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Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Germany constitutional court upholds ban on public support of Nazi regime
Sarah Miley at 2:14 PM ET

[JURIST] The German Federal Constitutional Court announced [press release, in German] Tuesday that it upheld [text, in German] legislation prohibiting public support and justification of the Nazi regime. The ruling, made earlier this month, means that neo-Nazis are forbidden from assembling for the purposes of of approving, glorifying or justifying the Nazi regime. Violations are punishable by up to three years in prison. The German constitution prohibits the state from banning a specific opinion, but the court distinguished this ruling based on the special circumstances.

[G]iven the injustice and terror the Nazi dictatorship caused, this exception is inherent for rules limiting propaganda approving the historic Nazi dictatorship.

The court reasoned that the restriction was necessary to protect public peace and the dignity of the victims of the Nazis, which are "supreme constitutional values." The legislation was originally enacted in 1991 as a response to neo-Nazis assembling for an annual memorial at the grave site of Rudolph Hess [History Place profile], Deputy of the Nazi party and close advisor to Adolph Hitler. The restriction was repealed in 2000, but in the following years neo-Nazi marches drew thousands of participants [The Guardian report], and the legislation was reenacted in 2005.

Courts are still dealing with the acts of alleged Nazi war criminals. This week, a 90-year-old German man was charged in a German court with 58 counts of murder stemming from his involvement with the Nazi party during World War II. The man, who has not been named, was a member of an SS tank regiment and allegedly shot 57 Jews [BBC report] in an Austrian forced labor camp. In July, German prosecutors charged [JURIST report] former Ohio resident John Demjanjuk [NNDB profile] with 27,900 accessory counts stemming from his alleged involvement as a guard at the Sobibor [Death Camps backgrounder] concentration camp, where more than 260,000 people were executed in gas chambers.

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