German Far-Right Politician Björn Höcke Faces Trial for Using Nazi Slogan

Prominent far-right AfD figure Björn Höcke on trial in Germany for using Nazi slogan, highlighting the country's struggle with its past and the rise of extremism in politics.

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Wojciech Zylm
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German Far-Right Politician Björn Höcke Faces Trial for Using Nazi Slogan

German Far-Right Politician Björn Höcke Faces Trial for Using Nazi Slogan

Björn Höcke, a prominent figure in the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, is on trial in the eastern city of Halle for using a Nazi slogan in a 2021 speech. Prosecutors allege that Höcke was aware the phrase "Everything for Germany!" was originally used by the Nazis' SA stormtroopers, but Höcke has argued it is an "everyday saying."

The trial is taking place just months before a regional election in the state of Thuringia, where Höcke plans to run for governor. Höcke, who leads the AfD's branch in Thuringia, has described himself as a "law-abiding citizen" and claimed he is "entirely innocent" of the charges, which can carry a fine or up to three years in prison.

Höcke is an influential figure on the hard right of the AfD and has previously made controversial statements about Germany's Nazi past. In a 2017 speech, he called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a "monument of shame" and called for the country to perform a "180-degree turn" in how it remembers its history.

The prosecutor in the current trial has suggested that Höcke's use of the Nazi-era phrase was not coincidental, implying that his statements were reminiscent of rhetoric from that time. The Thuringia branch of the AfD is under official surveillance by Germany's domestic intelligence agency as a "verified right-wing extremist " group.

Why this matters: The trial of Björn Höcke highlights the ongoing challenges Germany faces in confronting the legacy of its Nazi past and the rise of far-right extremism in contemporary politics. As a prominent figure in the AfD, Höcke's statements and actions have significant implications for the party's direction and its impact on the country's political landscape.

Höcke's trial is scheduled to continue through May 14, 2024. If convicted, he is likely to face a fine rather than a prison sentence, according to the court. Despite the charges, Höcke remains the AfD's lead candidate for the upcoming Thuringia state election on September 1. The outcome of both the trial and the election will be closely watched as indicators of the far right's influence in German politics.

Key Takeaways

  • Björn Höcke, a far-right AfD leader, is on trial for using a Nazi slogan.
  • Höcke claims the phrase is "everyday saying," but prosecutors allege it was intentional.
  • Höcke's trial comes before a Thuringia state election where he plans to run for governor.
  • Höcke's Thuringia branch is under surveillance as a "verified right-wing extremist" group.
  • If convicted, Höcke likely faces a fine, but remains the AfD's lead candidate in Thuringia.