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This 99-year-old Holocaust survivor who was imprisoned for being gay ‘doesn’t deserve compensation’

Josh Jackman December 5, 2017

Wolfgang Lauinger was denied compensation (Creative Commons)

He survived the Holocaust, only to spend months in prison for being gay when he returned home.

And now, 99-year-old Wolfgang Lauinger has been denied compensation by Germany.

Lauinger was forced to spend at least five months of 1950 in prison, detained because of a homophobic 1871 law which became strictly enforced under the Nazis.

(FILES) This File Picture taken on January 13, 2005 shows the main gate entering the Nazi Auschwitz death camp at sunrise.   Thieves have stolen the infamous sign at the entrance of Poland's Nazi-era concentration camp, Auschwitz, "Arbeit macht frei" ("Work will set you free"), police and museum staff reported on December 18, 2009. "The inscription was stolen early this morning," museum spokesman Jaroslaw Mensfeld told AFP.   AFP PHOTO/JANEK SKARZYNSKI (Photo credit should read JANEK SKARZYNSKI/AFP/Getty Images)
(Getty)

Paragraph 175 was part of Germany’s criminal code until 1994, and made sex between men illegal.

Over 140,000 men were convicted under the law, with around 50,000 prosecuted.

This year, decades after most of the victims were arrested and imprisoned, Germany announced that it would compensate the men.

BERLIN, GERMANY - MARCH 14: German Chancellor and Chairwoman of the German Christian Democrats (CDU) Angela Merkel prepares to speak to the media following elections in three German states on March 14, 2016 in Berlin, Germany. Voters went to the polls yesterday in Rhineland-Palatinate, Saxony-Anhalt and Baden-Wuerttemberg and the right-leaning populist Alternative fuer Deutschland (Alternative for Germany,AfD) scored double-digit results in all three, dealing a blow to Germany's established parties, especially to the CDU. Merkel's liberal immigration policy towards migrants and refugees was a major issue in the elections and the AfD aimed its campaign at Germans who are uneasy with so many newcomers. (Photo by Axel Schmidt/Getty Images)
(Getty)

The country set aside 30 million euros to right this historical wrong.

But despite the pain and suffering he was forced to endure by his country, Lauinger has not seen one cent of this fund, according to BuzzFeed Germany.

He grew up gay in early-20th century Germany, spent time in prison for his sexuality, fought to overturn the country’s hateful law and campaigned for compensation.

But when he submitted a claim shortly after the government passed its law, he was rejected.

Justice Minister Heiko Maas (Getty)
Justice Minister Heiko Maas (Getty)

“I regret that I can not give you a more favourable answer,” reads the response from Germany’s Ministry of Justice.

“I laughed when I got a rejection,” said Lauinger, whose Jewish father was sent to Buchenwald concentration camp, leading his son to flee Germany.

“The sense of the thing is wonderful, but the law is not a real rehabilitation of the people who suffered from the system,” he added.

BERLIN, GERMANY - SEPTEMBER 24: Opponents of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) protest against the result of the AfD after reaching a better-than-expected 13% and third place finish in German federal elections on September 24, 2017 in Berlin, Germany. The results will qualify the AfD to have its own parliamentarians in the Bundestag. The party will likely pursue an opposition political discourse focused on immigration restrictions, anti-Islam rhetoric, security and conservative values. (Photo by Maja Hitij/Getty Images)
Protesters with a sign reading: “Hate is no alternative” (Getty)

“I’m 99 now. I saw the law as a way to make amends. And I have made an application like any good citizen of this country.

“But the law has been made a farce. What is the difference for a normal person if you are in prison for five months, whether you are released or are acquitted?

Of the 63 requests for compensation which the government has received, only 31 have so far been approved, according to BuzzFeed.

6th September 1938:  The Chancellor of Germany, Adolf Hitler (1889 -1945) standing in his car as he travels through the ancient town of Nuremberg to open the Nazi Congress. In the rear seat of the car on the left is Hitler's secretary and friend Martin Bormann (1900 - 1945).  (Photo by Keystone/Getty Images)
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Three have been rejected, including Lauinger’s.

“Is that justice?” the 99-year-old asked.

“For a long time in my life, I thought my homosexuality was my personal affair – just as the sexuality of every heterosexual is his personal matter,” he continued.

Adolf Hitler, German dictator, ascending the steps at Buckeberg flanked by banner-carrying storm troopers who display the Nazi swastika.   (Photo by Hulton Archive/Getty Images)
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“At a ripe age, I had to revise this view.

“Unfortunately, as long as people are persecuted for this most personal thing in the world, it is not a purely private matter.”

But despite his suffering and rejection by the German government, Lauinger remains upbeat.

Two women kiss as they attend a rally of gays and lesbian
Two women kiss as they attend a rally of gays and lesbians in front of the Brandenburg Gate (Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images)

“I am an optimist,” he said.

“I pretend I will live for another 100 years. Sometimes I wake up at night and imagine things that I will do. Then I think: you’re crazy!

“I am now 99 years old, and I hope to be 100. But all my work has nothing to do with hope.

Brandenberg gate rainbow
(Getty)

“For me, the game continues, until I am no longer there. And I hope it’s over before I die.”

When asked about Lauinger’s predicament, Justice Minister Heiko Maas said: “It concerns me that the law can not be applied in this case.”

When he was questioned about how he would change the outcome, Maas responded: “I cannot tell you.”

More: compensation, Europe, Europe, Gay, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Germany, Germany, Heiko Maas, Homophobia, homophobic, jew, Judaism, Law, ministry of justice, Nazis, paragraph 175

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