Germany’s highest court found no legal grounds to ban the far-right extremist National Democratic Party of Germany.
The long-awaited decision announced Tuesday was met with disappointment from Jewish leaders in Germany and abroad. It marks the second time that the Federal Constitutional Court in Karlsruhe has considered barring the NPD, which is often described as xenophobic and has in the past used rhetoric belittling the Holocaust.
The 2003 attempt failed after the Supreme Court learned that government informants themselves instigated some of the allegedly unconstitutional activities.
This time, too, the question was whether the party – which has an estimated 7,000 members nationwide – poses a real threat to German democracy. The court found that it does not, even if it wishes it could.
Lamenting the decision, World Jewish Congress President Ronald Lauder said the verdict “allows the NPD to pursue its destructive, anti-democratic activities and to spread more anti-Semitic and racist hatred. This sends the wrong signal, all the more so as the court made it very clear that the NPD indeed strives to overthrow the democratic order and shares many of the aims of Hitler’s Nazi party.”
Charlotte Knobloch, head of the Jewish communities of Munich and Bavaria, said she respected the decision but “I deeply regret it.”
Knobloch, who also is the World Jewish Congress Commissioner for Holocaust Memory, said she could understand the legal argument that there are “no concrete threats.” But a ban would have been important “primarily due to German history, and also given the background of increased right-wing populism and right-wing extremism today.”
The latest hearings began last year, after the German states joined to make the request. It is extremely difficult to ban a party in Germany, due to post-Nazi era laws designed to safeguard free speech.
The court found that while the NPD’s attitude was inhumane, racist, and similar in orientation to National Socialism, it did not have the potential to overturn German democracy.
Though the NPD has never made it into the German federal parliament, in 2014 one of the party’s most notorious members, Udo Voigt, was elected to the European Parliament, which has a lower vote threshold for winning seats.
NPD representatives have been elected into two state parliaments in the past decade by barely passing the 5 percent vote minimum in Germany. Election success earns the party federal taxpayer money.
The court said that it would be possible for lawmakers to amend legislation in order to withhold such funds from the party.
The verdict was “disappointing,” Josef Schuster, head of the Central Council of Jews in Germany, said in a statement issued after the court’s ruling. “For the Jewish population and other minorities, as well as everyone who does not fit into the worldview of this party, a ban would have been very important and encouraging. It also would have given a boost to all those civil society activists who have been opposing the NPD for years.”
“We can only hope that the judges are right” in their opinion that the NPD doesn’t have a chance of becoming more politically successful and powerful, he added.
Schuster also urged those in government, both federal and state, to use all the legal tools at their disposal to have public funds withdrawn from the party.
He said the court’s statement was not a success for the NPD, since the court laid bare the party’s true face, including its anti-Semitic attitudes.
Lauder warned that it did not take long for Hitler’s Nazi party to achieve its aims. “The situation today may be different, but there is absolutely no reason to be complacent,” he added. “Germany must continue to combat the neo-Nazi movement vigorously.”
Hopping over the border,shopping , saving, conversing with RELATIVELY open minded locals has kept my batteries recharged during the past difficult challenging Swiss years..
“It’s different when you are just there for a day shopping “; warned my German advisor,and i listened to him …maybe the grass is not greener and more liberal on the other side of the border? and it seems it is not..
At first it seemed like a perfect solution , just hop across the border where people sometimes joke and seem not to suffer from the suffering swiss scared of foreign influences mountain people …living with Heidi’s grandfather prototypes has not been easy, to say the least, however lets not forget Heidi did not have too much fun when she was sent to live in a grey dismal German urban landscape either…did she not finally realise that her grumpy grandfather had a heart of gold beneath the unfriendly distant exterior ? i waited for grumpy grandfather to smile to me, but i figured after twenty years of trying to adjust to the mean stares, the telling off only foreigners are eligible to have, that i would adjust …but then the thought of moving to Germany came up, so many Israelis were moving to Berlin, inexpensive , they said, open minded, they told, safe , they thought, till the Berlin terror attack and the one before that …suddenly the difference between Berlin and Tel Aviv did not seem so great anymore, except that Germany was cheaper to live, but then the price one pays in being a foreigner, living in the ghetto, amongst the foreign language speakers, never knowing when a nasty comment would come , never knowing whether it is you, what you represent, or that they simply had a hard day or too many beers…
Reading today’s New York Times article , i figured , well, it just as well the decision was to move back home to the wild middle east , for all its unpredictable life, i can predict with accuracy that everyone has something to say and say it, that it is as easy to get someone to talk as it is to get a German or swiss a beer …it just seems so easy to fall back into the old habits of hearing complaining about the government and the economy and the situation and yet hearing also “But this is our one land and where we will always feel at home”, and it is not just the Israeli airline El Al slogan, it really does feel like you landed in some kitchen full of food and overbearing jewish mothers where feeling alone is not really alone because there is always someone wanting to say something ..
I might regret having moved to the middle east at one point, when i might end up growing old and selling Babuska dolls outside the supermarket or playing harmonica in the street, but at least, i will not have to battle the snow and ice and to hear a Germanic person voicing a not so liberal opinion …
BERLIN — Germany’s highest court rejected on Tuesday an attempt to ban the National Democratic Party, the country’s oldest far-right political organization, finding that it did not pose a danger to democracy even though its principles violate the Constitution.
The ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court came after years of deliberation and at a time of soul-searching in the country, where another right-wing party, Alternative for Germany, is poised for the first time to win representation in Parliament in national elections this year.
Although the National Democratic Party “pursues aims contrary to the Constitution,” there was a lack of “concrete supporting evidence” that the neo-Nazi party would be able to successfully achieve its goals and to pose a genuine threat, said Andreas Vosskuhle, the president of the court.
“That a party has aims that run contrary to the Constitution is not sufficient grounds for banning a party,” he said.
Germany’s 16 states submitted a petition in 2013 to ban the party, citing its racist, anti-Semitic agenda, but the law that allows a party to be banned is not based on “sympathies or worldview,” but on evidence of a specific threat to the Constitution, he said.
Germany has strict laws on banning political parties, and only two have been outlawed since the defeat of the Nazis after World War II — the neo-Nazi Socialist Reich Party, in 1952, and the German Communist Party, in 1956.
A 2003 attempt to ban the National Democratic Party also failed, after the court found that paid government informants in the party were partly responsible for evidence the government used.
Over the past decade, the party has continued to lose popularity, with many of its members switching to Alternative for Germany.
That party was founded in 2013 on an anti-euro agenda, but it has attracted followers after emerging as a prominent voice against Chancellor Angela Merkel’s decision to allow more than one million refugees into the country since the summer of 2015. Although the influx has since slowed, the issue remains a political point of contention.
In September, voters ejected the National Democratic Party from the state legislature in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, the last state in which it had seats. Other than Udo Voigt, a member of the European Parliament, the party is now represented only at the local level.
At the height of its popularity, the party narrowly missed winning seats in the West German Parliament and was represented in seven of the country’s 11 state legislatures. Since German reunification in 1990, the party has been strongest in states of the former East Germany.
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