"Germany for Germans" -
Xenophobia and Racist Violence
(condensed and cited from an April 1995 Human Rights Watch/Helsinki
publication, Library of Congress Catalog Number 95-76078, ISBN 1-56432-149-5,
pages 69-77 and 108-109)
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki is a non-governmental organization,
established in 1978, whose function is to monitor and promote the observance
of internationally recognized human rights as well as international compliance
with the human rights provisions of the 1975 Helsinki Accords. Its focus
is on Africa, the Americas, Asia, the Middle East and on the signatories
of said Helsinki Accords.
Human Rights Watch is supported by private individual and foundations worldwide.
It accepts no government fundsp;directly or indirectly. In other words,
it is an ideologically independent agency.
In an April 1995 publication, this agency released a stinging condemnation
of current governmental practices in Germany. In a chapter entitled "Government
Measures to Ban Right-Wing Groups and Prohibit Hate Speech," here
is what Human Rights News Watch/Helsinki says of Germany:
"The government has begun more rigorously to enforce laws prohibiting
racial incitement. It also treats any denial that the Holocaust occurred
(otherwise known as the "Auschwitz Lie") as incitement under
the criminal statutes. These steps were taken pursuant to laws that have
been in effect since World War II.
Human Rights Watch Helskinki acknowledges that the tragedy of the Holocaust
is the historical context in which such laws were adopted. We also recognize
that, by more rigorously enforcing these laws, the German government has
underscored the seriousness with which it views the danger posed by right-wing
extremists. Nevertheless, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki believes that such
measures seriously restrict the protected right to freedom of expression,
association and assembly. We are mindful of the fact that international
human rights law provides different and conflicting standards in this area,
and base our position on a strong commitment to freedom of expression as
a core principle of human rights. We believe that freedom of speech and
equal protection of the laws are not incompatible, but are, rather, mutually
Explaining and summarizing what is happening in Germany, Human Rights
Watch/Helsinki goes on to say:
. . . sweeping restrictions that affect entire parties, organizations
or philosophies inevitably cast too broad a net; they can be used to suppress
dissenting political movements of all sorts and often encourage gratuitous
restrictions beyond those initially foreseen.
. . . Numerous right-wing organizations have been banned during the last
two years. Other groups have been placed under surveillance by the minister
of the interior.
. . . Once an organization is banned, the police conduct raids, confiscate
right-wing propaganda and the party's property, and freeze its bank accounts.
Members are arrested, and are often charged with glorifying Naziism through
the use of right-wing symbols and gestures, and through inflammatory speech
. . . once an organization is banned, its leaders can be prosecuted for
maintaining an illegal organization or for possession of right-wing propaganda.
However, Human Rights Watch/Helsinki notes that in many of these cases,
prosecutors have the option of bringing charges against right-wing leaders
for conspiracy to commit acts of violence, an option that would preserve
the right to free speech.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki places particular focus on:
Article 9 of the German Constitution (the Basic Law or Grundgesetz),
which guarantees freedom of association, provides that "Associations,
the purpose or activities of which conflict with criminal statutes or which
are directed against the constitutional order or the concept of international
understanding shall be prohibited." The minister of the interior has
the authority to ban associations or organizations it determines are directed
against the constitutional order. In addition, article 21(2) of the Constitution
states, "Parties which, by reason of their aims or the behavior of
their adherents, seek to impair or abolish the free democratic basic order
or to endanger the existence of the Federal Republic of Germany shall be
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki then points out a chilling sentence:
The Federal Constitutional Court has the power to determine whether
a political party is unconstitutional and should be banned.
Under the subtitle "The Prosecution of Hate Speech and other Forms
of Expression," Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, referring to Article
86 of the German Criminal Code, states that this article forbids
Dissemination of the propaganda of unconstitutional organizations
Whoever. . . distributes, produces for distribution within this area, keeps
in supply or imports into this area propaganda
(1) of a political party which has been held unconstitutional by the Federal
Constitutional Court, or of a political party or association, concerning
which an unappealable determination (emphasis added) has been made
that it is a substitute organization of such a political party, or
(2) of an association which has been unappealably prohibitied (emphasis
added) because its activities are directed against the constitutional system
of government or the concept of international understanding, or concerning
which an unappealable determination (empasis added) has been made
that it is a substitute organization of such prohibited association . .
(4) propaganda, the extent of which is designed to further the aspirations
of a former National Socialist organization
shall be punished by up to three years' imprisonment or by fine. In
other words, the government decides who is a "criminal" - with
no legal recourse provided for individuals or groups - and follows up with
punishment! Is that a democratically run State?
Human Right Watch/Helsinki states that, as of March, 1995, " NINE
ORGANIZATIONS HAVE BEEN BANNED. These" WERE THE "Nationale"
FRONT ("NF"),"Deutsche ALTERNATIVE ("DdA"),"
THE="Nationale" OFFENSIVE="("NO")," ="Deutscher"
KAMERADSCHAFTSBUND="," ="DKW")," THE="Nationale"
BLOCK="," ="Heimattreue"," ="Vereinigung"
DEUTSCHLAND="("HVD")," ="Freundeskreis" FREIHEIT
F="r" DEUTSCHLAND="(FFD)," THE="Wiking-Jugend",
and the "Freiheitliche" DEUTSCHE ARBEITERPARTEI="("FAP")."
In addition to banning these small extreme right-wing organizations,
the federal minister of the Interior placed the "Republican Party"
under surveillance in August 1994 . . .
The organization goes on to say that
. . . in the last two years, prosecutors have increasingly brought charges
for inciting ethnic hatred under article 130 of the German penal code,
Whoever, in a manner to breach the public peace, attacks the human dignity
of others by (1) inciting to hatred against parts of the population, (2)
provoking to violent or arbitrary acts against them, (3) insulting, maliciously
making them contemptible, or defaming them shall be punished by a term
of imprisonment of three months to five years.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki then cites recent cases of government crack-downs,
- Günther Deckert, sentenced by a lower court to a one-year suspended
sentence ". . . ought to be given a stricter sentence for stating
that the Holocaust never occurred".
- An eighteen year old was sentenced to 20 months in prison for giving
the stiff-arm salute
- Four young men were arrested for singing the national-socialist anthem
in a private house in Neukln.
- Neo-Nazi leader Heinz Reiþ was convicted to a five months suspended
sentence for having exhibited the Hitler salute and for having denied that
the Holocaust happened.
- Ewald Althans, a German nationalist youth leader, was sentenced to
eighteen months imprisonment without parole ". . . for having denied
that the Holocaust occurred" in propaganda videos and for having used
banned Nazi symbols.
- Christian Worch, the head of the banned right-wing "National List"
in Hamburg, was sentenced to two years of imprisonment for having continued
to carry out activities of a banned organization.
- Arnulf Winfried Priem, formerly head of the now-banned "German
Alternative" in Berlin, has been held in pre-trial detention because
he allegedly possessed Nazi propaganda.
To this list we might add the recent arrest of an American citizen,
Hans Schmidt, 68, of Pensacola, Florida, for having used two words - "juden-
und freimaurerverseucht", (meaning "Jew- and Freemason-infested")
in an Open Letter sent to a government official in Germany. Apparently,
the warrant for his arrest was Europe-wide.
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki goes on to say:
There are numerous legal consequences for those who are members of right-wing
extremist parties, even if those parties have not been banned. For example,
members of the Republican Party, which has not been banned but is under
surveillance, can be subject to disciplinary measures if they hold public
service positions. The minister of the interior for the state of Hesse,
Gerhard Bkel, announced in January 1995 that he would begin an investigation
of public servants who hold leadership positions in the Republican Party.
Furthermore, states Human Rights Watch/Helsinki, a new "Crime Prevention
Law" went into effect on December 1, 1994, with many provisions that
were aimed primarily at right-wing extremist groups. These provisions included:
- a broader "definition of incitement of violence and racial hatred
to include blanket statements defaming whole groups and minorities."
- a prohibition of "the use of any Nazi-like flags, badges, uniforms,
slogans or gestures."
- an end to the requirement that prosecutors show that a racist statement
is an "assault on human dignity." (emphasis added). Now,
anyone who denies the Nazi genocide against the Jews can be sentenced to
a period of inprisonment of up to five years for incitement to racial hatred."
This means that, according to some statistics, tens of millions of Americans
who now have doubts about some aspects of the Holocaust and dare express
these doubts about the German Government approved version of the Holocaust
are vulnerable to arrest if they happen to travel in Europe!
Human Rights Watch/Helsinki goes on to say:
. . . while viewing extremist violence with great concern, Human Rights
Watch/Helsinki at the same time opposes laws that prohibit the expression
of anti-foreigner or anti-Semitic sentiments, as well as laws that prohibit
groups that hold such views from forming associations and holding public
gatherings, so long as that speech, association or assembly does not rise
to the level of incitement to or participation in violence. . . .
we base our policy on our conviction that the protected rights of speech,
association and assembly are fundamental rights and should be guaranteed..
. . It is our view that it is inherently dangerous for governments to have
the power to determine which political philosophies are "threatening",
power that invites abuse against political foes. . . .
Human Rights Watch condemns all forms of discrimination on such arbitrary
grounds as nationality, race, gender or religion. In many countries, anti-discrimination
efforts take the form of laws penalizing the communication of group hatred
on these or other grounds.
Such laws are often justified on the grounds that they curb racial and
ethnic violence. But there is little evidence they achieve their stated
purpose, and they have often been subject to abuse. Many governments or
other actors that encourage or exploit group tensions use "hate speech"
laws as a pretext to advance a separate political agenda or to enhance
their own political power. In a number of countries, the chief targets
of "hate speech" laws have been minority rights activists fighting
discrimination by the same majority that administers the laws. . .(emphasis
We therefore view as suspect any action by governments to criminalize any
expression short of incitement to illegal action and consider any law or
prosecution that is not based on a strict interpretation of incitement
to be presumptively a violation of the rights of free expression.
. . . Expression should never be punished for its subject matter or content
alone, no matter how offensive it may be to others.