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The homosexual group Gesellschaft für Reform des Sexualrechts (Association for the Reform of Sexual Laws) and the 1950ies Berlin
Wir über uns
The Struggle for Law and Against Persecution

The decriminalization of Gay relationships and sexual equal rights were the primary objectives of the GfRdS. The alliance had also the claims for reparations for the NS (National Socialist [i.e. Nazi])-persecutions. At that time, in the 1950s, the fate of the persecuted Gays was totally unresolved. Kurt Hiller suggested that the KZ [Konzentrationslager - concentration camp]-victims and other victtims of persecution should go public with their experiences with the help of Berlin WhK activist Werner Becker, but this was not realized. The governments of East and West Germany refused to recognize the claims of Gay NS victims because the persecution was considered legal under the current laws. Association lawyer Werner Hesse, himself a survivor of Nazi persecution, had tried everything, within the law to help the victims.

The struggle for all of them in the 1950s was against the persistent punishment by § 175 and § 175a continued through from the NS-laws and the everyday practice of discrimination. The growing police persecution and the increase in the number of convictions in West Berlin followed the decisions of the high courts of West Germany, that maintaining special laws against Gays was valid and in accordance and consistent with basic constitutional law. The Gay movement lead the renewed protest against the wave of persecution, through resistance and protective measures. The GfRdS wanted to help through process representation and legal aid. Werner Hesse delivered over and above an expert opinion for the lawsuits before the Federal Constitutional Court. The movement members wrote protest letters against the police and protested against the notorious Volkswartbund (League for the People's Point of View), which wanted to increase the persecution of Gays and to abolish their right to congregate and publish magazines.

The increase in persecutions in the 1950s was from the West Berlin National Criminal Office run by high commissioner Ernst Schramm. He managed 13 officers taken from the Sonderdienststelle zur Bekämpfung der Homosexualität [Special Civil Service for the Fight Against Homosexuality]. Among them were at least two officers who had worked out of the Berlin Nazi-Homosexual department of the Kripo [criminal police], who had decided to send many Gays to concentration camps for "their own protection".

One of the first protest letters by the GfRdS concerned the practice, in 1951, of the Kripo, automatically notifying the work sites of their interrogations of the accused and suspects. The association's board of directors, after the letter, had consequently reported, that they "up to now had received unfortunately only verbal assurances, from the West Berlin criminal police that these methods, taken over from the time of the Nazis, would in the future be handled otherwise!"

Werner Hesse kept a record of all the convictions in Berlin and published his statistics. In November 1951 during an evening lecture he reported to the GfRdS that with the verdicts from § 175 [the courts] had consistently fined 75 % and sentenced [to prison] 25 %. These conviction statistics he gave to all the judges of the criminal division. The criminal sentences continued from the middle of the 1950s with the doctrine of deterrence calling for increased severity of sentences. Throughout the course of the enforcement of the national repression, the Gay community began in the mid 1950s step by step to break up - among others the Gay magazines through the Gesetz gegen jugendgefährdende Schriften (law against writing things harmful to youths) - turned out to also cause the GfRdS to go from an offensive position to a defensive position. Their special commitment to the decriminalization of the relationships between men and youths (§ 175a) was lost due to the seduction of public media hysteria and the so called youth protection debate.

After the scandalous 1957 verdict of the high constitutional court it appeared that their ability to abolish the criminal nature of man to man sexual contact had been lost. The federal German position was unmovable so they adopted a new position by introducing international democratization. The GfRdS for example forwarded the British Wolfenden- and Griffin-reports, showing from liberal and Catholic points of view that they recommended the decriminalization of man to man sexual relations. Not until 1969 did the German Bundestag [parliament] finally change its position and liberalize § 175 from its NS-text.

From the WhK to the Gesellschaft für Reform des Sexualrechts e.V. (Registered Society for the Reform of Sexual Laws) 1948 - 1951

The Gesellschaft für Reform des Sexualrechts e.V. (Society for Reform of Sexual Laws registered association) 1951 - 1960

Gay People - promotion, surveys, self-identity

Gay Locations in Berlin

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