Paragraph 175

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For the Nazis, ​"the German national ​community" or “Volksgemeinschaft”​represented a community of racially superior individuals who accepted and obeyed Nazi ideology. The Nazis demanded the German public’s unconditional obedience, and they tolerated no criticism, dissent, or nonconformity.

In 1936, the Gestapo (Secret State Police) established a central office to investigate homosexuals. It was called the Reich Central Office for the Combating of Homosexuality and Abortion. The linking of homosexuality and abortion reflected the Nazi concern with expanding the population of "racially acceptable" Germans.

Some leading Nazis feared that the relative shortage of men in Germany and the possible size of the homosexual population would seriously hinder the expansion of the German population, which was already suffering a low birth rate.

Harry PaulyAbout 50,000 German men were convicted under Paragraph 175 of the German criminal code. Between 5,000 and 15,000 German homosexual men were confined in Nazi concentration camps, usually after serving their prison sentences.

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 expanded​ 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.

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 ​did not reference​ homosexuality between women.

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