Reuters International

A reveller waves the rainbow flag during the Christopher Street Day parade in Berlin, June 23, 2012. REUTERS/Thomas Peter

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BERLIN (Reuters) - Germany plans to annul the historic convictions of tens of thousands of men charged under a law that criminalised homosexuality and to grant them financial compensation, the justice minister said on Wednesday.

The law originated in the 19th century, was toughened up by Hitler's Nazis and retained for decades in postwar West Germany, which used it to convict and jail some 50,000 men until 1969, when it finally decriminalised homosexuality.

German homosexuals who suffered under the law have had to live until now with the stigma of a criminal conviction.

"We will never be able to remove these outrages committed by this country but we want to rehabilitate the victims," Justice Minister Heiko Maas said in a statement.

"The convicted homosexual men should no longer have to live with the black mark of a criminal conviction," said Maas, a member of the centre-left Social Democrats (SPD), junior partner in conservative Chancellor Angela Merkel's ruling coalition.

The move follows recommendations from Germany's Anti-Discrimination Agency which had commissioned a report.

A ministry spokeswoman said it was unclear when a draft law would be completed. It was also unclear how much financial compensation those men affected might receive or how much support Maas's plan might receive from Merkel's conservatives.

The Lesbian and Gay Association urged the government to act quickly to bring in legislation.

"Time is pressing for victims of homosexual persecution to get their unfair convictions lifted and see their dignity restored," Der Spiegel Online quoted the association as saying.

(Reporting by Madeline Chambers; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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