You will all recall, I’m sure, that Germany had a problem with nazis sixty or so years ago. After this problem had been cleared up (primarily by non-Germans), the Germans resolved that they didn’t want that sort of thing to happen again. And towards that end they enacted some laws.
One of those laws is Â§ 86a of the Criminal Code. In pertinent part it reads:
Mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu drei Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe wird bestraft, wer … im Inland Kennzeichen einer der in Â§ 86 Abs. 1 Nr. 1, 2 und 4 bezeichneten Parteien oder Vereinigungen verbreitet oder Ã¶ffentlich … verwendet.
(Any person who, on German territory, distributes or uses symbols of a party or association listed in Â§ 86 para. 1, 2 and 4, shall be punished with imprisonment of up to three years or with a monetary penalty.)
The parties and associations in question include what the statute somewhat coyly calls ‘the former national-socialist organisations’.
Though nobody decent likes a nazi, a prohibition against displaying their symbols on pain of criminal penalty does rub rather against the liberal grain. Still, this is Germany, and one can understand why Germans feel they need to take a sterner line against this sort of thing than would, say, Americans.
Now you have all heard about the annoyance of skinheads and other excrescences of neo-nazi yoof culture in Germany. What you might not know is that there is also a countervailing and at times rather, ehh, exuberant anti-nazi cultural stream. This ranges from admirable young students acting earnestly against racism and xenophobia to beersodden neonhaired neopunkers who (one sometimes suspects) know as little about what they oppose as their fuzzy-skulled adversaries know about what they espouse, save that it pisses off their opposite numbers. Wherever on this spectrum of seriousness Germany’s young antifascists fall, many of them are united in the use of certain popular symbols to express their disdain for the brown. These symbols are typically displayed as buttons or on patches sewn (or quite often, safety-pinned) onto one’s bomber or biker jacket. You’ll find some pictures below the fold.
Whether idealistic antifascists or mohawked louts, these are not the sort of people, surely, that Â§ 86a was meant to sweep up. Yet as the Frankfurter Rundschau reports, a few German prosecutors have been using this law against them, and some German courts are handing down convictions.