GOVERNMENT FORCED TO GO TO DAMAGE
Embassy tries to Justify Suppression of Free
WASHINGTON -- Panicked by
mounting world condemnation of its harsh repression
of unpopular opinions, the German government has
issued through its embassy here a full
its actions. In the newsletter, Freedom of Speech
and Recent Legal Controversies in Germany, the
anonymous author agrees: "Freedom of opinion and
expression is one of the basic human rights
the constitution of the Federal
Republic of Germany."
This document was designed to
assure that the Nazis' suppression of individuals'
rights could never occur again. Article 5 confirms
freedom of thought and expression for individuals
along with freedom from censorship.
The embassy then claims that
"like the legal codes of other nations," the
Article also sets out possible limitations on the
freedom of expression where this collides with
The right to free speech even
covers statements that may be harsh and extreme and
may appear defamatory.
The has however recently
clashed with criminal law in recent cases involving
"political statements" and the use of the Internet
to disseminate what the embassy lumps together as
"right-wing propaganda and pornography."
On this point, the statement
is hedged with embarrassment and special
"In cases where expression of
opinion is combined with a claim of fact, the right
to express that opinion is protected by the Basic
Law to the extent that its basis in fact can be
Precisely this plea, of
truth, or justification, has been disallowed in
countless German court cases ending with the
imprisonment of the accused.
The German Criminal Code, in
its Sections 185, 189 and 194, is unique in
prohibiting the defamation of the dead.
"The statement that Jews were
not persecuted during National Socialism," argues
the embassy document, "is clearly
In dealing with what it calls
denial of the Holocaust, (an otherwise meaningless
phrase invented by Atlanta professor
criminal law clearly finds itself in conflict with
the right to express one's opinion. The courts
currently hold that the injury to the personal
honor of those defamed (dead Jewish citizens) takes
precedence over the constitutional right to freedom
In April 1994, the Federal
Constitutional Court therefore confirmed that
Holocaust revisionism is excluded from the
constitutional guarantee of freedom of opinion.
"The opinion expressed is not particularly
deserving of protection," the judges ruled,
"stemming as it does from a claim of fact that has
been proven untrue. This court has consistently
protected the personal honor of those defamed above
the right of others to make patently false
may also be prosecuted
under Section 130 of the Criminal Code, which makes
incitement (Volksverhetzung) a punishable
Germany is not, the embassy
smugly remarks, the only nation placing Holocaust
revisionism beyond the limits of free speech.
law passed in 1990
makes it a criminal offense to dispute the facts of
the Holocaust as recognized by the 1945
war crimes tribunal.
A similar law exists in Italy.
The European Union Council of
Ministers agreed in March 1996 on a "Joint Plan of
Action" against Holocaust revisionism and "other
hate crimes." [The embassy did not mention
that Britain refused to endorse the
The Ministers proclaimed the
need for international cooperation to prevent
revisionists from exploiting national differences
in laws by moving from one country to
Justifying the arrest of US
citizens Gary Lauck and Hans Schmidt
for activities committed at home, on US soil,
the embassy statement continued that while the
German authorities suspected that Schmidt had
returned to the United States, they could not ask
for his extradition "since his activities are
protected under American law."