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

Prominent far-right German politician Björn Höcke stands trial for using banned Nazi slogan, highlighting Germany's struggle against rising extremism and the AfD party's radicalization.

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

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

Björn Höcke, a leading figure, stands in the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, is on trial in Halle, Germany, for using a banned Nazi slogan. Prosecutors allege that Höcke, the head of AfD's regional branch in Thuringia, ended a speech in May 2021 with the words "Everything for Germany!", which was a slogan used by the Nazis' SA stormtroopers.

Höcke, a former history teacher, argues that the phrase is an "everyday saying" and denies knowing its Nazi origins. However, prosecutors contend that he was aware of the slogan's roots and deliberately used it at the AfD rally. If convicted, Höcke could face up to three years in prison.

The trial is taking place just months before a regional election in Thuringia, where Höcke plans to run for governor. As a powerful figure on the AfD's hard right, Höcke has been a controversial presence in German politics. He has previously made statements criticizing Germany's culture of remembering World War II and called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a "monument of shame".

Why this matters: The trial of Björn Höcke highlights the ongoing challenges Germany faces in confronting the rise of far-right extremism and the use of Nazi-era symbols and rhetoric. As a prominent leader within the AfD, Höcke's case serves as a test for the party, which has gained significant support in recent years, particularly in eastern Germany.

Höcke's regional branch of the AfD in Thuringia is under official surveillance by Germany's domestic intelligence agency as a "proven right-wing extremist" group. The trial is part of a broader debate surrounding the AfD's alleged radicalization and its growing strength, especially in the formerly communist east of the country.

Hundreds of people gathered outside the courthouse in Halle to protest against Höcke and the AfD, chanting slogans denouncing the party and fascism. The trial is scheduled to continue until May 14. Höcke has criticized the proceedings, claiming that Germany is "persecuting political opponents and suppressing free speech" and that he is being charged for "the crime of using an alleged quote in which I expressed my patriotism 'incorrectly.'"

Key Takeaways

  • Björn Höcke, a far-right AfD leader, stands trial for using a banned Nazi slogan.
  • Prosecutors allege Höcke used the slogan "Everything for Germany!" at an AfD rally.
  • Höcke denies knowing the Nazi origins of the phrase, but prosecutors say he was aware.
  • Höcke's trial is part of Germany's efforts to confront far-right extremism and AfD's rise.
  • Hundreds protested outside the courthouse, condemning Höcke and the AfD's alleged radicalization.