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Neo-nazi Leader Featured in Film Sentenced to 3 1/2 Years in Jail

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A neo-Nazi leader whose life was the subject of a documentary has been sentenced by a Berlin court to 3 1/2 years in jail.

Bela Ewald Althans, 29, was convicted of racist incitement, defamation and Holocaust denial in connection with the film, “Profession: Neo-Nazi.”

“The accused is not a violent man but he is still just as dangerous to the community,” Judge Hans-Juergen Bruening said, adding, “Judicial officials in Germany have been astonishingly reluctant to prosecute agitation like this.”

Althans’ speeches were the nourishing ground for violent acts, the court also said.

The film, a chronicle of Althans’ activities, is a series of interviews with him and other neo-Nazis.

In the film, Althans tells an American visitor to the former Auschwitz death camp that the Holocaust was a myth, claiming that it was technically impossible to gas the Jews and cremate them. Althans also praises Adolf Hitler in the documentary.

When the film was released in 1993, Germany banned it because Holocaust denial is a criminal act here.

In his testimony before the Berlin court, Althans rejected the charges, describing himself as a non-Nazi, who had long given up his ultranationalist views.

Althans described himself as a victim of the state prosecution. He charged that Winfrid Bonengel, the director of the documentary, intentfully “manipulated” the footage to paint a negative image of its hero.

When the documentary was released, the producers claimed that they had merely wanted to show the young generation of neo-Nazis as they were.

But critics of the 83-minute film said it was propagandistic, serving the causes of the neo-Nazi movement, such as spreading Holocaust denial, called the “Auschwitz lie” in Germany.

The court dismissed Althans’ claim that he had agreed to take part in the movie to “draw an end line to his neo-Nazi past.”

Had he really wanted to disassociate himself of his past, said the court, he would have had plenty of opportunities, besides the controversial documentary.

Last year, Althans was sentenced to 18 months imprisonment by the Munich state court for having distributed racist propaganda, including anti-Semitic video clips produced during World War II.

Althans can serve the two sentences concurrently.

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