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Germany: AfD's Höcke in court over second use of Nazi slogan

June 24, 2024

Far-right Alternative for Germany politician Björn Höcke is accused — for a second time — of knowingly using a Nazi slogan at a political rally. The defense filed motions to have the case dropped.

Björn Höcke sitting in court on Monday, June 24
The second count against Höcke was added to his first trial shortly before it openedImage: endrik Schmidt/dpa/picture alliance

A high-profile member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party appeared in court again on Monday over his repeated use of a prohibited slogan from the Nazi era at a public event.

Prosecutors allege that Björn Höcke was testing the boundaries when he uttered the first two words of the slogan and goaded the crowd to complete it.

What happened in court?

Prosecutor Benedikt Bernzen told a regional court in the city of Halle that Höcke had used the slogan "Everything for Germany,"  or incited others to do so, at an AfD event in Gera, in the neighboring state of Thuringia last December.

Höcke allegedly spoke the first two words of the Nazi-era slogan and encouraged the audience to shout the third.

The public prosecutor's office is convinced that both the AfD politician and the audience knew that it was a forbidden slogan of the Nazi movement. At the time, proceedings against Höcke were already pending for a similar incident in Merseburg, Saxony-Anhalt.

Höcke is the AfD chairman for the central state of Thuringia and also the regional parliamentary group leader.

EU vote in Germany sees far-right AfD in second place

At the court on Monday, the defense team submitted several motions in which Höcke's lawyers criticized, among other things, the public and media prejudgment of their client. They also questioned the jurisdiction of a regional court in the state of Saxony Anhalt over an incident that took place in a neighboring state. They demanded that the proceedings be discontinued.

As the trial began, Höcke rejected the accusations, saying he was "completely innocent."

The court had yet to decide on the motions and the hearing was initially adjourned.

How did the last case go?

Last month, Höcke was fined €13,000 ($13,900) for the original offense of using symbols of an unconstitutional organization when he spoke the phrase at an event in Merseburg in May 2021.

The saying was the slogan of the Nazi Sturmabteilung (SA), or stormtroopers, who played a major role when Adolf Hitler and his Nazi party came to power in 1933. In this early phase, the SA terrorized Germany, killing, torturing, and intimidating mainly communists and Jews.

The second count against Höcke was added to his first trial shortly before it opened, but judges decided to try it separately because his defense team had changed.

How typical are the comments?

Höcke, who is considered an extremist by German intelligence services, has long dabbled in controversy.

He once infamously called Berlin's Holocaust monument a "memorial of shame" and has called for a "180-degree shift" in the country's culture of remembrance.

The AfD, which has been riding high in the polls and made gains at this month's European Parliament elections, has also courted scandal with similar remarks.

Last month, the AfD was expelled from an alliance of populist right-wing parties in the European Parliament. That came after its top candidate for the recent EU polls, Maximilian Krah said not all members of the Schutzstaffel (SS), another infamous Nazi paramilitary group, were criminals.

The AfD is setting its sights on three upcoming elections for regional state parliaments: Thuringia and Saxony on September 1 and Brandenburg on September 22.

rc/ab (dpa, AFP, AP, epa)