The Germanic Mosaic: Cultural and Linguistic Diversity in Society

By Carol Aisha Blackshire-Belay | Go to book overview

29
The Construction of Homosexuality in National Socialist Germany

ROBERT VOCCA

Why homosexual women and men have been discriminated against up to our present age is a problem with multiple psychosocial causes that cannot be fully treated within the constraints of this chapter. However, I will attempt to investigate the state-sanctioned persecution of homosexuals in the Third Reich and how the ideological construction of "homosexuality" by the National Socialists justified the police and legal actions that followed 1933. It must be pointed out that the government's homophobia did not end concomitantly with the destruction of National Socialist Germany. Paragraph 175, which outlawed homosexuality, was reworded in 1935 in order to streamline the procedure for obtaining a conviction and interning the offender in a concentration camp. This revised version survived intact until 1969 and was removed from the list of criminal offenses in January 1991.

The construction of homosexuality as a punishable crime was used as a method of regulating social control long before National Socialist Germany. However, the persecution of homosexuals by the Nazis reached a heretofore unseen systematicity. The attempted suppression of homosexual desire, through the agency of criminal law, forms a historical continuum from Christian antiquity to our so-called enlightened present. In 538 of the Common Era, Justinian of Christian Rome criminalized in his Codex Justinianus "acts contrary to nature" and "the defilement of males." The Christian-influenced criminalization of homosexuality was also seen in secular law by the year 1270 in France1 The penalty for men was as follows: "He who has been proved to be a sodomite must lose his testicles. And if he does it a second time, he must lose his member. And if he does it a third time, he must be burned" (Crompton: 13).

In more recent times, the precepts of Christian morality were not as predominant as the military and economically motivated ideologies surrounding human reproduction. The founder of modern German penal law,

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