Legislation drafted by the government which would close loopholes in present laws against neo-Nazi activity has been vetoed by Franz Joseph Strauss, Prime Minister of Bavaria and head of the Christian Social Union (CSU) in that State, a powerful ally of Chancellor Helmut Kohl’s ruling Christian Democratic Union (CDU).
Strauss’ veto, reported in the Frankfurter Rundschau, was confirmed by Justice Ministry officials today. It constitutes a serious embarrassment for Kohl who has committed himself several times to see that the law is passed. He and Foreign Minister Hans’ Dietrich Genscher decided last month to bring it before Parliament, despite strong reservations by the CSU and other conservative elements.
The exact manner in which Strauss exercised the veto was not immediately known and it is uncertain whether the draft law still has a chance for ratification by both houses of Parliament. A stronger draft of the same law was approved by the Bundestag last year but rejected by the Bundesrat, the upper house. The latter is composed of representatives or the governments of the federal states.
ELEMENTS IN THE LEGISLATION
The law, initiated by former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt when his Social Democratic Party (SFD) governed West Germany, would make it an offense to deny that the Holocaust occurred: to allege that the systematic killing of Jews under the Nazis never occurred or that the death camps did not exist.
The law would have authorized state prosecutors to bring charges against persons who claim there were no gas chambers. Under existing legislation, only private individuals can initiate proceedings and must prove that they were personally offended by the claim. When the original draft was rejected by the Bundesrat last year, Justice Minister Hans Engelhard of the Free Democratic Party (FDP), the CDU’s junior coalition partner, introduced substantial modifications which, according to legal experts rendered the law “mild” toward neo-Nazis. But the changes did not satisfy the CSU and conservatives within the CDU. It was disclosed recently that Interior Minister Fried-rich Zimmermann of the CDU managed to prevent a debate on the law in the Cabinet, rendering it less authoritative as a government document. Deputy Interior Minister Benno Erhard of the CDU told reporters that “among us no one is keen on that law.”
The Archive of the Jewish Telegraphic Agency includes articles published from 1923 to 2008. Archive stories reflect the journalistic standards and practices of the time they were published.