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Calls to remove 29 Nazi paragraphs remaining in German law

January 10, 2021

Nazi-era paragraphs must be purged from present-day German laws and edicts, urges Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner Felix Klein. 

A copy of the Grundgesetz, or Basic Law for the Federal Republic of Germany
Image: Getty Images/A. Berry

Germany's anti-Semitism commissioner called for the removal of 29 Nazi-era paragraphs that remain in the country's laws in comments published on Sunday.

Felix Klein, appointed two years ago by Chancellor Angela Merkel's cabinet, said the worst example was a 1938 Nazi remnant in Germany's present-day law on changing a person's name.

Jews in Nazi Germany were required under a 1939 regulation stemming from that law to insert a "typical" Jewish forename, Israel for men, and Sara for women, if their first name was not on a "typical" list maintained by the-then Interior Ministry.

Klein, who last year, with Social Democrat Eva Högl and Christian Democrat Thorsten Frei, demanded removal of such wording used to persecute Jews, told the magazine Der Spiegel parliament had already been sent a reformulations catalog.

"The name change law is the most blatant of all," said Klein, adding that the latest version — dated 2008 and still accessible on the Justice Ministry website — still mentioned the "German Reich" and the "Reich Minister of the Interior," terminology proscribed by the defeated Hitler regime.

In last year's appeal, Klein, Högl and Frei wrote that the occupying Allied Control Council had sought to annul that law, but it lingered under Article 125 of Germany's postwar constitution or Basic Law. 

"Anyone who wants to change their first or last name in Germany today is [still] confronted with this anti-Semitic-motivated law from 1938," they said.

Instead, an amendment should state the "Federal Republic of Germany" and the "Federal Minister of the Interior," Klein told Spiegel in his latest appeal.

Naturopathy law also tainted

As further lingering examples, Klein cited Nazi-era paragraphs riddling Germany's current law on naturopathic healing practitioners, its gambling casino ordinance, and a mutual Greek-German law on civil legal assistance.

Klein said the aim of the omnibus legislation before the Bundestag was to review and remove all such leftover Nazi-era passages.

In their 2020 joint appeal, Klein, Hogl and Frei said a further aim was to avoid wording that defined Germany's postwar federal interior ministers as "successors" of the Nazi-era Reich interior minister and convicted war criminal Wilhelm Frick.

It was Frick, convicted at the Allied Nuremberg trials and executed in 1946, who from 1930 in the-then Thuringia state sought German nationality for the Austrian-born, but stateless, Adolf Hitler, regarded by Prussia as an undesirable alien.

Hitler finally got German nationality in 1932, via the-then-adjacent state of Braunschweig, becoming a year later chancellor and seizing power.

ipj/aw (KNA, epd)