Germany Toughens Legislation on Extremism, Holocaust Denial

The lower house of the German parliament has approved legislation that would toughen penalties for violence perpetrated by right-wing extremists.

The legislation, adopted last Friday by the Bundestag, increases the maximum penalty for assaults from three to five years and permits the authorities to jail assailants preventively.

It also would punish those promulgating the so-called “Auschwitz lie” with a sentence of up to three years in prison.

The need for a new bill criminalizing Holocaust denial arose after the Federal Court of Justice ruled in March that under the law at the time, Holocaust denial did not in itself provide sufficient grounds to press charges.

The legislation must still be ratified by the Bundesrat, the upper house, representing Germany’s 16 federal states.

Highlighting the need for a new tougher law, Ignatz Bubis, chairman of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said that right-wing radicalism was so widespread throughout Western Europe that more comprehensive measures were needed to combat it.

Bubis suggested in a newspaper interview that the European Union set up a joint secret service to fight right-wing extremism. He added that European countries were no longer able to cope with the situation on their own.

The same day that the Bundestag approved the new crime bill, it was discovered that neo-Nazis had desecrated a Jewish cemetery in the Bavarian city of Hoechberg.

Thirteen tombstones were found overturned and vandalized in the cemetery. Police said that the desecration had taken place on May 18, but that the vandalism was only discovered by visitors there two days later.

The police have so far made no arrests in the case.

Earlier this month, police detained two high school students suspected of having desecrated a Jewish cemetery in the town of Bad Kissingen.

Reflecting another attempt to crack down on the extreme right, prosecutors in Frankfurt are considering taking legal steps against Gunter Deckert, chairman of the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party.

Deckert, 54, had published an open letter to Michel Friedman, a member of the board of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, suggesting that Friedman should “pack up his belongings and go where he belongs — Israel.”

The letter further stated that Germany did not need “a chief Jewish commissar.”

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