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German Chamber Rejects Bill to Penalize Holocaust Denial

The Bundesrat, Germany’s upper house of Parliament, has rejected a package of crime-fighting initiatives that included a measure that would make it easier to prosecute those who repeat the so-called “Auschwitz lie” and allow for prison terms of up to three years for such crimes.

But it appears that the rejection was based on the main crime-fighting components of the bill, not on the provisions dealing with neo-Nazi activity. That same day, June 10, the same bodyd approved a separate bill calling for penalties of up to five years for a similar, narrower legal definition of the “Auschwitz lie.”

The term currently refers to the notion that Jews were not gassed at Auschwitz or that it was technically not possible to have gassed people there.

The Bundesrat agreed to forward the second bill to the Bundestag, the lower house of Parliament. Under German law, a proposed bill must go through three readings in the Bundestag and then be returned to the Bundesrat for final approval.

It is unlikely that the legislation will be passed before Parliament begins its summer break on July 8.

Stefan Schmidt-Meinecke, Bundesrat spokesman, said the initial legislation was not rejected because of its “Auschwitz lie” provisions, but rather for political opposition to other aspects of the measure’s overall crime-fighting proposals.

The fact that lawmakers introduced a bill solely focusing on the “Auschwitz lie” on the same day they rejected the overall crime bill shows that it is important to them to enact tougher legislation against Holocaust denial, he said.

The Bundesrat has a majority of the opposition Social Democratic Party. It apparently vetoed the bill because Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s conservative government attached too many unpopular initiatives to the legislation.

But the aspects of the legislation governing neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic crimes were broadly supported, Schmidt-Meinecke said. Many Social Democrats have argued that such legislation is needed because of recent controversial decisions handed down by various federal courts in Germany.

A federal appeals court ruled in March that simply saying that Jews were not gassed at Auschwitz or that it was technically not possible to gas people is not punishable under German law.

The court ruled that merely repeating such statements is not a crime, and that it must be shown that a person making such statements intended to insult or injure someone.

The judgment caused outrage in Germany and abroad. The court subsequently ruled such remarks punishable, but their legal status remained unclear.

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