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Dispute over Increased Neo-nazi Activity in West Germany

Increased neo-Nazi activity in West Germany and the alarming proliferation of leaflets, Nazi era symbols and artifacts in public places has led to a dispute between the Federal Minister of Justice, Hans-Jochen Vogel and the Justice Minister of at least one State–North Rhine-Westphalia–on the need for new, tighter laws to combat the spread of Nazi propaganda.

Vogel expressed serious concern over these developments in letters to the Westphalia Justice Minister Diether Posser and the Federal Minister of Interior Wemer Maihofer. He said the increasing circulation of Nazi emblems and propaganda called for new laws “if it should emerge that adequate punishment is not possible under existing law.” He referred specifically to an “escalation in the sale of records with taped events from the Nazi period, Nazi literature, toys and imitation weapons with Nazi symbols.”

Posser, who is chairman of the Coordinating Committee of State Justice Ministers, rejected Vogel’s proposal. He said on a television interview that tougher measures should be considered only if there was “convincing evidence” that there were loopholes in existing laws that ban Nazi propaganda. In his letter to Maihofer, Vogel asked that interior ministers on the state level be required to ensure that the police pay more attention than they do to violations of the ban on Nazi propaganda and to seek prosecution when necessary.

Last Friday, a ranking official of the Ministry of Youth, Family and Health admitted, in reply to questions in Parliament, that tape recordings of Nazi speeches and brochures glorifying the Nazi period could violate laws that ban activities “dangerous to young people.” The Bann government says it has no details of the extent to which Nazi books, pamphlets and recordings are being sold. A special ministerial committee empowered to examine the problem has taken no action so far to check it.

NEW INCIDENTS REPORTED

Meanwhile, a number of new incidents have occurred. West Berlin police broke up a meeting of the outlawed neo-Nazi NSDAP. The 17 participants, some carrying swastikas, were released after questioning. In Soltau, north Germany, two men who gave the Nazi salute at funeral services last week for convicted war criminal Herbert Kappler, were charged by police with “using the emblems of an unconstitutional organization.”

The Association for Christian-Jewish Cooperation has filed charges with the Dusseldorf prosecutor against a group of men and women in that city who distributed Nazi literature outside the regional court during hearings in the current trial of Maidanek concentration camp guards. A spokesman for the Jewish community in West Berlin reported that swastika badges were on sale at a recent ice skating event there and that women were seen recently at a night club in a posh Berlin hotel wearing swastikas inlaid with diamonds.

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