chapter
Berlin
Pages 3

The Berlin of the 1920s is still one of the historical markers of gay liberation. But the emancipated Berlin that Christopher Isherwood so famously described in his Berlin Stories was framed by less liberated periods for gay people. It was not before the turn of the eighteenth century that the death penalty for homosexual activities was changed to imprisonment, physical punishment, and exile. In 1871, this punishment achieved legal force for the entire German nation with the installation of paragraph 175. Although punishment for gay sex was carried out by the German state long before paragraph 175, this law marks the beginning of 124 years of legal discrimination against gay men. In its wording, paragraph 175 defined any sexual activities between men as well as between men and animals as perverse sexual offenses and provided for imprisonment of six months up to four years and the loss of citizenship.