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Flag with crossed-out swastika
Such symbols should be legal, the justice minister saidImage: picture-alliance/ dpa/dpaweb

Clarity Needed

DW staff (ncy)
October 2, 2006

Justice Minister Brigitte Zypries wants to legalize anti-Nazi paraphernalia featuring crossed-out swastikas -- a symbol banned in Germany in any form.


Zypries made the announcement Monday, just days after a regional court in Stuttgart fined the owner of a mail order business for selling anti-Nazi T-shirts and badges. The law banning the use of "unconstitutional symbols" needed to be revised, the justice minister told die tageszeitung daily on Monday.

Should Germany's highest court uphold Friday's ruling by a regional court in Stuttgart, there was "something wrong" in the law itself, she said, and the government would be forced to change the legislation.

Brigitte Zypries
Zypries said the government must take actionImage: dpa

Jürgen Kamm, the 32-year-old owner of mail order company Nix Gut Versand was fined 3,600 euros ($4,600) for selling anti-Nazi T-shirts and badges, a decision he plans to appeal. The judge ordered the seizure of 16,000 items of merchandise, as well as brochures and flyers bearing the crossed-out swastika logo. Though the items are printed with the swastika, the symbol either has a large red line through it or a fist is shown smashing the symbol.

The logos are popular among left-wing activists and anti-Nazi campaigners.

Anti-symbol makes swastika acceptable?

There was a risk that the merchandise could make the swastika socially acceptable again, said district attorney Bernhard Häussler, the prosecutor in the case against Kamm.

"All that came to pass under that symbol of Nazism was so terrible that any use of it should remain banned from politics, and it should also not be allowed to become a fashion article," he said.

Jürgen Kamm holds up a crossed-out swastika badge
Kamm must have thought he was taking steps against neo-NazisImage: PA/dpa

Under German laws, giving the Hitler salute, wearing Nazi uniforms or displaying the swastika carries a penalty of up to three years in prison.

The court ruling caused a public outcry, including a vehement response from mainstream political leaders.

Social Democratic Party chief Volker Beck said he found it incomprehensible that the rejection of Nazi symbols would be equated with the propagation of them. While independence of the judiciary must be maintained, citizens expected that the legal means by which right-wing extremism can be combated will be taken advantage of, he said on Saturday.

Berlin demurs

Green party leader Claudia Roth, who purposefully provoked a legal investigation into herself for wearing an anti-Nazi lapel pin, concurred with Zypries that the legislation may need amending. She said once it became clear how the next court would decide Kamm's case, lawmakers should quickly work to clarify the situation.

Claudia Roth
Claudia Roth even filed a complaint against herself

Within the legal community too, there was disagreement with the Stuttgart ruling. Berlin will not prosecute the use of the swastika in anti-Nazi symbols, the city-state's senior district attorney, Jörg Raupach, told the Tagesspiegel am Sonntag weekly.

The paper wrote that investigators had decided against prosecuting the Green party for hanging a flag adorned with a swastika in protest against the Stuttgart ruling on the facade their national headquarters in Berlin.

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