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I remember as a child I heard about some people who spoke on behalf of the German government before and during WW2, and that those people were being sent to prison just for saying those things.

I found the following German law:

Sec 130 III of the German Criminal Code:

(3) Whosoever publicly or in a meeting approves of, denies or 
    downplays an act committed under the rule of National 
    Socialism of the kind indicated in section 6 (1) of the Code of
    International Criminal Law, in a manner capable of disturbing 
    the public peace shall be liable to imprisonment of not more 
    than five years or a fine.

I was supposed to find Section 6(1) explained here: http://www.gesetze-im-internet.de/englisch_stgb/englisch_stgb.html#p0049. But apparently it's not there so I'm kinda stuck.

My question is the following:

Is it illegal in Germany to defend the actions of the German government between 1933 and 1945?

And if so, which people have been found guilty of violating that law and what has their punishment been?

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Didn't you mean 1933 instead of 1919? –  Felix Goldberg Feb 22 '13 at 22:34
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2 Answers

up vote 4 down vote accepted

The sentence Is it illegal in Germany to defend the actions of the German government between 1919 and 1945? can't be answered with more details what you mean with actions.

§130 StGB ( see Volksverhetzung, or an English translation of §130 StGB) says:

(3) Mit Freiheitsstrafe bis zu fünf Jahren oder mit Geldstrafe wird bestraft, wer eine unter der Herrschaft des Nationalsozialismus begangene Handlung der in § 6 Abs. 1 des Völkerstrafgesetzbuches bezeichneten Art in einer Weise, die geeignet ist, den öffentlichen Frieden zu stören, öffentlich oder in einer Versammlung billigt, leugnet oder verharmlost.

In English: You can prosecuted up to 5 years prison, if you deny action during the NS-period, which are handled in §6 VStGB (see Völkerstrafgesetzbuch and English translation of §6 VStGB). The Völkerstrafgesetzbuch (VStGB, "international criminal code") regulates the crimes against public international law.

In this special case: It is illegal to deny the Holocaust (see also Laws against Holocaust denial)

I found a document from 2000 of the parlament of Baden-Württemberg (third largest state of Germany):

  • There were 1517 preliminary proceedings between 1992 to 1996 related to §130 and §131, (in 1997 229)
  • 1990-1996 146 persons were condemned because of § 130. 47 persons had a fine, 46 had release on licence , 9 had to go to prison. The prison sentences were up to two years. Two of the convicts were not German.
  • This numbers are only for Baden-Württemberg, not for Germany. There are no known statistics for other German states.

There is also a German list of 417 adjudications for §130 StGB. A lot of them are decisions to forbid events.

I checked the website of the German Federal Statistical Office. The document Strafverfolgung - Fachserie 10 Reihe 3 - 2010 contains an Excel. The tab _Tab2_1_Lang_ lists 293 convicts for $§130 I, 85 for §130II, 76 for §130III and 11 for §130iV (line 122ff).

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One might add that besides the full denial of the holocaust, also changing its numbers is forbidden. So suppose one says 4 million instead of 6 million then it is against the law aswell. –  Lukas Feb 23 '13 at 10:54
Mind that this does not apply to academia, historians in professional publications and settings can discuss all they like. –  jwenting Feb 23 '13 at 12:17
There is way too much discussion style comments going on in this question. Discussion is for The Time Machine: chat.stackexchange.com/rooms/1560/the-time-machine the comment section is NOT for discussion. –  ihtkwot Feb 25 '13 at 13:42
This answer does not seem to address the downplay aspect of the laws. –  Skúli Feb 27 '13 at 10:28
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"Most" speech in Germany since World War II is quite free, due to laws based on the Anglo-American model.

But there are "draconian" laws governing speech regarding certain aspects of Nazism, specifically denying the Holocaust, or praising the Nazi persecution of certain minority groups.

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