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Strafgesetzbuch section 86a

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Strafgesetzbuch section 86a

The German Strafgesetzbuch (Criminal Code) in § 86a outlaws "use of symbols of unconstitutional organisations". This concerns Nazi symbolism in particular and is part of the denazification efforts following the fall of the Third Reich.

The law prohibits the distribution or public use of symbols of unconstitutional groups, in particular, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting.[1]

Law text

The relevant excerpt of the German criminal code reads:[1][2][3]

§ 86 StGB Dissemination of Means of Propaganda of Unconstitutional Organizations

(1) Whoever domestically disseminates or produces, stocks, imports or exports or makes publicly accessible through data storage media for dissemination domestically or abroad, means of propaganda:

1. of a party which has been declared to be unconstitutional by the Federal Constitutional Court or a party or organization, as to which it has been determined, no longer subject to appeal, that it is a substitute organization of such a party;

[…]

4. means of propaganda, the contents of which are intended to further the aims of a former National Socialist organization,

shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine. […]

(3) Subsection (1) shall not be applicable if the means of propaganda or the act serves to further civil enlightenment, to avert unconstitutional aims, to promote art or science, research or teaching, reporting about current historical events or similar purposes. […]

§ 86a StGB Use of Symbols of Unconstitutional Organizations

(1) Whoever:

1. domestically distributes or publicly uses, in a meeting or in writings (§ 11 subsection (3)) disseminated by him, symbols of one of the parties or organizations indicated in § 86 subsection (1), nos. 1, 2 and 4; or
2. produces, stocks, imports or exports objects which depict or contain such symbols for distribution or use domestically or abroad, in the manner indicated in number 1,

shall be punished with imprisonment for not more than three years or a fine.

(2) Symbols, within the meaning of subsection (1), shall be, in particular, flags, insignia, uniforms, slogans and forms of greeting. Symbols which are so similar as to be mistaken for those named in sentence 1 shall be deemed to be equivalent thereto.

(3) The exceptions from §86 subsection (3) and (4) apply accordingly.

Symbols affected

The law text does not name the individual symbols to be outlawed, and there is no official exhaustive list. A symbol may be a flag, emblem, uniform parts, or a motto or greeting formula. Note that the prohibition isn't tied to the symbol itself but to its use in a context suggestive of association with outlawed organizations. Thus, the Swastika is outlawed if used in a context of völkisch ideology, while it is legitimate if used as a symbol of Hinduism or Buddhism. Similarly, the Wolfsangel is outlawed if used in the context of the Junge Front but not in other contexts such as heraldry, or as the emblem of "landscape poet" Hermann Löns. Due to the law, German Neo-Nazis took to displaying modified symbols similar but not identical with those outlawed. In 1994, such symbols were declared equivalent to the ones they imitate (Verbrechensbekämpfungsgesetz Abs. 2).

Affected by the law according to Federal Constitutional Court of Germany rulings are:


Symbols known to fall under the law are:

Anti-fascism symbols


In 2005, a controversy was stirred about the question whether the paragraph should be taken to apply to the display of crossed-out swastikas as a symbol of anti-fascism.[12] In late 2005 police raided the offices of the punk rock label and mail order store "Nix Gut Records" and confiscated merchandise depicting crossed-out swastikas and fists smashing swastikas. In 2006 the Stade police department started an inquiry against anti-fascist youths using a placard depicting a person dumping a swastika into a trashcan. The placard was displayed in opposition to the campaign of right-wing nationalist parties for local elections.[13]

On Friday 17 March 2006, a member of the Bundestag, Claudia Roth, reported herself to the German police for displaying a crossed-out swastika in multiple demonstrations against Neo-Nazis, and subsequently got the Bundestag to suspend her immunity from prosecution. She intended to show the absurdity of charging anti-fascists with using fascist symbols: "We don't need prosecution of non-violent young people engaging against right-wing extremism." On 15 March 2007, the Federal Court of Justice of Germany (Bundesgerichtshof) reversed the charge, holding that the crossed-out symbols were "clearly directed against a revival of national-socialist endeavors", thereby settling the dispute for the future.[14][15][16]

See also

References

External links

  • Recht gegen Rechts: Symbole - strafbar oder erlaubt? (German)
  • Der Lehrerfreund: Rechtsradikale Symbole auf Jacke, Rucksack ... (German)
  • Hessisches Landeskriminalamt: Rechtsextremistischer Straftaten (German)
  • Collection of forbidden symbols
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