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Jürgen Kamm (above) with his wares that depict anti-Nazi images, including the swastikaImage: PA/dpa

Forbidden Symbol?

September 27, 2006

A German court wants to fine a businessman who is on trial for selling anti-Nazi paraphernalia including crossed-out swastika symbols.


The trial of Jürgen Kamm, the owner of a mail order company that sells anti-Nazi t-shirts and badges, began in Stuttgart on Wednesday.

Prosecutors there are seeking a fine of 6,000 euros ($7,600) from the owner of the Nix Gut (Not Good) mail order company.

At the opening of the trial, Kamm told the court he had almost been ruined financially by the criminal investigation but insisted he would continue to sell the T-shirts.

A question of context?

Durchgestrichenes Hakenkreuz Rechtsextremismus Verbot von anti-faschistischen Symbolen
A flag with a crossed-out swastika. The symbol has come to stand for anti-Nazi sentiment.Image: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb

"Every citizen should take a stand against the extreme right," he said.

The prosecution argued that German law strictly forbids the use of symbols associated with the Nazi regime, no matter in what context they are used in.

The Social Democrats, which make up one half of the power-sharing government, have accused the Stuttgart authorities of prosecuting someone whose actions were "a useful support to the democratic ethos."

Germany's federal court of justice ruled in 1973 that it was not illegal to produce a swastika providing it had clearly been altered for the purposes of protesting against Nazism.

During the trial, State Prosecutor Bernhard Häussler said the businessman was guilty of using symbols from unconstitutional organizations. The state argued that it is irrelevant what the intent of the wearer is, and also didn't matter that the symbol has been altered. The symbol should simply not be used publicly.

"It symbolizes the Nazi era," he said.

"Brief, fitting, pithy"

Claudia Roth für Frauengalerie
Claudia Roth says the trial is a gift for the far rightImage: AP

For his part, the mail-order salesman said he didn't really understand why he was being tried. He insisted that he stands by his message and "believes in" the product. A crossed-out swastika is recognized internationally as an anti-Nazi symbol, he said; it is "brief, fitting, and pithy."

The trial provoked criticism from politicians, including Claudia Roth, head of the Green party. She called the legal proceedings "counterproductive," and said they were "a gift for the extreme right."

She even brought charges against herself in protest, accusing herself of publicly wearing a button sporting a struck-through swastika.

A verdict in the case against Kamm is expected by Friday.

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