Civil libertarians have long been critical of the German speech crimes, including the prohibition on any Nazi symbols. Not only have the laws not had any discernible impact on the neo-Nazi movement but they actually make these extremists into victims and force them further underground. The laws also lead to bizarre cases like the arrest of a German man for a cellphone ringtone of Hitler. The latest case is out of Oranienburg where German politician Marcel Zech was arrested due to a tattoo spotted on his back at a pool.
Zech was charged after another bather saw that he had what appeared to be a tattoo of the Auschwitz death camp on his back and the slogan from the Buchenwald concentration camp’s gate, “Jedem das Seine” — “to each his own.”
The 27-year-old is a member of the far-right National Democratic Party, who sits on the county council in an area outside Berlin. He faces up to five years in prison if convicted.
Putting aside the less than flattering image of the love handles on the master race, these prosecutions do little to deter such extremists. Neo-Nazis have changed the Nazi salute and symbol slightly to get around the laws. Many more have gone underground. More importantly, these laws fuel the trend in Europe toward greater and greater criminalization of speech. Despite the questionable success of the German laws, countries like England and France have gone all in on the concept of criminalizing speech under a variety of rationales.
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