German lawmaker convicted of using banned Nazi slogan

Bjoern Hoecke has been ordered to pay a fine for saying, “everything for Germany” in a speech

A leading member of the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has been convicted by a court of knowingly using an illegal slogan popularized by Sturmabteilung (SA) stormtroopers during the country’s Nazi era.

The state court in the eastern German city of Halle found AfD co-leader Bjoern Hoecke guilty on Tuesday and ordered him to pay a fine of €13,000 ($14,000). He was spared a potential prison sentence that could have prevented him from running for governor of Germany’s Thuringia state in this year’s election.

The case stemmed from a May 2021 campaign speech in which Hoecke used the phrase “Alles fuer Deutschland,” meaning “Everything for Germany.” The former SA slogan is among various symbols of the country’s Nazi past that have been made illegal in modern-day Germany.

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Hoecke, a former high school history teacher, told the court that he was “completely innocent” and that the offending phrase was an “everyday saying.” He claimed that he was not aware of the slogan’s Nazi origin.

Prosecutors contended that Hoecke had “strategically and systematically” used Nazi vocabulary during his career in politics. Judge Jan Stengel reportedly told Hoecke, “You are an articulate, intelligent man who knows what he is saying.”

Thuringia is one of three eastern German states where AfD is polling as the leading political party. Hoecke, 52, has led the party’s Thuringia branch since it was founded in 2013. He may appeal the court’s verdict.

“If this verdict stands, free speech will be dead in Germany,” Hoecke said on Tuesday in a post on X (formerly Twitter). “The ability to dissent is in jeopardy.” Hoecke has argued that Germany is “at the forefront of persecuting political opponents and suppressing free speech.”

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The AfD’s Thuringia operation is among three branches of the party that have been put under surveillance and designated by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency as a “proven right-wing extremist group.” The agency also has branded the entire party as a “suspected” extremist organization.

A regional court rejected the AfD’s appeal of that ruling on Monday, saying there is ample evidence to suggest that the party “pursues goals that run against the human dignity of certain groups and against democracy.” The AfD has accused Berlin of undermining democracy by exploiting extremism designations to discredit a party favored by a large portion of German voters.

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