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social sciences

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Paragraph 175 remained in both the East and West German legal codes after World War II. East Germany did not repeal the Nazi version of Paragraph 175 until 1967, while West Germany did not do so until 1969. (Austria followed suit in 1971.) The original version of Paragraph 175 was not repealed in Germany until 1994, four years after the reunification of the country.

After the war, the communist government of East Germany, unlike the West German government, did cease prosecuting men for consensual same-sex sexual acts in private. However, it also absorbed privately owned businesses throughout the country into its own hands, thereby effectively closing the gay and lesbian bars that had reopened after the war.

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The West German government, on the other hand, retained an official anti-gay policy, yet generally turned a blind eye to low-profile homosexual activity in private that did not involve the under-aged. Gay and lesbian bars were allowed to operate, and it was through these that a later public glbtq community would materialize.

The gay and lesbian rights movement in West Germany may be dated from the screening of Rosa von Praunheim's film, Nicht der Homosexuelle ist pervers, sondern die Situation in der er lebt (It is not the homosexual who is perverse, but the situation in which he lives), at the Berlin Film Festival in 1971. The controversial film, which attacked gay consumerist culture as well as the of the larger society, sparked the formation of the Homosexuelle Interessengemeinschaft (Homosexual Interest Group) and led to an American-style liberation movement. In 1972, West Berlin lesbians formed the "women's section" of the gay and lesbian group, Homosexual Action Westberlin, and in 1973 they organized the first lesbian demonstration in Germany, protesting against a series of articles in a newspaper that defamed lesbians.

In 1973 the Homosexuelle Interessengemeinschaft Berlin applied to meet publicly in East Berlin. Although it was denied permission to do so, an East German movement for gay and lesbian rights slowly came into being, meeting at first primarily in private quarters and churches and, later, under the auspices of the Communist Party, which in 1986 finally reversed policy and attempted to integrate gay men and lesbians into society.

Lesbian and gay groups grew throughout the1980s in both East and West Germany. Lesbians also became increasingly visible in the feminist movement. At the time of reunification in 1990, nation-wide glbtq groups were already in place.

It was not until 1985, forty years after the end of the war, that the first public commemoration memorialized the murders of homosexuals by the Nazis. In 1994 the reunified Germany not only abolished the original Paragraph 175, but it also set the age of consent for homosexual relations at sixteen, the same as for heterosexual relations.

Germany Today

Today in Germany, far from being persecuted, the glbtq community is welcomed and celebrated by many. Berlin's annual Christopher Street Day Parade, a celebration of gay pride, draws approximately 400,000 people each year, probably the largest glbtq crowd in Europe. Large parades are also held in Cologne, Hamburg, and other major cities. Both Berlin and Munich have become gay and lesbian tourist destinations. Germany's large cities offer a wide variety of glbtq venues, including coffee houses, bars, bookstores, and community centers.

In the 1980s, Berlin's Schwules Museum opened as a private institution dedicated to preserving, exhibiting, and discovering homosexual history, art, and culture. Reminiscent of Hirschfeld's Institute, the museum houses one of the world's largest collections of historical documents and artifacts pertaining to glbtq history. Not surprisingly, the museum emphasizes the struggles, sufferings, and resistance of homosexuals under the repressive Nazi regime.

"Life Partnerships" were authorized by the German Parliament (Bundestag) in November 2000. This action extended to gay and lesbian couples virtually all the rights that heterosexual couples enjoy, including the right to the same surnames, hospital visitation rights, rights as next of kin in medical decisions, some parental rights over the other partner's children, inheritance rights regarding health insurance and pensions, and so on.

In June of 2001, voters of Berlin elected Klaus Wowereit, an openly gay man, as the city's new mayor.

In December of 2003, the Bundestag agreed to pay $610,000 for a building to commemorate homosexual victims of Nazi persecution. The edifice will be placed along the Tiergarten Park, a place of prominence in the heart of Berlin.

A leading member of the European Union (EU), Germany has embraced EU's human rights principles, which (as interpreted by the European Court of Human Rights) forbid discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Along with France, Belgium, the Netherlands, and the Scandinavian members, Germany has supported a number of initiatives to bring members of the glbtq community closer to equal citizenship.

Of course, homophobia remains a problem in Germany, as elsewhere. The rise of Neo-Nazis and a revival of radical right-wing political parties pose genuine threats to the freedom of homosexuals, among other groups in German society. It remains to be seen whether the forces of repression will be able to stem the emergent feelings of glbtq pride, awareness, and openness.

Alex Hunnicutt

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social sciences >> Overview:  Sodomy

First used to refer only to anal intercourse, sodomy was progressively defined by the Church Fathers, and many later lawmakers, to include all sexual acts that could not result in procreation.

social sciences >> Overview:  Austria

A small German-speaking country in middle Europe, Austria is now home to a thriving glbtq subculture.

social sciences >> Overview:  Berlin

Notable in the twentieth century both for its pioneering efforts in homosexual emancipation and for the subsequent Nazi persecution of homosexuals, Berlin is now a major participant in the struggle to gain legal recognition of gay relationships.

social sciences >> Overview:  Civil Union

Vermont's Civil Union law conferred all the rights, benefits, and responsibilities of marriage on same-sex couples.

social sciences >> Overview:  Domestic Partnerships

"Domestic partnership" is the generic term for a variety of forms of legal and institutional recognition of same-sex couples that fall short of same-sex marriage.

literature >> Overview:  German and Austrian Literature: Before the Nineteenth Century

The treatment of homosexuality in German and Austrian literature was largely negative until the eighteenth century, when the basis was laid for the development of a more positive attitude.

literature >> Overview:  German and Austrian Literature: Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries

With major periodic setbacks, over the last two centuries German-speaking authors have gradually developed a gay and lesbian positive literature.

social sciences >> Overview:  Homosexuality

The term "homosexuality," coined in 1869, with "heterosexuality" as its opposite, has led to a binary concept that oversimplifies the complexity of human sexual behavior.

social sciences >> Overview:  Nazism and the Holocaust

As part of its agenda to preserve an "Aryan master race," Nazism persecuted homosexuals as "asocial parasites"; more than 100,000 men were arrested on homosexual charges during the Nazi years, with 5,000-15,000 gay men incarcerated in concentration camps.

social sciences >> Overview:  Parades and Marches

Both parades and marches have served to render the glbtq community visible; whereas marches typically attempt to effect political change, parades and pride events affirm identity and community.

social sciences >> Overview:  Prague

The capital and largest city of the Czech Republic, Prague is the hub of the country's gay and lesbian life and the center of its glbtq political movement.

social sciences >> Overview:  Switzerland

Switzerland is a very cosmopolitan nation with a vibrant glbtq community, but it has lagged behind much of Europe, particularly the Nordic countries, when it comes to assuring equal rights.

social sciences >> Overview:  Third Sex

The relative popularity of the term "third sex" to refer to homosexuals is closely connected to its use by some of the most prominent representatives of the early homosexual rights movement in Germany.

arts >> Berber, Anita

Expressionist exotic dancer and actress in German silent movies, Anita Berber epitomized for many the decadence of Weimar-era Berlin.

social sciences >> Brand, Adolf

Editor, photographer, and activist, Adolf Brand was the leader of a faction of the early German homosexual emancipation movement whose cultural views were expressed in Der Eigene (The Self-Owner), the first homosexual literary and artistic journal.

social sciences >> Don't Ask, Don't Tell

The "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy, in effect from 1993 until 2011, was a compromise intended to end discrimination against gay men and lesbians in the U. S. military, but it failed to halt discharges based solely on sexual orientation.

social sciences >> Eulenburg-Hertefeld, Philipp, Prince zu

A favorite of Kaiser Wilhelm II, to whom he gave political advice, Philipp zu Eulenburg was involved with a circle of homosexual men, and his life ended in scandal.

social sciences >> European Commission on Human Rights / European Court of Human Rights

The European Commission on Human Rights was the first international human rights organization to condemn homophobia; the European Court of Human Rights, which replaced the Commission, has also helped enforce glbtq rights.

social sciences >> Frederick the Great

The homosexuality of Frederick the Great of Prussia was an open secret during his reign, yet some historians have attempted to deny it or to diminish its significance.

social sciences >> Freud, Sigmund

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social sciences >> Hiller, Kurt

German writer and activist Kurt Hiller contributed to several pacifist and intellectual movements, including the fight to repeal Paragraph 175, which criminalized homosexuality.

social sciences >> Hirschfeld, Magnus

German-born Magnus Hirschfeld deserves recognition as a significant theorist of sexuality and the most prominent advocate of homosexual emancipation of his time.

literature >> Isherwood, Christopher

A major Anglo-American novelist and a pioneer in the gay liberation movement, Christopher Isherwood created gay characters whose homosexuality is a simple given, an integral part of the wholeness of personality and an emblem of their common humanity.

social sciences >> Kertbeny, Károly Mária

Károly Mária Kertbeny, an Austro-Hungarian man of letters, translator, and journalist deserves credit for coining the word homosexual.

social sciences >> Krafft-Ebing, Richard von

The carefully detailed case studies of nineteenth-century psychiatrist Richard von Krafft-Ebing shed light on the sexual habits of a wide spectrum of men and women.

social sciences >> Krupp, Friedrich Alfred

Friedrich Krupp, heir to the German armament company, was accused of betraying his birthright by pursuing homosexual pleasures in the south of Italy.

social sciences >> Ludwig II of Bavaria

Best known for his enthusiastic patronage of Richard Wagner and for his fabulous castles, Ludwig II of Bavaria withdrew from public life, perhaps in part due to the impossibility of living openly as a gay man.

arts >> Mann, Erika

Writer, actress, and intellectual refugee from the Third Reich, Erika Mann was one of the twentieth century's most intriguing nonconformists, noted especially for her anti-fascist cabaret satire.

social sciences >> Paragraph 175

Paragraph 175 was the German law prohibiting sex between men; strengthened by the Nazis, it was the statue under which homosexuals were sent to concentration camps.

social sciences >> Pink Triangle

Originally a mark of criminalization and persecution under the Nazis, the pink triangle was later reclaimed by gays both as a memorial and as a celebration of sexual identity.

arts >> Praunheim, Rosa von

One of Germany's leading gay activists and chroniclers of queer life, filmmaker Rosa von Praunheim makes films intended to foster self-examination by gay people and to advance gay rights.

literature >> Roellig, Ruth Margarete

Chronicler of Berlin's lesbian club scene of the late 1920s, writer Ruth Roellig was part of the lively gay counterculture of Germany's Weimar era.

social sciences >> Röhm, Ernst

Ernst Röhm, both an avid supporter of Hitler and the national socialist movement in Germany and a homosexual, was assassinated in 1934, when the German leader "cleansed" the party of homosexuals.

social sciences >> Rüling, Anna (Theo Anna Sprüngli)

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social sciences >> Seel, Pierre

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social sciences >> Ulrichs, Karl Heinrich

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social sciences >> Wolff, Charlotte

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Adam, Barry D. The Rise of a Gay and Lesbian Movement. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1995.

Duberman, Martin Bauml. About Time: Exploring the Gay Past. New York: Gay Presses of New York, 1986.

Faderman, Lillian, and Brigitte Eriksson, eds. Lesbians in Germany, 1890s-1920s. Tallahassee, Fla.: Naiad, 1980.

Friedrich, Otto. Before the Deluge: A Portrait of Berlin in the 1920s. New York: Harper and Row, 1995.

Hark, Sabine. "Germany." Lesbian Histories and Cultures. Bonnie Zimmerman, ed. New York: Garland, 2000. 330-33.

Heger, Heinz. The Men with the Pink Triangle: The True, Life-and-Death Story of Homosexuals in the Nazi Death Camps. David Fernbach, trans. Boston: Alyson Publications, 1980.

Hull, Isabel V. The Entourage of Kaiser Wilhelm II, 1888-1918. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1982.

Miller, Neil. Out of the Past: Gay and Lesbian History from 1869 to the Present. New York: Random House, 1995.

Plant, Richard. The Pink Triangle: The Nazi War Against Homosexuals. New York: Henry Holt and Company, 1986.


    Citation Information
    Author: Hunnicutt, Alex  
    Entry Title: Germany  
    General Editor: Claude J. Summers  
    Publication Name: glbtq: An Encyclopedia of Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual,
Transgender, and Queer Culture
    Publication Date: 2004  
    Date Last Updated November 24, 2006  
    Web Address  
    Publisher glbtq, Inc.
1130 West Adams
Chicago, IL   60607
    Today's Date  
    Encyclopedia Copyright: © 2002-2006, glbtq, Inc.  
    Entry Copyright © 2004, glbtq, inc.  


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