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German Faces Five Years in Prison For Holocaust Denial

The trial of a 72-year-old former left-wing terrorist group founder, and current neo-Nazi, began today in Germany. Horst Mahler is accused of posting documents online denying the Holocaust. Mahler likes trouble, as he received an 11-month sentence last year for delivering the Nazi salute at his prison booking for a previous conviction. And in 2003, he had to pay thousands of euros in fines for saying the Sept. 11 attacks were justified.

Mahler could spend five years in prison, if convicted of Holocaust denial. German law specifically prohibits anyone from claiming that the genocide of the Jews did not occur. A total of 13 countries forbid denial, including: Austria, Belgium, the Czech Republic, France, Germany, Israel, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Poland, Portugal, Romania, and Switzerland.

Outlawing neo-Nazism is an obvious choice, but what about criminalizing Holocaust denial— is that a reasonable limit on speech, crucial to making sure the atrocities are never forgotten and never happen again? Should the prohibition include the Internet?

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Michelann Michelann 7 years
Not a legal precedent, necessarily. The other kind :)
Sticker1 Sticker1 7 years
You have to get over the whole precedent thing...Europe operates on a codified system of law.
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Meike, I really do understand the need and the rationale behind the law. And I don't completely condemn the law, nor do I condemn those who support it. However, I also can't bring myself to condone a law like this. It's just a difference of ideology that can't be reconciled. But it is interesting to hear you husband's point of view.
Meike Meike 7 years
Michelin, the published denial of the Holocaust by Mahler isn’t merely an idea or unpopular opinion. It is an outright lie about several nations’ history that resulted in more than six million deaths. The lie does indirectly harm more than one individual and libel is not only person-specific. It can be group-specific and in this particular case, denying the wrongful deaths and imprisonment of thousands of family’s aunts and uncles, brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers, etc. There are too many victims of that lie to collect the damages. Nothing is dangerous and fascist about prohibiting a lie like this. If you want to continue calling it an ‘idea’ for the sake of argument, remember that WWII started off in part to the idea that the Jews were stealing German jobs, and the desperate and impressionable masses believed it. I think you give too much credit to people to educate themselves and do their fact checks. I understand your optimism about the freedom of speech and in an ideal world, there would be no rules to govern it because hate, racism, and lies would never be preached in the first place. I asked my husband what he thought of this law. He said that most Germans aren't bothered with it because most don’t hate Jews. Only the very hateful racist minority would succumb to its negative consequences if caught. He definitely sees where you are coming from, however, and agrees that the freedom of speech is a fundamental human right except in our world, having it completely is impossible. There are too many cases where a lie may potentially cause strong harm to other individuals. The German law is simply in place to deter a lie like this from spreading and history repeating. Nothing more, nothing less. Otherwise, the freedom of speech is most thoroughly enjoyed by German citizens. They are among the most blunt and opinionated people I know. Second to France, of course. Haha. =)
ceej ceej 7 years
I suppose the fundamental difference is that I see that particular law as one that prohibits racial hatred and vilification and I see that in a historical, very specific framework not mere semantics.
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Meike, libel and slander laws don't prohibit any specific idea, they simply allow an individual to collect damages when they have been harmed. Prohibiting an idea is dangerous and fascist. And I'm well aware that it's a sensitive subject. I think that's fairly obvious.
Meike Meike 7 years
"Meike, in libel/slander you need a specific target, a lie, and measurable damages. And it's a civil matter." Understandable, but no matter how you slice it, whether you loosely or strictly interpret libel and slander, it is still a limitation on the freedom of speech. Denial of the Holocaust is a sensitive topic in Germany. You may not see it that way across the ocean but Germans have taken much care to kill the cancer at its root and not wait for any measurable damages to occur.
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Ceej, I really don't understand what you're getting at. I'm not trying to preach that American is better than Germany because we have this fabulous freedom of speech. I'm aware of the massive failings of the American Federal government to protect that right. Why can't I be mad at any law that fails to protect that right?
ceej ceej 7 years
Michelin, have a look into the academics who were effectively shut down after the Sept 11 attacks because they criticized the US. Those attacks came as a shock to so many in your country because your news is so heavily filtered. I dare say someone like you looks to other sources but for the majority of Americans they had no idea of anti US sentiment or why they would be targeted. I use this as an example because even though you have the right of freedom of speech it doesn't necessarily mean that you get it. My own country is nearly as uptight and conservative as yours, though agnostic in it's politics. We have very specific laws concerning inciting racial hatred and I'm glad for that.
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Meike, in libel/slander you need a specific target, a lie, and measurable damages. And it's a civil matter.
Meike Meike 7 years
In the U.S., there are libel and slander laws revolving around the freedom of speech and many times, such culprits who disobey these laws in America do not go unpunished. This German law is no different just because it's intent is specific. I would essentially equate the published denial of the Holocaust to libel or slander. And, to be honest, I have to agree on many levels that America has less freedoms than its Wester counterparts. I say that having lived in and visited eight Western nations.
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Did you read anything I said about 'freedom of speech' being meaningless unless you protect unpopular speech?
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Where did I say it's alright with me for somebody to say the Holocaust didn't happen? I just don't think a government should put restrictions on political speech, regardless of whether I agree with it. It sets a dangerous precedent. The proper tool to combat hateful speech like that is more speech, not prison time.
beautiful-disaster beautiful-disaster 7 years
hmm ok michelin. you keep on ranting about freedom of speech, thats fine, you obviously dont think its wrong to claim the holocaust didnt happen, and youre ok with people saying that and possibly making many people question just that. perfectly ok.
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Beautiful disaster, you're only repeating the same thing everybody else has said. It doesn't matter how much you deny it, but when you take away somebody's right to say something, it's pretty obviously a limit on their freedom of speech. Perhaps you don't think the law causes any damage,and that's fine, but it's just silly to deny that it's a violation of freedom of speech. Furthermore, it's hard to take you seriously or respect what you have to say when you insult an entire nation as being uptight and narrow-minded. If you have a problem with a specific law, that's fine. So do I. However, I also have a problem with a specific German law, but I refrained from insulting the entire nation.
ceej ceej 7 years
Thank you so much Beautiful Disaster for expressing so eloquently what I was trying to say about modern Germany. I think it's a fabulous country and one fully aware of it's past.I only hope that my own country can be so well evolved one day.
ceej ceej 7 years
Thank you so much Beautiful Disaster for expressing so eloquently what I was trying to say about modern Germany. I think it's a fabulous country and one fully aware of it's past. I only hope that my own country can be so well evolved one day.
beautiful-disaster beautiful-disaster 7 years
also, i think germany is one of the most liberal countries i have ever had the privilege to live in.The US has freedom of speech in their constitution, thats great, but it has also been one of the most uptight, narrow minded and in some cases unaccepting countries of the west i have lived in.that should come to show that germany in no way suffers from having a law like this one, it is actually a great place, and i cannot believe sometimes how free all germans AND non germans living there live and are ALLOWED to live.
beautiful-disaster beautiful-disaster 7 years
also, i think germany is one of the most liberal countries i have ever had the privilege to live in. The US has freedom of speech in their constitution, thats great, but it has also been one of the most uptight, narrow minded and in some cases unaccepting countries of the west i have lived in. that should come to show that germany in no way suffers from having a law like this one, it is actually a great place, and i cannot believe sometimes how free all germans AND non germans living there live and are ALLOWED to live.
beautiful-disaster beautiful-disaster 7 years
Michelin, i am german, born in israel. have lived in germany in the past, and this law in no way limits a persons freedom of speech. i think this law is absolutly necessary.. DENYING that the holocaust ever happened is atrocious, and i have had to deal with people saying things like that. the problem with people trying to "spread the word" that the holocaust never happened, that 6 million jews and countless others lost their lives during that time gives it room to happen again. If people begin to believe it never happened, it can happen again. The law simply states that you cannot claim it didnt happen. To claim it didnt happen should be a crime, and in germany it happens to be one, which i htink is great. i have had numerous encounters where some ignorant idiot thought it was alright to give me the hitler salute because i am german. This is NOT ok. so many arent even properly educated on the holocaust, and there are MANY MANY MANY germans who are anti semetic, neo nazis and who want to claim that the event never took place, because of the way germany looks because of it. My father, a diplomat, has dedicated the last 10+ years of his career to bettering the german-jewish relationship. Germany will never be able to get over the holocaust, it will always be what it is associated with, and to at leat do their part in ensuring that this can NEVER EVER happen again it is necessary to create laws that could possibly be very damaging to so many people. I have fully embraced being german, and
beautiful-disaster beautiful-disaster 7 years
Michelin,i am german, born in israel. have lived in germany in the past, and this law in no way limits a persons freedom of speech.i think this law is absolutly necessary.. DENYING that the holocaust ever happened is atrocious, and i have had to deal with people saying things like that.the problem with people trying to "spread the word" that the holocaust never happened, that 6 million jews and countless others lost their lives during that time gives it room to happen again. If people begin to believe it never happened, it can happen again.The law simply states that you cannot claim it didnt happen. To claim it didnt happen should be a crime, and in germany it happens to be one, which i htink is great.i have had numerous encounters where some ignorant idiot thought it was alright to give me the hitler salute because i am german. This is NOT ok. so many arent even properly educated on the holocaust, and there are MANY MANY MANY germans who are anti semetic, neo nazis and who want to claim that the event never took place, because of the way germany looks because of it.My father, a diplomat, has dedicated the last 10+ years of his career to bettering the german-jewish relationship. Germany will never be able to get over the holocaust, it will always be what it is associated with, and to at leat do their part in ensuring that this can NEVER EVER happen again it is necessary to create laws that could possibly be very damaging to so many people.I have fully embraced being german, and
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Jacrabbit, how does that make any sense at all? How does "what constitutes a basic human rights is an opinion" mean "lets get rid of a document that seeks to protect rights"? And to Steph and Meike, I'm not assuming anything about the Germans, and I'm certainly not calling them monsters, I just don't like laws that dictate what sort of speech is acceptable. There are laws in the U.S. that I feel violate those freedoms, too. Ceej, I don't see how that makes a difference. Not only are you criminalizing unpopular speech, but you're doing it out of fear that it may become popular?
Michelann Michelann 7 years
Jacrabbit, how does that make any sense at all? How does "what constitutes a basic human rights is an opinion" mean "lets get rid of a document that seeks to protect rights"? And to Steph and Meike, I'm not assuming anything about the Germans, and I'm certainly not calling them monsters, I just don't like laws that dictate what sort of speech is acceptable. There are laws in the U.S. that I feel violate those freedoms, too. Ceej, I don't see how that makes a difference. Not only are you criminalizing unpopular speech, but you're doing it out of fear that it may become popular?
Meike Meike 7 years
Funny to me how some people make assumptions about other countries without knowing its society. German society is, by far, one of the most liberal countries when it comes human freedoms and rights but WWII history is too deeply rooted in the country. What a lot of people outside Germany don't know is that even after 60 years the surrounding countries who were negatively impacted by the Nazi era are still pulling several guilt-trips on the current government and youth. So, out of guilt and wanting to maintain good relations, modern day Germany continues to bend over backwards (mostly in monetary compensation because that is what other countries ask for). They hardly raise their national flags except during game events. That is the only time it is considered 'acceptable' by other countries for Germans to be nationalistic. Obviously, Germans do not want to be only remembered for their WWII past. They take many efforts to show countries they've wronged in the past that they are serious about not repeating history. This law is one such example. That is my two cents as the American wife of a young German man.
Meike Meike 7 years
Funny to me how some people make assumptions about other countries without knowing its society. German society is, by far, one of the most liberal countries when it comes human freedoms and rights but WWII history is too deeply rooted in the country. What a lot of people outside Germany don't know is that even after 60 years the surrounding countries who were negatively impacted by the Nazi era are still pulling several guilt-trips on the current government and youth. So, out of guilt and wanting to maintain good relations, modern day Germany continues to bend over backwards (mostly in monetary compensation because that is what other countries ask for). They hardly raise their national flags except during game events. That is the only time it is considered 'acceptable' by other countries for Germans to be nationalistic. Obviously, Germans do not want to be only remembered for their WWII past. They take many efforts to show countries they've wronged in the past that they are serious about not repeating history. This law is one such example.That is my two cents as the American wife of a young German man.
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