German prosecutors charge far-right politician over Nazi slogan

BERLIN, Germany — German prosecutors charged a prominent member of the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party Monday with using a banned Nazi slogan in an election campaign.

Bjoern Hoecke, the party’s regional leader in Thuringia, allegedly used the motto of the Nazi’s Stormtroopers SA paramilitary wing (the Sturmabteilung), “Everything for Germany,” the Halle prosecutor’s office said.

Hoecke, a former history teacher, uttered the phrase in full knowledge of its “origin and meaning” in front of 250 people at a campaign event in 2021, according to prosecutors.

The AfD won 10 percent of the vote in the general election that year.

Hoecke is charged with “the public use of a symbol of a former National Socialist organization”.

The far-right politician “questioned the criminal relevance of his remark” through his lawyer, prosecutors said.

This file photo taken on August 10, 2021 shows supporters standing under an umbrella with the party’s logo as they attend a rally of far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) party for the launch of the electoral campaign ahead of the September 26, 2021 federal elections, in Schwerin, northern Germany. (John MACDOUGALL / AFP)

The AfD is currently level in the polls with Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democrats as discontent with the government grows.

It tops polls in a number of Germany’s eastern states, including Thuringia, though it trails the conservative opposition CDU-CSU alliance nationally.

In 2015 Hoecke founded the “Fluegel”, a radical faction within the AfD, which was placed under formal surveillance by Germany’s domestic intelligence agency.

The organisation subsequently disbanded but the far-right firebrand, whose statements on Germany’s Nazi past have sparked outrage, remains influential within the party.

Hoecke has called Berlin’s Holocaust monument a “memorial of shame” and urged a “180-degree shift” in the country’s culture of remembrance.

“This charge against Bjoern Hoecke is a correct and, in my view, long-overdue step,” said Holocaust survivor and Munich Jewish community leader Charlotte Knobloch on Twitter.

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