VDefense Minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer (CDU) wants to speed up the rehabilitation of homosexual soldiers after decades of systematic discrimination. “The Bundeswehr’s attitude towards homosexuality was wrong. It was wrong back then and lagged behind society, and from today’s point of view it is even more so, ”said Kramp-Karrenbauer on Thursday in Berlin about the publication of a Bundeswehr study that shed light on state persecution. “I very much regret this practice. I apologize to all those who suffered from this, ”said Kramp-Karrenbauer.
Under the title “Taboo and Tolerance”, the Bundeswehr Center for Military History and Social Sciences examined the Bundeswehr’s handling of homosexuality for the first time “on a broad source basis” from 1955 to the turn of the millennium. Internal ministry papers and decisions by troop service courts were also evaluated. “Same-sex orientation was considered a security risk in the Bundeswehr up to the turn of the millennium and made a career as an officer or non-commissioned officer impossible,” the scientists write.
“Then all hell broke loose,” recalls a captain who was relieved as company commander in 1981 and whose case is being considered, according to the study. Excellent appraisals had promised excellent career prospects. “All of that suddenly was worth nothing, because the captain was gay,” they say. A chain of coincidences had made this known to the employer. His partner had been drafted for military service and was to be deployed in the barracks officers’ quarters – under the command of the captain. The relationship between the two men had already been put on record before the younger man was drafted into the Military Counter-Intelligence Service (MAD). The captain was relieved of his duties and forbidden to wear a uniform or to enter barracks. The aim was to remove from the service, which the man before the Federal Administrative Court could avert.
Often the decision to discharge
But often – this also becomes clear – the civil courts have decided on dismissal. “If soldiers were convicted of homosexual acts according to §175 StGB, the criminal judgment was regularly followed by an accusation by the military disciplinary attorney and a conviction by the troop service courts. It didn’t matter whether it was consensual sex, ”the researchers state. A distinction between abuse – which is still persecuted today – and consensual sex often did not exist in earlier times, which makes it difficult to date to precisely quantify the number of victims of this policy. “The figures for 1965 and 1966 show an astonishing continuity of around 45 soldiers sentenced each year,” the researchers state.
Dealing with homosexuality in the Bundeswehr cannot be understood without understanding homosexuality in West German society, the authors write. The disciplinary law of the Bundeswehr followed the general legal norms. Until 1969, a conviction for Section 175 of the Criminal Code usually meant that civil servants would be removed from service.
After the decriminalization of homosexuality in 1969, the Military Service Senate of the Federal Administrative Court consequently decided in 1970 that these acts by soldiers no longer constitute a service offense – unless there was an official reference. However, the interpretation gave the Bundeswehr its own room for maneuver. In the early 1970s, the “official connection” was already considered to be given when two soldiers had sexual relations privately without official contacts.
U-turn only in 2000
Only SPD Defense Minister Rudolf Scharping turned around in 2000. Before that – in 1998 – a train driver who had been relieved of his post had lodged a constitutional complaint. Scharping implemented a new course “against the declared will and stubborn resistance of the military leadership of the armed forces,” according to the researchers. The core sentence of July 3, 2000 was “unagitated”: “Homosexuality does not constitute a reason for restrictions with regard to use or status and therefore also does not represent a suitability criterion that has to be checked separately.”
“I can hardly imagine what continuous tension, what fear, but also what humiliation it was,” said Kramp-Karrenbauer on Thursday. “And what that must have meant for those affected.” A bill on rehabilitation is well advanced and will shortly be distributed for departmental coordination. “With this law we will have to go to the edge of what is legally feasible,” said the minister. The Armed Forces Commissioner Eva Högl demanded: “The sticking point here will be how the soldiers affected can be compensated. We owe such compensation to the soldiers concerned. “
The Lesbian and Gay Association (LSVD) welcomes the initiative to come to terms with the discrimination and described the compensation as “long overdue”: “The democratic constitutional state must finally correct the decades of injustice and bring justice to the victims.”