its distinctive identity and in 1918 the royalty abdicated and nobility lost most of its political power. Under Nazi rule, Prussia lost its identity even more, with centralisation policies removing its autonomy. Prussia lost some territory in the post-war division of Germany into zones and the Western allies sought its full abolition. This was secured in Law 46 by the Allied Control Council, citing Prussia’s association with past militarism as the reason. Former Prussian territory was then re-organised. Prussia has since been vilified by Germans as a symbol of the militarism and obedience that led to the Nazi rise to power.

Demonstrations are NOT enough

Revisionist history says that everyone in Germany was totally cool with Nazism, but there were over 100k people willing to take to the street to protest the rise of Nazism in Berlin in 1932. 

Even in a time where Nazism was the only platform estimated to bring Germany out of post-war poverty, this many people were willing to stand up against it. 

The Nazis won because this energy was not sustained.

If yesterday was your 1st demonstration, don’t let it be your last! Don’t let it be your only method of resistance!

remember: 

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February 22nd 1943: White Rose group executed

On this day in 1943, three members of the peaceful resistance movement in Nazi Germany, the White Rose, were executed. The White Rose, comprising students from the University of Munich and their philosophy professor, began in June 1942. The group secretly distributed leaflets protesting against the regime of Adolf Hitler and the war being waged in Europe, highlighting the repressive nature of the Nazi police state and drawing attention to the mistreatment of Jews. The group took precautions to avoid capture by keeping the White Rose group very small. However, on 18th February 1943, the siblings Sophie and Hans Scholl were discovered distributing leaflets by a university janitor, who informed the Gestapo. Hans and Sophie were arrested and immediately admitted guilt, hoping to avoid being coerced into implicating their fellow members of the White Rose, but after further interrogation were forced to give up the names. Four days later, the Scholls and Christoph Probst - some of the founding members of the group - were put on trial and found guilty of treason; they were sentenced to death. That same day, February 22nd, the three were executed by beheading at Stadelheim Prison. After their executions, the remaining members were arrested and killed, thus ending the White Rose resistance movement. The White Rose, alongside other groups like the Edelweiss Pirates, are an important example of Germans speaking out against Hitler’s regime, and their deaths are yet another in the litany of Nazi crimes.

“We will not be silent. We are your bad conscience. The White Rose will not leave you in peace!”