Germany’s highest court has overturned a lenient sentence imposed on an extreme right-wing leader charged with denying the Holocaust.
“Closing one’s eyes to the historic truth and denying the extermination of millions of Jews in the gas chambers does not deserve a lenient sentence,” the Supreme Court said last week as it ordered a new trial for Gunter Deckert, chairman of the right-wing National Democratic Party.
In June, a state court in the southwestern German city of Mannheim found Deckert guilty on charges of inciting racial hatred.
Deckert had served as the translator at a rally in 1991 for Fred Leuchter, an American Holocaust denier. Deckert had said that he supported Leuchter’s theories, including statements that the Holocaust never took place.
Publicly expressing Holocaust-denial views is a crime under German law.
Through finding him guilty, the Mannheim court praised the defendant as a “highly intelligent person” of “strong character” and imposed a one-year suspended sentence.
The sentence was sharply criticized both in Germany and abroad as being too lenient.
The Central Council of Jews in Germany welcomed last week’s decision, describing it as “an important signal” to those who propagate Holocaust-denial theories.
The council said the decision has strengthened trust in the objectivity of German justice and at the same time has set guidelines for the way courts deal in the future with what it termed “misanthropic demagogues.”
Meanwhile, the leader of another German right-wing party has decided to resign.
Franz Schonhuber, the 71-year-old chairman of the far-right Republican Party, made the announcement Saturday night at a party rally held near the southwestern German city of Stuttgart.
Schonhuber, a former Waffen SS officer who founded the party in 1983, and earlier this year angered some of his more moderate followers when he attempted to forge an alliance with Gerhard Frey, the leader of the neo-Nazi German People’s Union.