Germany compensates homosexual soldiers for historic systemic discrimination

German Chancellor Olaf Scholz reviews a military unit. (MTI/EPA/Friedemann Vogel)
By Dénes Albert
2 Min Read

The German Ministry of Defense has paid out €398,000 in compensation to 178 homosexual soldiers since a law rehabilitating troops who suffered discrimination came into force two years ago.

In a statement, the defense ministry said it had expected more applicants but that the legislation had achieved its goal of putting right the historic wrongs. The law came about following a study in 2020 that revealed “systematic cases of discrimination” in the Bundeswehr from 1955 to the beginning of the 21st century.

Discrimination against gay soldiers was first reported by the underperforming German army around 2000 and it took two decades to decide on compensation for those affected.

The law also offers compensation for homosexuals who served in the National People’s Army of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), more commonly known as East Germany.

Germany’s federal defense minister personally apologized to the gay soldiers when the study was released. That minister was none other than Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who for a while was Chancellor Angela Merkel’s chosen successor, but failed to live up to expectations.

Among other things, the study found that gay soldiers were previously seen as a security risk in the German armed forces and consensual gay sex was punished with demotion or dismissal before the 2000s.

The defense ministry said in a statement that the reconciliation between the gay soldiers concerned and the “Bundeswehr cannot be measured solely by the number of successful rehabilitation procedures and related payments”.

Individual, appreciative communication and comradely attention are as much a part of it as acknowledging that injustice was done to those affected in the past, the ministry added, expressing regret for the previous behavior.

Soldiers have until July 2026 to apply for symbolic compensation.

In recent years, Germany has tried to deal with past anti-gay discrimination in various ways. For example, in 2017, parliament voted to overturn convictions against thousands of gay men following a previous law criminalizing homosexuality.

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