One of the most controversial laws in Germany is the criminal ban on Nazi symbols. In the United States, such symbols are viewed as both obnoxious and legal. Recently, the Germans prosecuted people who produced teeshirts with an anti-Nazi image: a swastika with a red strip through it. At the same time, a bizarre man in Berlin with pro-Nazi views was prosecuted for, among other things, his dog Adolf’s pet trick of giving the Nazi salute. The dog was taken from his owner, who had promised to kill him on the Fuhrer’s birthday due to the expense of criminal fines.
Known as Roland T, the owner had trained his dog to do his arian trick when ever he screamed “Heil Hitler!”
Germany continues to debate its laws criminalizing Nazi symbols and holocaust denials. It is certainly understandable why such laws were promulgated. However, it is hard to square such laws with basic freedom of speech, association, and other rights. It also restricts academic freedom. As distasteful and hateful as they are, these views can not be truly banned. We have learned that restrictions on free speech rarely achieve their purpose. The best deterrent of hate speech is robust and open debate.
In the U.S., we are having the same debate over efforts to criminalize symbols like nooses and burning crosses.
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