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Josef Meisinger on "Combating Homosexuality as a Political Task" (April 5-6, 1937)

During the Weimar Republic, the criminal prosecution of homosexuals (which dated as far back as the Holy Roman Empire) had declined considerably. In fact, on October 16, 1929, a Reichstag committee had even voted to repeal Paragraph 175 of the Criminal Code, the German statute that prohibited sexual relations between men. But the rise of the Nazi regime prevented the implementation of the repeal. Additionally, the criminalization of homosexuality became an ideological imperative under National Socialism. According to Nazi ideology, homosexuality was “unnatural” and homosexuals were shirking their national duty to establish families. The National Socialists argued that homosexuality was fast becoming a “national epidemic” and that it was leading to the loss of urgently needed offspring. Thus, sex between men was no longer a private matter but rather an act of treason.

On June 28, 1935, the Ministry of Justice revised Paragraph 175. (The statute dated back to 1871, but its enforcement prior to Hitler’s seizure of power had been sporadic and uneven.) The amended version of Paragraph 175 extended the persecution of homosexuals by broadening the definition of “criminally indecent activities between men” and stipulating harsher sentences for so-called offenders. Heinrich Himmler regarded the persecution of homosexuals as so crucial that he established the Reich Central Office for Combating Abortion and Homosexuality in 1936. Under the leadership of the criminal police inspector and SS-member Josef Meisinger (1899-1947), this office collected data on men convicted – or suspected – of homosexuality and then used it to prosecute them. The tightening of Paragraph 175 led to the sentencing of more than 50,000 men. After the start of the war, convicted homosexuals were increasingly likely to be sent to concentration camps, where, identified by pink triangles, they occupied the lower rungs of the prisoner hierarchy. In the following speech, Meisinger explains that the harsher prosecution of homosexuals was necessary on racial grounds. He made distinctions, however, between the treatment of male and female homosexuals, as lesbianism was regarded as much less dangerous.

In 1940, Meisinger was transferred to Poland, where, first as deputy of the so-called Operations Group IV [Einsatzgruppe IV] and then as commander of the security police and SD in Warsaw, he was responsible for murdering thousands of Poles. He was tried in Poland in 1947 and sentenced to death.

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Combating Abortion and Homosexuality as a Political Task
Speech by criminal police inspector Josef Meisinger at a meeting of ministerial civil servants in charge of health matters on April 5-6, 1937, in Berlin [excerpts]

[ . . . ] Since, as we know, homosexuals are useless for normal sexual intercourse, homosexuality also has an effect on young blood and will eventually lead to a drop in the birth rate. The result is a general weakening of the nation's strength of the kind that threatens not least a nation's military capacity. In the end, however, homosexuality is a permanent threat to order in the life of the state. Apart from being itself a punishable violation of that order, it is especially dangerous because it is often the starting point for a series of further crimes. Very often it comes as a preliminary to treason and, in numerous cases it lays the basis for blackmail. [ . . . ]

If one is really to appreciate the hidden danger of homosexuality, it is no longer enough to consider it as before from a narrowly criminal viewpoint. Because it is now so enormously widespread, it has actually developed into a phenomenon of the most far-reaching consequence for the survival of the nation and state. For this reason, however, homosexuality can no longer be regarded simply from the viewpoint of criminal investigation; it has become a problem with political importance. This being so, it cannot be the task of the police to investigate homosexuality scientifically. At the most it can take account of scientific conclusions in its work. Their task is to ascertain homosexual trends and their damaging effects, so as to avert the danger that this phenomenon represents for nation and state. No one says to the police: you shouldn't arrest this thief because he might have acquired kleptomania. Similarly, once we have recognized that a homosexual is an enemy of the state, we shan't ask the police—and much less the Political Police—whether he has acquired his vice or whether he was born with it. I should mention here that experience has shown beyond doubt that only a vanishingly small number of homosexuals have a truly homosexual inclination, that most of them by far have been quite normally active at one time or another and then turned to this area simply because they were sated with life's pleasures or for various other reasons such as fear of venereal diseases. I should also say that, with firm education and order, and regulated labor, a great number of homosexuals who have come to the attention of the authorities have been taught to become useful members of the national community.

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