Curator's comments
What was Paragraph 175?
play video...
What was Paragraph 175?


Paragraph 175 had been part of German criminal code from time of the German Empire under Kaiser Wilhelm I. As part of a massive rewriting of the criminal code, Nazi jurists revised Paragraph 175. Issued on June 28, 1935, and put into effect on September 1, 1935, the revision emphasized the criminality of both men involved in "indecency."

The revised law opened the way to new judicial interpretations because criminalized homosexuality was no longer described as "unnatural" (though the term frequently appeared in police documents thereafter). Even before the new law went into effect, Nazi courts expanded the range of so–called indecent acts beyond the single offense prosecuted under the old law. By 1938, German courts ruled that any contact between men deemed to have sexual intent, even "simple looking" or "simple touching," could be grounds for arrest and conviction.

Reichgesetzblatt¸ Teil 1, Jahrgang 1935, p. 841: Article 6 "Unzucht [indecency] zwischen Männer," §175 and 175a (28 June 1935).

In 1937, Das Schwarze Korps declared that Nazi efforts to combat homosexuality "proved" that fewer than 2 men in 100 were "abnormal." That minority, however (some 40,000 men nationwide, according to the author) posed such a threat, particularly to the nation's susceptible youth, that they should be treated as "enemies of the state" and destroyed.

New language added as Paragraph 175a specifically imposed up to ten years' hard labor for "indecency" committed under coercion, with adolescents under the age of 21, and for male prostitution. In practice, however, individuals victimized by acts punishable under these new provisions could be—and were—prosecuted as criminals according to Paragraph 175. (The revised law left homosexuality between women unmentioned.)

Related Articles
Law and Justice in the Third Reich