German President Frank-Walter Steinmeier has publicly apologised for the country’s historical persecution of LGBTI people.

Steinmeier spoke in Berlin at the 10th anniversary of the Memorial to Homosexuals Persecuted Under Nazism, asking for “forgiveness” of the country’s past treatment of LGBTI people, according to Gay Star News.

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The memorial is a concrete block symbolising imprisonment and death, containing behind a small window a video of a gay couple kissing.

“The German state has inflicted grave suffering on these people,” Steinmeier said.

“Above all, under the National Socialists, but also afterwards, in East Germany and for too long under [West German] Basic Law.

“That is why I ask for forgiveness today—for all the suffering and injustice that has happened, and for the long silence that followed.”

Nineteenth-century German laws against homosexuality became stricter under the Nazis in 1935.

Thousands of gay men, lesbians and gender diverse people were imprisoned, tortured and raped in concentration camps during World War II.

After the war, many remained in jail for decades under anti-LGBTI laws.

Germany last year pardoned tens of thousands of men who were convicted of gay sex offences between 1945 and 1969.

Those who had been convicted were paid compensation by the government.

“It was only because of their love of men and their sexual identity that they were persecuted, punished and outlawed by the German state,” said Justice Minister Heiko Maas, who called the historical laws “crimes of the state”.

Germany’s anti-homosexuality laws were relaxed in 1969, but only fully abolished in 1994.

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