July 28, 2005

Top German court clears men who glorified Nazi SS

KARLSRUHE, Germany (Reuters) - Germany's highest criminal
court cleared three men convicted of praising Hitler's elite SS
soldiers on Thursday in a ruling that shocked leading
politicians and the nation's main Jewish group.

The three, members of a far right group called the
Karlsruhe Comradeship, had set up a telephone hotline advising
fellow activists of when marches would take place. Their
messages ended with the words "Glory and Honor of the

A lower court fined the men and gave them suspended prison
sentences in October 2004 for using slogans of unconstitutional

However, the Federal Court of Justice ruled that the words
in question had not actually been used by any Nazi body, nor
were they similar to any slogans of the time.

"One could find the ruling unfortunate," said presiding
judge Klaus Tolksdorf, adding that the convicted men's actions
did not amount to a crime. "In Germany, glorification of Nazi
organizations is not punishable."

The judges ruled it would be a crime to use words that were
the same as or similar to actual Nazi slogans.

Paul Spiegel, president of Germany's Central Council of
Jews, said he was astonished by the ruling and urged
politicians to check if there was a hole in the law that needed

"I find the verdict unbelievable and cannot understand the
reasoning ... particularly if you consider that the Waffen-SS
was a synonym for murder and cruelty," he told Reuters.

Wolfgang Thierse, president of the lower house of
parliament, the Bundestag, said he was shocked by the ruling,
adding it appeared to give a green light to neo-Nazi

The lower court had decided that the telephone message's
farewell was sufficiently similar to the Waffen-SS's "My honor
is trust" or the Hitler Youth's "Blood and honor."

Germany bans the display of Nazi symbols, such as the
swastika, and outlaws certain of their rituals, such as the
stiff-arm salute.

The SS (Protection Corps) began as a protection unit for
Nazi leaders and grew to incorporate the Waffen-SS (Armed SS),
a combat force of many divisions with almost one million men
during World War II.