German Far-Right AfD Leader Goes on Trial Over Nazi Slogan Use

(Bloomberg) -- One of the most prominent regional leaders of the far-right Alternative for Germany party goes on trial on Thursday for using a Nazi slogan at a party rally.

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Bjoern Hoecke, the head of the AfD in the eastern state of Thuringia, was charged a year ago for using the catchphrase “Alles für Deutschland” — everything for Germany — in a speech at a party rally in May 2021. The slogan was used by the militant arm of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi party in the 1920s and early 1930s.

The trial starts at the Regional Court of Halle in the eastern State of Sachsen-Anhalt on Thursday. A similar incident at another rally in December was added to the case.

Hoecke, a history teacher by training, is one of the most controversial figures in the AfD, which is currently polling in second place nationwide second place nationwide on between 16% and 19%, ahead of Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats and behind only the main opposition conservatives.

In its eastern German stronghold, the AfD is leading in the polls ahead of three regional votes in September. However, it’s unlikely to get into government as all other parties have ruled out forming an alliance with it.

In his defense against the charges, Hoecke has said he had simply tried to translate former US President Donald Trump’s “America First” catchphrase into German.

In reaction to the Nazi era and the Holocaust, in which Germany killed 6 million Jews, the country criminalized the use of Nazi terms, slogans or regalia. It’s also a crime to deny the Holocaust happened.

Germany’s top court has repeatedly backed these rules, saying the ban of such speech is justified as the German constitution “can be understood in great parts as a counterdraft to the totalitarianism of the Nazi regime.”

--With assistance from Michael Nienaber.

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