The stepping up of prosecutions

With the support of new legal definitions of crime, a tightly knit national police and security apparatus, and a public opinion manipulated by propaganda and demagogy, the rate of prosecutions greatly increased after 1936. Whereas just a thousand people were convicted in 1934, there were already 5,310 in 1936.

Two years later, the statistics referred to 8,562 legally valid convictions. The police and prosecution departments, in the words of a regular commentary on crime figures, acted 'with ever growing vigour' against 'these moral aberrations which are so harmful to the strength of the Volk. And Prosecutor-General Wagner stressed what one could not have expected to be otherwise after all the investment in propaganda and police searches: 'the public, through its increased level of reporting, also [supports...] the fight against these offenses. Broadly speaking, no more homosexual acts were committed [ ...] than before, but they were recorded and prosecuted on a much larger scale than before.

Whereas between 1931 and 1933 a total of 2,319 persons were put on trial and found guilty of offences under §l75 of the Penal Code, this figure rose nearly tenfold in the first three years after the tougher redefinition of offenses. In the years from 1936 to 1938 the number convicted came to 22,143. No reliable data are available for the war years after 1943, so that the total number of convictions for homosexuality in the 'Third Reich' can only be estimated - roughly 50,000 men according to Wuttke. But the Gestapo or the Reich Office had considerably more on record as suspects or as presumed partners. Between 1937 and 1940 there were more than 90,000 men and youths.

Alongside this numerical increase there was also a qualitative toughening of prosecution policy. After 1933 the number of acquittals continually declined and by 1936 was down to a mere quarter of the figure for 1918 (the year with the most verdicts of 'not guilty'). The same trend is apparent in the fines handed down by courts, in comparison with which there was a marked increase in sentences of imprisonment or penal servitude. Men with previous convictions were treated with particular severity - above all so-called corrupters of youth, but also young men considered to be 'rentboys'.

At the instigation of the Reich Offfice special mobile units of the Gestapo carried out operations in a number of towns. The reasons could be quite varied: from the eradication of 'centres of the epidemic' in day or boarding schools to denunciations with a real or alleged political background.

There is no evidence of a sudden nation-wide 'clampdown' comparable to the attacks on Jews in the pogrom night of 1938. But the offensive was certainly coordinated in a number of ways. This was particularly true of actions with a clear political motivation: e.g., the arrests of thousands of priests, religions brothers and lay persons during the staged 'cloister trials' against the Catholic Church or the targeting of the activities of the Bund Youth that had already been banned in 1934, where special prominence was given to the trial of the Nerother Wandervogel in 1936.

The ultimately arbitrary nature of the Nazis' practice, especially that of Heinrich Himmler as architect of their anti-homosexual policy, is illustrated by the special regulation approved in October 1937 for actors and artists. Under the pretext of 'Reichization'- that is, of applying uniform norms throughout the Reich - the rules on preventive detention and police supervision that had been issued three years before were made tougher still at the end of 1937.

Now anyone who fitted the completely arbitrary criteria for an 'experienced' or 'habitual' male homosexual had to reckon that, after serving his term of imprisonment or penal servitude, he would be deported for 're-education' in a concentration camp.

Source: Hidden Holocaust ?, Günter Grau, Cassell, 1995. Translated from German by Patrick Camiller.

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