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National Democrats Plan to Use Legislative Power to Get Ruling on Constitutionality

The right-wing, reputedly neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD) is planning to use its influence in seven West German state legislatures in which it holds seats to get a ruling on its constitutionality by the Constitutional High Court in Karlsruhe. Party chairman Adolf von Thadden said yesterday that NPD deputies in the state parliaments would present motions asking the state governments to call on the Bundesrat (West Germany’s upper house) to seek a ruling from the court on the NPD’s status. The Bundesrat is composed of representatives of the state legislatures.

West Germany’s Minister of Interior, Ernst Benda, said last week that an investigation of the NPD by his ministry unearthed sufficient evidence to satisfy the High Court that the party is un-constitutional under German law and should be banned. Chancellor Kurt Georg Kiesinger has examined the evidence but a decision to present a case before the Karlsruhe court has been postponed. Most political leaders are opposed to the NPD but there are sharp differences of opinion about whether a ban on the party might not help rather than hinder it. There is also concern that the High Court may rule against the Government creating considerable embarrassment for Government leaders while enhancing the prestige and respectability of the NPD.

On the other hand, some NPD members say, a decision by the Government not to ask the court to act would still leave the NPD with the stigma of unconstitutionality. Even those in favor of a ban note that the court could not possibly act before next September’s national elections and the NPD might enter the Bundestag (lower house) no matter what the eventual ruling is. While the debate continues, the NPD plans to distribute millions of pamphlets stating its case. One of the main arguments against it is that the party’s legal existence damages West Germany’s image abroad and is grist for East German and Soviet propaganda mills. Those who contend that the NPD is a source of trouble point to the brawl that took place in Siegen on Saturday between NPD strong-arm men and about 300 demonstrators who attempted to crash a party rally addressed by Mr. von Thadden. Police had to intervene with water cannon and tear gas to disperse the demonstrators. The episode was reminiscent of the early days of the Hitler movement when brown-shirted Nazis battled anti-Nazis in the streets of German cities. Also reminiscent of those times was Mr. von Thadden’s threat in his Siegen speech that the NPD had “enough strong men” to defend itself if the state was unable to guarantee its right to hold public rallies under the rules of law and order.

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