23 February 2012
The World Jewish Congress has criticized a decision by the German Constitutional Court according to which the denial of the Holocaust is not punishable under certain circumstances, despite a law prohibiting it. WJC President Ronald S. Lauder said in a statement that the decision was “a slap in the face” for Holocaust survivors and their families as the highest German court “gives neo-Nazis hints on how to deny the Holocaust in Germany and escape punishment.” Lauder called on the court to revise its decision.
WJC Vice-President Charlotte Knobloch said German legislators had deliberately decided that denying the Holocaust and other Nazi crimes should not be protected under the principle of freedom of speech. “Disposing of this ban through the backdoor is against the rule of law,” she said, adding that the ruling was “quirky” and cast a damning light on the court.
In its November 2011 decision, three judges of the Federal Constitutional Court quashed lower court verdicts against a revisionist born in 1924 who in pamphlets had called the Holocaust a “purposeful lie” and denied the existence of gas chambers in Nazi death camps. The judges said that denying the Holocaust would continue to be punishable in principle but not in certain circumstances and contexts. The court also ruled that passing on offensive materials to a third party did not necessarily mean that they were “made public”.
Bishop Williamson to be retried for incitement after German courts throws out conviction
Meanwhile, an appeals court on Nuremberg lifted the conviction for Holocaust denial of Richard Williamson, one of four bishops of ultra-conservative Catholic breakaway group Society of St. Pius X. The court named "irremediable procedural problems" for its decision to throw out a fine of €6,500 ($8,600) handed to Williamson in July 2011. "The prosecutor now has the possibility of pressing charges on the basis of the same facts of the case," the court ruled. A spokesman for prosecutors told news agency AFP that they intended to file new charges "as quickly as possible," adding this could happen within the next five weeks.
The 71-year-old British bishop told Swedish television in 2008 that not more than "200,000 to 300,000 Jews perished in Nazi concentration camps" and disputed the existence of gas chambers. The interview was given on German soil.
The appeals court emphasized that its decision did not mean Williamson's actions were not illegal, but that procedural flaws had compelled it to annul the case.
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